Entry List For Indy 500 Loaded With Good Stories

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 20 2012

JR Hildebrand slides across the finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the end of last year's 500. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Three former winners and seven rookies – including Indiana boy Bryan Clauson living his “surreal dream” – bracket the list of drivers named to 34 entries filed for the 2012 Indianapolis 500.

The 96th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is scheduled for Sunday, May 27, at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Dan Wheldon’s improbable final-lap victory over rookie JR Hildebrand last May. Wheldon scored his second Indy 500 win when Hildebrand crashed in Turn 4 on the final lap. It was the highlight of a star-crossed season for Wheldon, the 33-year-old Englishman who was fatally injured in a multiple-car crash during the season-ender at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

Hildebrand, voted 2011 Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookie of the Year, delivered the entry list to Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president /CEO, at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, Hildebrand was accompanied by Indiana National Guard soldier and Panther teammate Chris McFadden. Hildebrand, the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, is in his second season of driving for Panther Racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

All drivers will compete in the new Dallara DW12 chassis – named in honor of test driver Wheldon – that debuted at the start of this season. The Indianapolis 500 will be the first oval race for the new car.

In addition, engine competition returns to IMS for the first time since 2005 with 2.2-liter turbocharged V-6 engines supplied by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus. Chevrolet and Honda each will field 14 entries, with Lotus powering six. The distinctive sound of turbocharged engines will return to the 500 for the first time since 1996, inaugural year of the Indy Racing League.

Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009) leads the list of past winners, which also includes Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2008). Castroneves will attempt to become the fourth four-time winner of the race, joining A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears. Franchitti, meanwhile, will try to become just the 10th driver to earn at least three Indianapolis 500 victories.

IndyCar Series champions assigned to cars include Dixon (2003, 2008), Franchitti (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and KV Racing Technology w/SH’s Tony Kanaan (2004). Four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais also will attempt to make his first Indianapolis 500 start since 2005.

In addition to three past race-winners and three IZOD IndyCar Series champions, 15 of the 30 drivers have won at least one race in either the IndyCar Series or Champ Car World Series/CART competition.

The rookie class of seven drivers features the most experienced Formula One driver in history, Rubens Barrichello, and past Firestone Indy Lights champions Wade Cunningham and Josef Newgarden. Other rookies assigned to cars are reigning/two-time USAC National Driver’s Champion Bryan Clauson, James Jakes, Katherine Legge and 2010 American Le Mans Series champion Simon Pagenaud.

Clauson has been hired by Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman to drive the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Dallara/Honda. Clauson, of Noblesville, Ind., will be teammate to American Josef Newgarden of Nashville, Tenn., fulltime driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda. Clauson and Newgarden were teammates in Firestone Indy Lights in 2011.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to enter the Indianapolis 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing,” Clauson said in a statement. “It’s almost surreal just talking about it. With her background in Sprint Car and Midget racing and her continued involvement at that level, this is just a good fit for me. I’m also proud to be an Indiana boy driving for an Indiana team.

“I’m also excited about the continuity we’re building into the program. My car number will be 39 and I’m bringing along some of my short-track supporters with me like Rotondo Weirich.”

Clauson won back-to-back USAC National Driver’s Championships in 2010-11 for his performance in all three major USAC open-wheel divisions. He also won the USAC National Midget Championship in 2010 and 2011 and has scored more than 26 USAC wins.

In addition, Clauson had four top-five finishes in Firestone Indy Lights racing in 2011, when he earned a Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship for winning the USAC National Driver’s Championship. His best finish was third at Iowa Speedway for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

“It’s quite an honor to bring a USAC champion to the Indianapolis 500,” Fisher said. “I’m very fond of my roots in short-track oval racing, and watching Bryan at some of these events really brings back memories. Personally knowing his background, I have complete confidence in his credentials, talent and capabilities, and look forward to working with him at Indy. It will be exciting to fill out our team roster with both of the Road to Indy Champions from last season, really solidifying the ladder program.”

Clauson and Newgarden both passed their INDYCAR rookie oval tests on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway quadoval in Fort Worth on April 5. They both will participate in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on May 10.

Three women are among the drivers named to entries – 2010 Chase Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and Legge.

