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2019 Indianapolis 500 — Row-by-row race preview

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis 500 is auto racing’s equivalent to the Kentucky Derby, the Masters or the Winter Olympics. We all tune in, even if we haven’t paid one bit of attention to horse racing, golf, figure skating or, yes, IndyCar racing, the other 50-something weeks of the year.

Well, good news, casual Memorial Day weekend race fans. We’re here for you, going down the starting grid with our row-by-row, easy-to-learn preview of the 33-car field, packed with seven former Indy 500 winners and six rookies. Feel free to memorize so you can impress your friends and family with your sudden open book of open wheel racing knowledge.

How to watch
When: Sunday, noon ET
TV: NBC

Simon Pagenaud won his first pole at the Indianapolis 500 for the 103rd running of the race Sunday. Photo by Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire

Row 1

Simon Pagenaud
No. 22
Hometown: Montmorillon, France
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Really, really yellow
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: He looks and sounds like Jean Girard, Ricky Bobby’s “Talladega Nights” archnemesis. Heck, he even lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with all the NASCAR drivers. But he’s no joke, winning the 2016 IndyCar championship and just two weeks ago the Indy Grand Prix via a wicked move on the race’s final lap … and he did it in the rain.

2 Related

Ed Carpenter
No. 20
Hometown: Indianapolis
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Royal blue with silver trim
Milk choice if he wins: Whole (he wants buttermilk, the first milk gulped in Victory Lane by Louis Meyer in 1936, but that’s not a choice)
Why you should care about him: The beloved hometown hero is a three-time Indy 500 pole winner and last weekend came within .003 mph of a fourth. He is Speedway, Indiana, royalty as the stepson of Tony George, who is founder of the Indy Racing League and a grandson of Tony Hulman, the man who saved Indianapolis Motor Speedway from ruin after World War II.

Spencer Pigot
No. 21
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Black with orange lettering
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: His sponsor, AutoGeek, has a logo on the side of the car of said blonde-headed geek, elbow out the window and cruising down the road behind the wheel … and it coincidentally looks exactly like Pigot.

Row 2

Ed Jones
No. 63
Hometown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Red top half, white bottom half
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: Born in Dubai, he’s technically British but lives in Miami and has a place in Indianapolis. So, no matter where you’re from, he’s probably from there, too.

Colton Herta
No. 88
Hometown: Valencia, California
Team: Harding Steinbrenner Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: White with green accents and lettering
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: Herta’s father, Bryan, was a racer and is now a team owner. Colton’s team owner is George Michael Steinbrenner IV, grandson of the volatile late owner of the New York Yankees. He also uses Dale Earnhardt Jr’s trademark slanted No. 88.

Will Power
No. 12
Hometown: Toowoomba, Australia
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Really, really black
Milk choice if he wins: No preference (really, dude?)
Why you should care about him: He’s the defending Indy 500 champion, ending a long streak of hard luck to drink the milk one year ago. Plus, his name is cool.

Row 3

Sebastien Bourdais
No. 18
Hometown: Le Mans, France
Team: Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan
Engine: Honda
Car color: Think bumblebee, black lower half, yellow top half, black-and-yellow checkered nose
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: Sure, he’s a lifelong racer, winner, and survivor. But most importantly his nickname is “Sea Bass.”

Josef Newgarden
No. 2
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevy
Car color: White with day-glo red/orange trim
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: Because admit it, you thought that with that name, the 2017 IndyCar champion had to be from some tiny village in Austria. Nope. He’s from Music City and grew up near Reba’s house.

Alexander Rossi
No. 27
Hometown: Nevada City, California
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Car color: Royal blue and gold
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: When he stunned the racing world by winning the much-hyped 100th Indy 500 as a rookie, many groused that he wasn’t worthy of the achievement. He has used that criticism as fuel, winning five more races and nearly winning the 2018 IndyCar title.

Mario Andretti’s grandson, Marco, is attempting to win at Indianapolis 50 years after his grandfather did. Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Row 4

Marco Andretti
No. 98
Hometown: Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Team: Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian
Engine: Honda
Car color: Solid red
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: The month of May has celebrated the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 win. Since 1969, Mario’s two sons, nephew and now grandson Marco have failed to bring a second win to the family reunion. We’re all sick of hearing about the Andretti Curse. It’d be great to see Marco finally end it.

Conor Daly
No. 25
Hometown: Noblesville, Indiana
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Car color: U.S. Air Force gray and blue with awesome shark teeth on the nose
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: Because he was awesome on Season 30 of “The Amazing Race” with teammate Alexander Rossi.

Helio Castroneves
No. 3
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Yellow. Like, super yellow. They even call it the Yellow Submarine.
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: He has been stuck on three Indy 500 wins for a decade. If he’s going to finally join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and mentor Rick Mears as the only four-time winners, the 44-year old needs to hurry up. And, oh yeah, he also won “Dancing with The Stars.”

Row 5

Marcus Ericsson
No. 7
Hometown: Kumla, Sweden
Team: Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Engine: Honda
Car color: Black with gold pinstripes
Milk choice if he wins: Fat free
Why you should care about him: His car owner, Sam Schmidt, is one of the most inspirational stories in IndyCar history. A quadriplegic since a racing crash in 2000, he has become a tireless advocate for the paralyzed and even managed to get back behind the wheel of custom-built race car.

Takuma Sato
No. 30
Hometown: Tokyo
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: White top, blended red and yellow nose and sidepods
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: His thrilling Indy 500 win in 2017 set off an epically insane celebration throughout Japan. Imagine that happening again, but now with David Letterman as his car owner.

