Number 1: This year's Indianapolis 500 will earn JR Hildebrand a full ride with Ed Carpenter Racing. That's right, I believe that if JR has a solid showing this month, which he has thus far, Ed Carpenter will most likely sign this kid full time. Ed's team has seen some success in its first few years so, the addition of a second car would be a huge gain for the Indianapolis based team. JR seems to have a confidence back that we have not seen for quite sometime. After being one corner away from victory in 2011, to smacking wall after 3 laps in 2013, watch for 2014 to be the year of redemption for JR Hildebrand, at IMS.
Hildebrand hits the wall on lap 4 of the 97th Indy 500
Photo: LAT Photography
Number 2: Indianapolis will see an American winner for the first time since 2006, breaking the longest drought in race history without an American winner (8 years). All American's in Indy Car are over due for a victory at the speedway. I believe that 2014 is America's best chance to add another winners face to the Borg Warner, since the days of Sam Hornish Jr and Buddy Rice. Andretti Autosport looks very strong with Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter racing put two Americans in the top 9, with JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter. Also starting in the top 9 is Josef Newgarden, who has the opportunity to add his likeness to the Borg Warner in only his third start. Rahal Letterman Racing has always been good at IMS, so this could be the chance for Graham Rahal to resurrect his career. Young Charlie Kimball, and the veteran Townsend Bell also have the opportunity to move through the field on Sunday. But of course, I would be remiss to not mention Kurt Busch as an American to watch on race day. So, with a field packed full of Brazilian, French, Canadian, and Colombian talent, watch for an American to be sitting atop the scoring pylon after 200 laps.
In 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. was the last American to drink the milk.
Number 3: Last year's record of 68 lead changes will not be broken. 2013 was quite the obnoxious year, when it came to passing, and part of me hopes that we see less passes for the lead. Wow, I never thought I'd say that.. Mainly, I just want every single pass to be meaningful. There were times last year where I felt like cars we passing each other when they knew the next lap would see a different leader. I absolutely LOVE lead changes, but somewhere between 34 and 68 would be OK with me. I think with the hp boost this year, cars might pull away a bit quicker, so they are not passed immediately after they take the lead. However, these cars do produce a lot of drafting, so still expect to see plenty passing throughout the entire 500.
Number 4: TV ratings will be up from the dismal 3.7 that last years race earned. The race has gotten much more exposure on ABC, with the fantastic Grand Prix of Indy, and some exciting qualifying sessions. Pole day actually earned a 1.2 TV rating, which is better than almost every race broadcast on NBCSN, and is up from the 0.2 that pole day earned on NBCSN in 2013. The Grand Prix earned a 0.9 nationally, but did earn a 9.1 in Indianapolis, and a 1.6 in Tampa Bay. Again , those numbers are up from a typical NBCSN Indy Car broadcast. Additionally, Pole qualifications led into the Pacer/Heat playoff game, so that should have been a very nice boost in national exposure. Lets hope that America turns their tubes to ABC this Memorial Day weekend, so they can all see that the Indianapolis 500 is still a must see event.
Number 5: We will see a first time winner of Indianapolis. Of the Americans I listed above, I believe Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Josef Newgarden will be the three who have the best opportunity to win for the first time. If Andretti or Rahal could pull out a victory, that would do huge things for IndyCar in this nation. However, there are plenty of non-American drivers who have a great chance to kiss the bricks for the first time. Will Power seems to be a favorite to join the winners club. After that race in Fontana last fall, this Wanker is on charge to capture the championship, and Indianapolis. The Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe will also be a driver who seems to have that first win at Indy in his sights. Hinch would also be a great story line winner of this race. Imagine him on the media tour after the race, now that would be fun! Lastly, who can forget Carlos Munoz? After that stellar run last May at IMS, it is hard to count out the young Colombian from scoring his first win at the Brickyard.