25. SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS
THE GOOD – He has Chevys. He has a chance. He's also won on ovals before.
THE BAD – He is still six years removed from his last oval start, seven from his only prior Indy 500. While likely not as rusty as former Champ Car rival Jourdain, Bourdais still needs to remove the cobwebs in running at Indy.
26. WADE CUNNINGHAM
THE GOOD – An overdue first "500" start after three prior Freedom 100 wins. Not to mention he's added a lot of humor to the field this month with his cat obsession.
THE BAD – For whatever reason, Foyt's cars have struggled for speed save for a day or two. Cunningham has a couple prior oval starts in IndyCar but none at this length.
27. ORIOL SERVIA
THE GOOD – Always a contender if the car is right, and with Panther technical alliance, here's a guy who should be a big mover on race day.
THE BAD – Starting 27th, will be in a lot of dirty air at the outset, and had limited running in the two most crucial days of the month thus far – Fast Friday and pole day. A mysterious issue, initially thought to be engine-related, kept him off track all of Friday and his pole day crash was a rare error that set the team back a little further.
28. ED CARPENTER
THE GOOD – Michael Cannon's engineering, Derrick Walker's expertise on the pit stand and Carpenter's innate oval skills haven't changed. They just haven't shown up fully this month.
THE BAD – A lack of speed and a sizeable accident in qualifying have stunted the progress of Carpenter's first-year team at a race they were expected to contend. Quite why they've been as far off as they have remains a mystery.
29. MIKE CONWAY
THE GOOD – He can at least rest comfortably after qualifying for this year's race, after last year's DNQ.
THE BAD – It's still been a rough month. The Foyt cars haven't shown much speed, Conway's first qualifying run was voided, and the team was fined – later rescinded – for alleged unapproved parts.
30. KATHERINE LEGGE
THE GOOD – Seems to have an extra bounce in her step after getting Chevrolets, and has gone through the month thus far without incident. That should keep her confidence high going into race day.
THE BAD – Another in the long oval layoff camp (six years), Legge's primary expectation and goal for Sunday should be just gathering laps and experience rather than trying to punch too far above her weight. Also hasn't had much running because of the late engine switch.
31. BRYAN CLAUSON
THE GOOD – Rebounded nicely from qualifying crash to put together a conservative run on Sunday to at least make the show. Will have a lot of support from USAC and dirt track fanbase.
THE BAD – A true rookie in having never done pit stops or raced an event much longer than 100 miles, Clauson's in at the deep end among this year's rookie contingent.
32. SIMONA DE SILVESTRO
THE GOOD – The power gap aside, it's been a smooth month for de Silvestro after the drama of her practice accident and burns a year ago. Every clean day is another confidence booster.
THE BAD – She has a Lotus engine, and will be lucky to complete the race. A shame the 2010 Indy Rookie of the Year has fallen into anonymity due to circumstances outside her control.
33. JEAN ALESI
THE GOOD – Alesi's shown great candor and respect for the place, and his Fan Force United team produced a great effort in assembling a team and putting both car and crew together in less than a week. The fact they've qualified is about as good as it gets.
THE BAD – Brand ambassador he may be, but still, he has a Lotus. He's never raced an oval. He's been out of competitive open-wheel racing for nearly a dozen years. Here's hoping he'll have another chance with something better than an anchor in 2013. The Frenchman is perhaps Indy's biggest underdog in years.
The race should be particularly wide open given the changing variables, moving back from the increased boost provided for Fast Friday and qualifying to the original boost measure. The varying degrees of reliability and fuel mileage will throw some surprises in the mix.
Of the drivers, I have a strong hunch the six-year drought of Americans in Victory Lane will end – with Marco Andretti the most likely among the group that also includes teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, super sophomore JR Hildebrand, and the under-the-radar Graham Rahal. Neither of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's American rookies appear likely to figure into the win outcome just yet, and I wouldn't expect Charlie Kimball, Townsend Bell or Ed Carpenter to either, given their starting positions. I initially forgot to include him but that guy from north of the border - James Hinchcliffe - definitely will figure into the outcome.
Of your "overdogs" from Ganassi and Penske, I sense Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves will come close to recapturing the magic from their prior Indy wins. The title protagonists of the last two years, Will Power and Dario Franchitti, seem far from favorites, but at least one of them should be in contention come the final series of pit stops. Ryan Briscoe needs a solid race and strong finish, but that's stating the obvious.
Some other potential creepers and sleepers: Tony Kanaan, Rubens Barrichello, Alex Tagliani, Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson, Michel Jourdain Jr. Simon Pagenaud, Townsend Bell and Oriol Servia.
A further breakdown on some of the other elements to expect from this year's Indy will follow tomorrow on RACER.com.
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