James Davison
No. 33
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Solid black with a red stripe down the spine
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: His Indy 500 helmet features the insignia of the Royal Air Force to pay Memorial Day tribute to his grandfather, Tony Gaze, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross three times during World War II and went on to become Australia’s first jet fighter pilot and first F1 driver.

Row 6

Tony Kanaan
No. 14
Hometown: Salvador, Brazil
Team: A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Red, white and blue
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: If IndyCar’s most popular current driver wins his second Indy 500 while driving for IndyCar’s all-time most popular driver, A.J. Foyt, partying fans might burn Speedway, Indiana to the ground.

Graham Rahal
No. 15
Hometown: New Albany, Ohio
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Dark blue spine, white nose and sides
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: When drivers were asked this week whom they’d like see win the race besides themselves, the most common answers were the last name legacy kids: Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, son of 1986 winner Bobby.

Scott Dixon
No. 9
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Burnt orange and blue
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: Because he’s the greatest IndyCar racer of his generation, perhaps of all time, with 43 wins and five championships.

Oriol Servia’s helmet features an image of Bill Murray from “Stripes.” Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Row 7

Oriol Servia
No. 77
Hometown: Paris, Spain
Team: MotorGator Team Stange Racing w/Arrow
Engine: Honda
Car color: Racing green and black
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: His helmet carries the image of Bill Murray’s “I Want You” Uncle Sam point from the movie poster for “Stripes.” Why? Because he thinks Murray is awesome.

Charlie Kimball
No. 23
Hometown: Camarillo, California
Team: Carlin
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Yellow nose with a blue stripe up the middle and white sidepods
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: He’s a Type 1 diabetic who uses his racing to show fellow diabetics they shouldn’t let their condition be an excuse to sit on the sidelines.

JR Hildebrand
No. 48
Hometown: Sausalito, California
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Dark blue with sky blue highlights
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: He could finally erase memories of the most heartbreaking loss in Indy 500 history, hitting the wall in the final corner of the final lap and handing the would-be win over to Dan Wheldon in 2011.

Row 8

Ryan Hunter-Reay
No. 28
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Car color: Dark yellow with red trim
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: In 2012, he won the Indy 500 and the IndyCar title but has struggled to repeat either since.

Santino Ferrucci
No. 19
Hometown: Woodbury, Connecticut
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Solid white with a black spine
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: If you like sports bad boys, then this is your guy. While racing in Europe he was fined for, among other things, texting while driving … his race car.

Matheus Leist
No. 4
Hometown: Novo Hamburgo, Brazil
Team: A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Red, white and blue
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: Leist, 20, loves to agitate teammate Kanaan, 44, and boss Foyt, 84, about their age. He recently asked Kanaan what it was like racing in the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911.

Row 9

Jack Harvey
No. 60
Hometown: Bassingham, England
Team: Meyer Shank Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Hot pink with black sidepods
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: He’s a massive Star Wars fan who loves to sport a T-shirt with a Stormtrooper’s face painted over with the Union Jack in the style of The Who.

Jordan King
No. 42
Hometown: Warwick, England
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: Black lower half, white top half
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: He’s in his third different race car this month, driving an endurance sport car in France, F2 in Spain and now IndyCar in Indiana.

Ben Hanley
No. 81
Hometown: Manchester, England
Team: DragonSpeed
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Total Evel Knievel, white with starry blue stripes
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: If you like underdogs, DragonSpeed are your dudes. This is their first oval race entry, and when the France-based team left for Indy earlier this month, much of the crew was grounded entry due to visa issues. So, they hired a bunch of local mechanics upon arrival to Indy.

Row 10

Zach Veach
No. 26
Hometown: Stockdale, Ohio
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Car color: Black with royal blue and yellow trim
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: In 2011, at age 17, he wrote a book “99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16.”

Felix Rosenqvist
No. 10
Hometown: Vamamo, Sweden
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Car color: White with blue spine and sidepods
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: He had the IndyCar tweet of 2019 when the series posted video of a super-frightening close-call near-crash in the St. Petersburg, Florida, season opener, replying, “Had to pit for new underwear.”

Pippa Mann
No. 39
Hometown: Ipswich, England
Team: Clauson-Marshall Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: A crisscross quilt of blue, green, silver and orange
Milk choice if she wins: Whole
Why you should care about her: She’s the only woman in the 2019 Indy 500, the last remaining female from the record-setting days earlier this decade when four women made the field three different times.

Late sponsors are still coming in for underdog story Kyle Kaiser. Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY Sports

Row 11

Sage Karam
No. 24
Hometown: Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: Black and dark yellow
Milk choice if he wins: 2 percent
Why you should care about him: If this steel-jawed blonde looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen his modeling work for the likes of Express for Men and Saks 5th Avenue.

James Hinchcliffe
No. 5
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Team: Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Engine: Honda
Car color: Solid black
Milk choice if he wins: Whole (also wishes he could go with buttermilk like Meyer)
Why you should care about him: The perpetual jokester known as Hinch has spent the last year alongside his dear friend Robert Wickens, the 2018 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year who has been wheelchair-bound since a crash at Pocono Raceway last August. “I’ve had so much support,” Wickens said this week. “But Hinch was in the accident with me and now he’s in the recovery with me.”

Kyle Kaiser
No. 32
Hometown: Santa Clara, California
Team: Juncos Racing
Engine: Chevy
Car color: TBD
Milk choice if he wins: Whole
Why you should care about him: This is the guy who knocked F1 world champ Fernando Alonso and McLaren out of the Indy 500. Why is his paint scheme TBD? Because new sponsors, impressed with his David vs. Goliath story, keep rolling in.


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