No. 7 – Sebastien Bourdais, q15
No. 6 – Sebastian Saavedra, q27
As ever, Dragon is a difficult team to write off, because whenever you see them looking mediocre, they pop in a surprise. The Sebs are unlikely to contend for victory if it comes down to a straight fight on pace, for they have looked underwhelming in or out of the tow through practice, but track conditions change and both are feisty enough to take full advantage of the wind (proverbially and otherwise) blowing in their direction. Everyone knows how good Bourdais is, but Saavedra is looking more and more like the title contender we saw in Indy Lights.
Chip Ganassi Racing
No. 9 – Scott Dixon, q16
No. 10 – Dario Franchitti, q17
No. 83 – Charlie Kimball, q19
No. 8 – Ryan Briscoe, q23
In Franchitti and Dixon, Chip has two of the three best Indy 500 drivers of the past 15 years. And in that same time frame, you could argue that Ganassi has eclipsed Team Penske at Indy, at least in terms of execution on race day. But Honda is crucial to this: if what we saw on Carburetion Day is a true portent of things to come, then the Target drivers are in the fight for victory. It's as simple as that.
Kimball impressed a lot last year and a top five is within his reach provided he's recovered from the sickness that hit him on Saturday. Ryan Briscoe is fast, and so long as he stays out of trouble as he picks his way through the field, he's got a chance of victory.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
No. 16 – James Jakes, q20
No. 15 – Graham Rahal, q26
The disappointment of May…so far. Bobby's team is usually one of the best at oh-so-subtly turning out a really strong car at the Speedway. Maybe RLLR has just left it late to show its hand this year (and too late for Michel Jourdain Jr.). If that's the case, I'd expect to see Graham rise rapidly through the field because IMS seems to bring out a fearless fighting spirit in him, which is entertaining to watch.
Jakes has impressed this year on every type of circuit. An Indy winner? No. But a guy with the capacity to surprise? Yes.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport / Schmidt Hamilton Racing
No. 77 – Simon Pagenaud, q21
No. 55 – Tristan Vautier, q28
No. 81 – Katherine Legge, q33
The other disappointment of Indy in 2013, but both full-time drivers are as cool as Indy in February and can make the best of a tricky situation. Pagenaud has thrown himself into the oval-racing game with a blend of bravery and technical acumen, and his rookie teammate has much the same set of qualities. I'd be startled if either were to record a DNF through any fault of their own, but Schmidt's cars this year didn't look like a strong force until Carb Day.
Legge did a great job in the circumstances, but she still has to treat her second Indy 500 run as a learning experience. Getting to the finish, as she accomplished last year, will be commendable enough. Reaching the top 15 will be a bonus.
AJ Foyt Racing
No. 14 – Takuma Sato, q18
No. 41 – Conor Daly, q31
It would be a surprise if Sato was again a victory contender entering the final lap of the “500.” If he is, however, you can be sure he'll go for it in characteristic style, because his natural instinct is being fostered and harnessed by the Foyts, not dampened. But the speed we'd hoped to see from this combo at IMS has not yet revealed itself. Daly, of course, is a popular addition to the team and he has a cool head on young shoulders, which will serve him well. He's not the obvious choice for Rookie of the Year, given that Allmendinger is in a Penske, but CD is smart enough to stay the course.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
No. 21 – Josef Newgarden, q21
From being Honda's rock stars for much of 2012's “month” of May, SFHR is looking more mid-pack this year at Indy. But the team and Newgarden could have some surprises in store, because without that pressure of being right at the front, I suspect they'll be fine. Another top-five contender, and Newgarden admits he's more optimistic going into this year's “500” than last year's.
Lazier Partners Racing
No. 91 – Buddy Lazier, q32
Winner of the talent-depleted 1996 Indy 500, Lazier has done a terrific job to blow off the rust and this team has become one of the stories of the month by so quickly coming to grips with the Dallara DW12. If the race is run in cool, quick conditions, expect the LPR team to lose touch with the leaders under green-flag conditions. If it turns into a fickle, slick-tracked battle of wills and race-smarts, 45-year-old Buddy can show the young 'uns a thing or two.