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2012 Indianapolis 500 Driver Profiles
Question of the Day
22. (30) Michel Jourdain Jr., 35, Mexico City; Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; 222.893. Making first open-wheel start since 2004. In 1996, became youngest driver to start Champ Car race (19 years, six months and 12 days) in debut at Long Beach. Made 152 starts in the CART/Champ Car series between 1996 and 2004, winning twice in 2003 with Bobby Rahal’s team. Also started three IndyCar events during that time including 1996 Indianapolis 500, where he qualified eighth and finished 13th. Hasn’t driven at Indy since ‘96. Drove in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series from 2005-08 and NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series in 2006. Father also competed in CART and helped found a couple of dozen racing series in Mexico.
23. (77) r-Simon Pagenaud, 28, Poitiers, France; Honda, Schmidt-Hamilton Racing, 222.891. Fifth in points after surprisingly strong start. Finished sixth at St. Pete, fifth in Birmingham, second at Long Beach, best finish for Sam Schmidt’s team since merger with Champ Car. Was 12th in Brazil. Driving the No. 77 car that sat on pole in 2011. Finished second in last year’s 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours. Had six top-fives in 14 starts in only Champ Car season (2007) and was eighth in points that year.
24. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, 21, Bogota, Colombia; Chevrolet, AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport; 222.811. Second-youngest driver in race but not least experienced. Started 32nd at Indy two years ago and finished 23rd. Made 15 starts in 2011 with season-best 11th at Brazil. Indy Lights Rookie of Year in 2009, finishing third in points. Returned to Indy Lights Series this year and already has won two poles and finished third, first and second in first three races of season. Attempting to become first driver at Indy to win both May races _ Freedom 100 and Indy 500 _ in same weekend.
25. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, 33, Le Mans, France; Chevrolet, Dragon Racing; 223.760. Overcame stressful first week of waiting to cut deal for new engine to qualify for race. Making first Indy start since finishing 12th in 2005 when Newman-Haas Racing ran in only IndyCar of season. Had five top-10s in nine IndyCar starts last season, finishing sixth three times — at Toronto, Edmonton and Motegi. Driving for Jay Penske this year. Won 31 of 73 races during five-year Champ Car career including titles each of last four years. Also has competed in F1 and SuperLeague Formula.
26. (41) r-Wade Cunningham, 27, Auckland, New Zealand; Honda, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, 223.258. Second Kiwi to qualify for this year’s race, joining Dixon. Made three IndyCar starts last year. Best finish: Seventh at Kentucky. Like Barrichello, has won at Brickyard, just not in 500. Is only three-time winner of Indy Lights’ Freedom 100 and became first two-time winner in 2009. Started only three races in IndyCar’s developmental series in 2010. Indy will be his season debut.
27. (22) Oriol Servia, 37, Pals, Spain; Chevrolet, Panther-Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; 222.393 mph. Teams merged before month of May, allowing Servia to swap struggling Lotus engine for one of the powerful Chevy engines. Qualified for race on Bump Day following crash on warm-up lap in qualifying on Pole Day. Qualified third, finished sixth and led 18 laps at Indy in 2011 — all personal bests on 2.5-mile oval. Had 11 top-10s last season including season-opening streak of six straight. Won Indy Lights title in 1999. Was Champ Car runner-up in 2005. Made late switch to Dennis Reinbold’s team after Newman-Haas decided not to run full-time schedule in 2012. Father was two-time Spanish rally champ. Honoring Spanish artist Salvador Dali with special helmet design.
28. (20T) Ed Carpenter, 31, Indianapolis; Chevrolet, Ed Carpenter Racing; 222.324. Butler graduate and stepson of former speedway executive Tony George qualified in backup car last weekend after crashing hard during Pole Day attempt. Won first IndyCar race in October driving for fellow Butler alum Sarah Fisher. Made only 10 starts in 2011 with Fisher’s part-time team. Did not lead a lap in first five IndyCar seasons, but has led 63 over last four seasons. Has 29 top-10 finishes and one career pole in 117 IndyCar starts. Started eighth each of previous two years. Career-best finish on family’s track was eighth in 2009. Making ninth career start at Indy but first as owner-driver since starting own team last winter.
29. (14) Mike Conway, 29, Bromley, England; Honda, A.J. Foyt Enterprises; 222.319. After scary crash on final lap of 2010 race, missed rest of season with back injury and failed to qualify at Indy last year. Earned first IndyCar win at Long Beach in 2011, then finished sixth in next race at Brazil. Only had two more top-10s after Indy. Took over Foyt’s famed No. 14 car this season and has been solid. Qualified fourth at Birmingham and had season-best seventh at Alabama, one of two races he’s not had mechanical problems this year. Had qualified on Pole Day but was bumped near end of first segment and had to requalify on Bump Day.
30. (6) r-Katherine Legge, 31, Guildford, England; Chevrolet, Dragon Racing, 221.624mph. Like Bourdais, had a stressful first week as Jay Penske searched for new engine. Finally go Chevy in time for qualifications but has been focused on race set-up in practice. Was first woman to win major open-wheel race in North America, driving in Toyota Atlantics in 2005. Was first woman to compete in Champ Car. Following merger between Champ Car and IndyCar, returned to Europe as factory driver in DTM touring-car series. Had six top-10 finishes in 28 Champ Car starts from 2006-07.
31. (39) r-Bryan Clauson, 22, Noblesville, Ind.; Honda, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/Curb-Agajanian, 214.455. USAC star getting chance to test skills with more powerful cars. Was fast in practice but had rough start to qualifying, crashing on fourth and final lap of first attempt on Pole Day. Team rebuilt car overnight and Clauson requalified next day at much slower speed than he had been posting. Owns 55 career wins in other series including 23 in USAC, once key feeder program into IndyCar. Was Nationwide Series 2008 Rookie of Year runner-up after winning one pole and posting two top-10s. In 2006, became youngest driver to sweep USAC Midget/Sprint doubleheader and youngest USAC Sprint Car national feature winner.
32. (78) Simona de Silvestro, 23, Thun, Switzerland; Lotus, Lotus-HVM Racing; 214.393 mph. Is one of two Lotus drivers to make the starting field, but has been slow all month. Finally topped 210 mph when Indy gave engines a power boost. Qualified at substantially better four-lap average after making unapproved engine change last weekend, which will cost her 10 starting spots in IndyCar’s next race at Belle Isle, Mich. Became fan favorite at Indy last year with courageous qualifying run, driving with burned hands sustained in frightening, fiery practice crash two days earlier. Had career-best fourth at St. Pete in 2011 season-opener, had three top-10s and fastest lap in 2011 Brazil race. Hasn’t finished better than 20th this season. Was knocked out of two races with mechanical problems and in crash at Brazil. Second woman to win in Atlantics and five career wins are most by woman in Atlantics history.
33. (46) r-Jean Alesi, 47, Avignon, France; Lotus, Lotus-FP Journe-Fan Force United; 210.094. Oldest rookie in Indy history is trying to become first qualifier to win race from 33rd starting spot. Is almost 13 months older than previous record-holder (Jack Hewitt) for oldest rookie. Made 201 career starts in Formula One, earning two poles and 32 podium finishes, but did not drive on Brickyard’s historic 2.5-mile oval till this month. Competed in DTM touring car series from 2002-06 after retiring from F1, winning four times in five seasons. Competed in Speedcar stock car series in Middle East and Far East in 2008-09. Was second in Le Mans Series in 2010.
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