I'm better than ESPN or ABC or Speed or any other mainstream media outlet because I'm willing to stick my neck out and make grand predictions regarding qualifications for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 with nothing to gain and everything to lose regarding my intelligence and credibility. In the odd case that I get that one thing in eleven correct, I will tout my brilliant soothsaying but I will also temper it with the cold, hard, facts of my percentage.
At any rate, here's my analysis of the top 25 of 38 current qualifiers IN ORDER and BEFORE it all goes down. Remember, you heard it here first:
Top Shelf (9):The Pole (AKA Master of the Obvious selection) - Penske car, I'll go with... Briscoe.
The Top 9 - Briscoe, Dixon, Castroneves, Franchitti, Kanaan, M. Andretti, Power, Wheldon, Moraes.
Mid-table Obscurity (16):Rahal, Matos, Tracy, J. Andretti, Wilson, Scheckter, Mutoh, Patrick, Carpenter, Bell, Hunter-Reay, Fisher, Hamilton, Conway, Meira, Viso.
And here is where it becomes interesting...
Perhaps the tension of who will not make the show is more compelling than who wins the pole, but simple math will tell you that with the current 38 entries, 5 will be bumped.
I have grouped 13 entries that fall below the 'level of comfort' in terms of recent experience, skill, equipment, Karma, or whathaveyou, placing them in jeopardy come next Sunday, ranked in order of most likely to least likely to be bumped.
Danger Drives (5):1. 98/98T unknown - CURB/Agajanian/3G - A wily veteran will drop in on the second day to surprise a few folks and sneak into the field? Only if it's Rick Mears. Nahhh, nevermind.
2. 18/18T Duno - Dale Coyne - This will be the beginning of the end for this driver in IndyCar.
3. 29/29T Saavedra (r) - Bryan Herta Autosport - some experience via the Firestone Lights, but this is the team's initial race effort on the biggest stage no less - tall order.
4. 36/36T Baguette (r) - Conquest - simply not enough experience and team has no major sponsor to assist with 'motivation' on qualifying day.
5. 34/34T Romancini (r) - Conquest - also a Lights grad, but will just miss the field.
---------- Bump Line ----------6. 25/25T Beatriz (r) - Dreyer/Reinbold - similar to other Lights grads, better team. Will be close, but just enough to squeeze into the field.
Bump Day Drama Queens/Kings AKA Survivors (8):
7. 66/66T Howard (r) - Sarah Fisher - Will survive by the skin of his teeth (as long as he keeps it off the wall).
8. 78/78T DeSilvestro (r) - HVM - Simply enough talent on a decent team to survive a nervy rookie qualifying weekend.
9. 33/33T Junquiera - FAZZT - Karma sees this man through into the field this year, provided Tagliani survives first day qualifying safely. This ride could evaporate if rumors about funding are true.
10. 41/41T Foyt IV - Foyt - Will appear fairly safe on second day, but time will slide down the charts, a bit too near the precipice for his liking.
11. 5/5T Sato - KV - Is a rookie like the Lights grads are 'rookies', but with a better team and skill. Must keep it off the wall this week.
12. 77/77T Tagliani - FAZZT - Was in last year only because the team owner installed him in Junquiera's qualifier. Will be determined to not be that close ever again. Still will be too close for his liking.
13. 19/19T Lloyd - Coyne - The former 'Pink' will have some work to do without a teammate capable of assisting when things get tight. Experience will see him through.
Qualie Caveats:A. Any car in the above list that ends up in the wall will place extreme pressure on that driver. In that case, I'd drop a driver 3 places closer to the bottom in the above ranking.
B. Sponsors who've written big checks hate to not make the show, so often another driver is brought into a struggling seat in hopes of making the race. We know that the 98 machine will need a driver, and I wouldn't be surprised if another driver steps into one of the Conquest cars at a minimum.
The pool of quality drivers with recent experience isn't terribly deep: Servia, Doornbos, Sharp, Phillipe, B. Lazier, Simmons, Bernoldi, Rice, Camara, J. Lazier, and Manning are among the most recent.
Well that's pretty much it. I leave judgment to the march of time. Best wishes for the remaining month and I will likely have just one more post before signing off and heading to Indy for the race.