IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said Sunday he expects a full field of 33 cars for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Responding to a report in Sunday's Indianapolis Star indicating the traditional 33-car field will be difficult to fill, Bernard said he expects chassis manufacturer Dallara and engine manufacturers Chevolet, Honda and Lotus to supply enough equipment for 33 entries.
“We want more than 33 cars,” Bernard said Sunday morning before the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. “What is Bump Day if you only have 33? You need more. We're going to stay very focused on that and make sure we do everything we can to have more than 33 cars in that race.”
The series is in its first season of a new engine/chassis combination. Twenty-six cars are expected to race Sunday at Barber, but cost and supply issues – and the struggles of Lotus – have left some owners wondering if the 33-car Indy field is realistic.
However, Bernard said Sunday that he expects Chevy and Honda to come through with enough engines to fill the 500 field. He said each will supply 14 engines, with six from Lotus bringing the total to 34.
“Can I go back to Honda and Chevy and ask for more? I'm not sure,” Bernard said. “Honda and Chevy want to make sure they can support all of their teams based on their numbers. They feel like they wouldn't have a problem with that. I didn't ask them who (will field the extra entries), but we'll find out very shortly.”
While the early indications from the season opener last week at St. Petersburg, Fla., are a healthy competition between Honda and Chevy, Lotus has lagged behind. Just five Lotus engines were entered in Sunday's race, and speculation about its future abound.
“It's only fair to continue to give (Lotus) the opportunity to succeed,” Bernard said. “They came in here as the underdog. They came in here telling us they were six to eight weeks behind. It's really important for us to continue to support them and stay optimistic that they'll get the engine figured out. I think they need more engines. That's the biggest concern, and they know that.”
Right now, four additional entries are expected for Indy: Sebastian Saavedra and Ana Beatriz at Andretti Autosport, Luca Filippi at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and a yet-to-be-announced driver at Schmidt Hamilton Racing.
Beyond that, the possibilities and willing participants are unclear. Panther Racing and HVM Racing told the Star they won't add cars for Indy, and three of the series' biggest teams – Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and KV Racing Technology – are not expected to expand.
“We've got plenty on our plate,” Ganassi team manager Mike Hull told the newspaper.