The 2012 Indy 500 isn't until Memorial Day Weekend, but Indy 500 qualifying will begin this weekend, on Saturday, May 19, with IndyCar drivers looking to get position up front for next Sunday's race.
All of the drivers are starting new, turbocharged engines this year, and 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti have been among the fastest drivers in practice, with Andretti turning the fastest lap in qualifying practice (223.676 miles per hour on Tuesday) and Dixon producing the best one (223.088 miles per hour) on Thursday. But the times turned in haven't been what IndyCar was expecting, and so the engines will be getting another boost for Fast Friday practice.
Dixon and Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti will enjoy their status as the only set of teammates with Indy 500 wins. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves is the only other winner confirmed as a part of the field, but Buddy Rice might hop in a car for Ed Carpenter Racing. And there are a pair of former Formula One veterans making their first Indy 500 forays in 2012: Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced F1 driver in history, joins Tony Kanaan on the KV Racing Technology team, and Jean Alesi will drive for Fan Force United.
For the first time since 1947, the defending Indy 500 champion will not be in the field due to a fatal crash. 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died after a crash at the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championship in October of last year. Wheldon will be honored with a number of tributes leading up to and on race day.
IndyCar's most recognizable name in recent memory won't be running in the 2012 Indy 500, either, with Danica Patrick busy making her transition to NASCAR.
Here's the full field of 34 drivers entering 2012 Indy 500 qualifying this weekend, grouped by car make and team, via the Indianapolis Star.
Marco Andretti, Ana Beatriz, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastian Saavedra
Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter, TBA
KV Racing Technology
Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan, E.J. Viso
Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Will Power
A.J. Foyt Racing
Mike Conway, Wade Cunningham
Dale Coyne Racing
James Jakes, Justin Wilson
Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Takuma Sato, Michel Jourdain
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson
Schmidt Hamilton Racing
Simon Pagenaud, Townsend Bell
Bryan Herta Autosport
Sebastien Bourdais, Katherine Legge
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Simona De Silvestro
Fan Force United
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