With Opening Day - the first day of full official on-track activity at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - scheduled for this Saturday, May 14, the revised and updated entry list for the centennial Indianapolis 500 has been issued showing the 40 cars and drivers who will be competing to make the 33-car starting grid on May 29.
The 40 drivers now include 12 Americans, eight British drivers, six Brazilians, three Canadians and two Australians. There are also representatives from Belgium, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, as well as Ho-Pin Tung who is the first Chinese driver ever to be entered into the Indy 500 event.
The eight British drivers are IZOD IndyCar series regulars Dario Franchitti, Mike Conway, Justin Wilson and James Jakes, as well as rookies Pippa Mann and Jay Howard. Also returning to Indianapolis are former winner Dan Wheldon who has finished second in the last two Indy 500s, and Alex Lloyd who finished in fourth place in 2010. Lloyd was recalled by Dale Coyne
Racing last week for the Indy 500 and the rest of the 2011 IndyCar oval events after Sebastien Bourdais restricted himself to appearing in road/street course events for the team.
Including Wheldon, who was victorious here in 2005, there are five former Indy 500 champions in the field: Franchitti won in 2007 and 2010; Helio Castroneves won in 2001, 2002 and 2009; Scott Dixon in 2008; and Buddy Rice won in 2004.
There are eight rookies entered, of whom seven will be required to take part in the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) at IMS on Thursday that precedes the official Opening Day. Ho-Pin Tung, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Scott Speed will be joined by James Jakes and Pippa Mann, who - despite prior IndyCar appearances and oval races at Indianapolis in Firestone Indy Lights respectively - are nonetheless making their IndyCar series oval debut at the Indy 500. Another rookie, Jay Howard, completed ROP in 2010 and is not required to recertify. Speed and Tung were at Chicagoland
on Monday in a private test organised by Dragon to prepare their drivers for ROP.See the full entry list here (updated May 10)
The new list updates and revises the original entry list
Changes include the designation of the car number #41 to the AJ Foyt entry driven by Bruno Junqueira, the withdrawal of the undefined #16 and the addition of the #20 which is the entry for Scott Speed with Dragon Racing.
The main surprise in the last few days has been Dragon's signing of Speed
, when it had been thought that the team were negotiating
a deal with American Le Mans Series team Highcroft Racing. That would have given an Indy 500 opportunity to their star driver, France's Simon Pagenaud, who made his IndyCar debut at Barber Motorspors Park in April substituting for the injured Ana Beatriz
in the Dreyer & Reinbold machine. Pagenaud completed the race and finished in a very creditable eighth position in the road race event.
However, discussions with Hillcroft seemed to falter and cool off, leaving Dragon looking toward a more well-known American driver to take the seat instead, and eventually persuaded Scott Speed to pull out of a pre-existing NASCAR appearance with Kevin Harvick's Nationwide Series team in order to free him up to spend May at Indianapolis.
Dragon's regular IndyCar series (currently for a limited five-race season) is Paul Tracy, but he had already signed up to appear for Dreyer and Reinbold at Indy before Jay Penske managed to resuscitate his Dragon Racing team
after its near-death experience
over the winter.
The #89 accredited to the mysterious "China Racing" on the original entry list has been withdrawn: this was believed to have been an entry for Portuguese driver Ricardo Teixeira from British Formula Three, GP2 (with Trident in 2009) and Formula 2, where he was involved in a huge airborne crash in a race at Marrakech, Morocco last year but walked away uninjured. Teixeira is one of the test drivers for Team Lotus F1 (alongside Team AirAsia GP2 drivers Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi) and has received sponsorship backing during his career from Angolan oil company Sonangol, but evidently the deal to put together a team for the 2011 Indy 500 did not come together in time.
That leaves 40 confirmed driver/car combinations, and only one remaining undefined seat - the Sarah Fisher #57. The team says that it is concentrating its resources on getting Ed Carpenter into the race in the #67 and would only make a late decision whether to run anyone in the second car if it felt the team was showing good enough overall pace to justify it without over-stretching the operation. A late entry would preclude the use of a rookie driver, and it's thought that former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier would be the leading choice to take the seat if it did become available late in the day.