COMMENTARY | Once in a while, a driver will come along in the Indianapolis 500 and steal the big dogs' thunder, like in 1985, when Danny Sullivan took the "spin and win" over the unlucky Mario Andretti, or in 2000, when CART's Juan Pablo Montoya and Chip Ganassi Racing invaded the IRL-sanctioned race and won with a dominating performance. These five underdogs will come in and give the powerhouse teams a run for their money in the upcoming 97th running of the Indy 500, taking place Sunday, May 26.
Ed Carpenter - Owner/driver Carpenter is already one-up on the big money teams this year - his one-car team beat five Andretti Autosport cars and three Penske Racing cars to win the pole for the Indy 500 in the Fast Nine qualifying round on May 18. Carpenter, the step-son of IRL founder Tony George, is an IndyCar veteran, having made his first starts back in 2003, but he didn't earn his first win until 2011 while teamed with another one-car team, Sarah Fisher Racing; he also won as an owner/driver in 2012. He's been fast since practice started earlier in May, and the Indiana native has a shot at winning the Borg-Warner Trophy.
A.J. Allmendinger - The Penske Racing rookie is hardly a newcomer to open wheel racing or Indianapolis Motor Speedway: he spent three seasons in the Champ Car World Series, winning five times in 2006, and has four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at "the Brickyard." This is, however, his first time on an oval in IndyCar, having two previous starts this season on street circuits. Allmendinger was impressive in practice and qualifying, and starts fifth on Sunday in one of the best rides in IndyCar - Penske cars have picked up 15 checkered flags at the Indy 500.
Tony Kanaan - Brazilian Kanaan has 14 IndyCar Series wins on his resume, but the popular driver, now in his 12th IndyCar season, has yet to win at Indy. He was runner-up in 2004, pole sitter in 2005, and after a few lean years at Indy with Andretti, has come back strong with KV Racing Technology, finishing fourth and third in the last two 500s. Kanaan starts 12th in Sunday's race.
Takuma Sato - After spending seven seasons in Formula One, Sato came to the States with an IndyCar ride for 2010. After two seasons with KV Racing Technology, Sato teamed up with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2012 and made a name for himself after a spectacular last-lap attempt to win the Indy 500, ending with a 17th-place finish. This season, he's driving for a former driver who knows a few things about taking chances: "Super Tex," the legendary A.J. Foyt; he already picked up his first career win on the streets of Long Beach, and starts 18th at Indy.
Josef Newgarden - In 2011, Newgarden became Firestone Indy Lights champ Sam Schmidt Motorsports, winning five of the series' 14 races that season. He moved up to the IZOD IndyCar Series the following year and suffered some growing pains with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing - including a broken finger that kept him out of one race. He returns to the team in 2013 and is already much-improved, having picked up his first top 10 finish at Barber Motorsports Park (ninth) and his first top five at Sao Paulo, Brazil (fifth). Newgarden qualified 25th for the Indy 500 after being fast in practice for much of the week preceding qualifying.
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers auto racing at Examiner.com and Skirts & Scuffs.
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