Neither the team nor Dan Wheldon should ever be disregarded at oval races, and Wheldon at Indy in particular is a formidable force. Yes, 18th is a lowly starting position, but the 2005 winner started from lower last year and came through to second with maybe the seventh- or eighth-fastest car in the race. Like Marco Andretti (and Sam Hornish before that) Wheldon will go for passes that look marginal at best, and come out ahead of his rival. Whether that will be enough to overcome so many strong cars ahead is debatable this year, but another plus is that Chris Mower's managerial skill has this team well drilled.
Simona de Silvestro has the poise, pace and smarts to finish this race, and high up, and it's rare that you can speak so confidently about an IndyCar Series rookie on only her second oval event. Michael Cannon is one of the best race engineers around, too, so expect de Silvestro to be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year honors. She tends to do a whole lot right and not much wrong.
Bertrand Baguette turned many heads when he produced a four-lap run quick enough to get him into the race on Pole Day – especially considering the quality of the drivers who hadn't made it. The next day, anxious to avoid the horrible Tagliani/Junqueira Bump Day scenario of a year earlier, Eric Bachelart was confident enough to send Mario Romancini out for a second run to cement himself in the field. This he achieved comfortably.
No one should be surprised. Conquest regularly produces solid, reliable cars for Indy, and the driver lineup is a healthily talented one. Given Romancini's experience in Firestone Indy Lights, expect him to be the stronger performer on race day, but Baguette does have the capacity to surprise.
DALE COYNE RACING
While Milka Duno predictably failed to qualify as the Indy 500 field continues to gather in strength, year on year, Alex Lloyd never looked like missing the cut. The Briton holds the unique distinction of having won on both the road and oval courses at the Speedway – an accomplishment he achieved while in Indy Lights. Given that that's a series he owned in 2007, it's criminal that he never got the chance to graduate full time until this year. At Dale Coyne Racing, in the absence of ace engineer Bill Pappas for 2010, a top-12 finish would be a worthy achievement on Sunday.
SARAH FISHER RACING
Sarah was heartbroken when teammate Jay Howard didn't make the grid but, unlike Paul Tracy, she at least has her own entry as solace. However, as a team owner, Fisher also understands the importance of sponsorship better than any of her rivals so her distress was very real. Nonetheless, she'll front up on Sunday in her usual friendly but determined manner and doubtless embed herself further into the hearts of her vast phalanx of fans with a strong performance. Owner-drivers like Fisher and team manager husband Andy O'Gara are essential parts of the Indy 500 fabric.
A.J. FOYT RACING
It's not easy to forget how a 300,000 crowd fell eerily hushed last year as the Holmatro Safety Team dug into the wrecked chassis of Vitor Meira's car and gingerly extracted the Brazilian. The clash with compatriot Matos could have had far worse consequences, but being put out of action for the remainder of the season with his spinal injuries was bad enough. So expect a particularly warm welcome back for the perennial Nearly Man who not only has eight runner-up positions to his name in IndyCar Series races, but two of them scored here at the Brickyard. That's enough to earn the respect of the crowd and also team owner and legend Foyt. Let's hope that chief engineer Jeff Britton will discover a race trim setup that allows Meira to show his worth.
BRYAN HERTA AUTOSPORT
Hardly the IndyCar Series' biggest operation, the team took a huge knock when rookie – and we mean rookie in absolute terms here! – Sebastian Saavedra shunted heavily on Bump Day. However, it's safe to say the adrenaline rush of surviving the frantic fracas while sitting on the bubble and gaining that precious 33rd grid slot made the rebuild 10 times easier. There's no question that Saavedra's main duty (once he's competed in the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race on Friday, of course) is to gain experience by driving his Indy car all the way to the checkered flag. Anything beyond that, in terms of making up places, will be very much a bonus for the 19-year-old Colombian, as well as Bryan and partner Steve Newey.