Andretti Autosport is involved in five entries, more than any other team. Andretti Autosport is fielding cars for Andretti, Beatriz, Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Andretti Autosport/AFS Racing has entered a car for Sebastian Saavedra.

Opening Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, which also will feature the Celebration of Automobiles. Pole Day qualifying is set for Saturday, May 19, with Bump Day qualifying on Sunday, May 20. The 2012 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at noon (EDT) Sunday, May 27, and will be broadcast live by ESPN on ABC, the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM 94.

Race Day tickets are on sale with prices starting at $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (EDT) Monday-Friday.

Children 12-and-under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2012 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket-holder.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

Quick stats on the 2012 entry list:

Drivers (30)

Former race-winners (3) _ Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010), Scott Dixon (2008).

Former pole-winners (4) _Helio Castroneves (2003, 2007, 2009, 2010), Tony Kanaan (2005), Scott Dixon (2008), Alex Tagliani (2011).

Rookies (7) _ Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, Wade Cunningham, James Jakes, Katherine Legge, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud.

Youngest _Josef Newgarden, 21.

Oldest _ Rubens Barrichello, 39. (Barrichello turns 40 on May 23, four days before Race Day.)

Most previous starts _ Helio Castroneves, 11.

Entry list for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500, with car number, driver, hometown, car name, engine and entrant:

2 Ryan Briscoe, Sydney, Australia IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet Team Penske

3 Helio Castroneves (W), Sao Paulo, Brazil Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet Team Penske

4 JR Hildebrand, Sausalito, Calif. National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet Panther Racing

5 E.J. Viso, Caracas, Venezuela CITGO/ PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet KV Racing Technology

6 Katherine Legge (R), Guildford, England TrueCar-Dragon Racing Lotus Dragon Racing

7 Sebastien Bourdais, Le Mans, France Dragon Racing Lotus Dragon Racing

8 Rubens Barrichello (R), Sao Paulo, Brazil BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet KV Racing Technology

9 Scott Dixon (W), Auckland, New Zealand Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Target Chip Ganassi Racing

10 Dario Franchitti (W), Edinburgh, Scotland Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Target Chip Ganassi Racing

11 Tony Kanaan, Salvador, Brazil GEICO/Mouser Electronics KVRT Chevrolet KV Racing Technology w/SH

12 Will Power, Toowoomba, Australia Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet Team Penske

14 Mike Conway, Bromley, England ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda A.J. Foyt Enterprises

15 Takuma Sato, Tokyo Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan

17 Sebastian Saavedra, Bogota, Colombia Team AFS Chevrolet AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport

18 Justin Wilson, Sheffield, England Sonny’s BBQ Honda Dale Coyne Racing

19 James Jakes (R), Leeds, England Boy Scouts of America Honda Dale Coyne Racing

20 Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis Fuzzy’s Vodka /Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing

21 TBA Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing

22 Oriol Servia, Pals, Spain Lotus-Dreyer & Reinbold Lotus Lotus-DRR

25 Ana Beatriz, Sao Paulo, Brazil Team Ipiranga Chevrolet Andretti Autosport/Conquest Racing

26 Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa. Team RC Cola Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

27 James Hinchcliffe, Toronto Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

38 Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio Service Central Honda Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing

39 Bryan Clauson (R), Noblesville, Ind. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Honda Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

41 Wade Cunningham (R), Auckland, New Zealand ECat/ABC Supply Honda A.J. Foyt Racing

45 TBA Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan

67 Josef Newgarden (R), Hendersonville, Tenn. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

77 Simon Pagenaud (R), Poitiers, France Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports

78 Simona de Silvestro, Thun, Switzerland Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus Lotus-HVM Racing

83 Charlie Kimball, Camarillo, Calif. NovoLog FlexPen Honda Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing

98 Alex Tagliani, Lachenaie, Canada Team Barracuda-BHA Lotus Bryan Herta Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian

99 TBA BraunAbility-Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Honda Sam Schmidt Motorsports

TBA TBA Lotus-Newman Haas Racing Lotus Newman/Haas Racing

All 34 cars are 2012 Dallara DW12 chassis with Firestone tires.

(W) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Chase Rookie of the Year Candidate

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 20 2012
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Tony Geinzer says:

    I would like to speak for the Midwest Dirt Track Americans long awaited return to Indy, but, Clauson needs to keep making it happen.