Lock: Scott Dixon
Dixie was fast all month, narrowly missed the Pole, and many of the teams in the garages seemed to think he would be the guy to beat in terms of speed. A lost wheel in the pits turned his last 500 experience sour; look for him to rebound with an especially strong performance here.
Drop: Ana Beatriz
Bia is getting ready for her sophomore outing at Indy, but despite a respectable performance last year, we’re still waiting for her to make that big rookie jump in the IZOD IndyCar Series this year. Starting as far back as she is, there’s the potential for a lot of trouble i in moving up, especially with Rows 9 and 10 as stacked as they are. Hopefully Bia will put together a fine race, but you’re better looking for a surprise challenger elsewhere for now.
Sleeper: Bertrand Baguette
Honestly, Baguette and the RLLR team were probably even faster than they showed on Pole Day. A broken mirror kept Bertrand from a better finish here last year, but in speaking with him he seems poised, talented, and ready to go. You won’t find many people around the series with a low of opinion of the Breadman’s talent, and he could be due for a big breakout run. Indy can be cruel on a whim to anyone, but Belgium’s Own is as good a dark horse pick as you’ll find.
---Zachary Houghton’s picks
Lock: Scott Dixon
Few drivers are more consistent on ovals than Scott Dixon. The fast Kiwi is often quiet on race day, but can always be found near the front. In 2008, he dominated the Indy 500, leading 115 laps and taking the win. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by Dario Franchitti, Dixon remains plenty fast. And, with Franchitti back in ninth at the start, Dixon may be in position to play the rabbit.
Drop: John Andretti
Though the fastest of the Andretti Autosport drivers, John Andretti is not a driver to favor this weekend. In his four races since returning to INDYCAR racing and the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, Andretti has a best finish of 16th and a pair of crashes. Those stats simply don't look good. Even though he had some success in the 1990's, finishing as high as fifth in 1991, Andretti's best years are well behind him.
Sleeper: Buddy Rice
Of all of the underdogs in the top nine, Buddy Rice may be the biggest sleeper of them all. A former winner with the team and that finished second in this race three years in a row is a good combination to have. Rice has been fast, but quiet all month long, staying mistake free and making sure he and team have the car right. Along with teammate J.R. Hildebrand, this group could be poised to make a serious charge come Race Day.
---Kyle Lavigne’s picks
Lock: Scott Dixon
You knew I had to pick my personal favorite for the big one! And lucky for me, Dixon has been one of the most consistent all month. I foresee a lot of accidents in the back of the field on the earlier side-by-side restarts. As long as Scott can stay ahead of the pack, I think we’ll see him drinking the milk once again. #TeamDixie
Drop: Alex Lloyd
Alex has seemed frustrated with his ride all month. Luckily they got the right combination in qualifications just in the nick of time. Come race day they won’t have the ability to head back to the garages every couple laps to make adjustments. I don’t think his car has the speed in it to be competitive this year.
Sleeper: Dan Wheldon
(Can a former winner be called a sleeper?) We’ve seen a lot of underdogs already so this is tough call. Obviously Dan has the talent and experience but I think his one-stop ride deal has made him hungry for a series win this season. Indy has always been good for Dan and in a field full of newcomers, I think this veteran will be looking to make a statement.
---Kristin Slevin’s picks
Lock: Dario Franchitti
I'm banking on the belief that the defending "500" champion will be hyper-focused after he suffered the embarrassment of running out of fuel on his "Fast Nine" run for the pole. You just don't expect mistakes like that from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but everything will be in ship-shape for them and Franchitti this Sunday.
Drop: Pippa Mann
She's already accomplished more than enough this month by making the field (and making some history too, as she is now the first British woman to qualify for the 500), but Sunday will bring her back down to Earth. Winning is not the goal; running laps and gaining valuable experience is. Then again, if she can keep her nose clean to about 20-30 laps to go, you never know what might happen...
Sleeper: Townsend Bell
One of the multiple one-offs that made life a pain in the backside for IndyCar regulars this month, this American driver certainly has the ability to be a contender with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. And unlike his finest Indy run so far, when he had to charge from 24th to finish fourth in 2009 for KV Racing, he'll have the luxury of starting near the front this year. If he stays steady, he'll be a threat at the end.
---Chris Estrada’s picks