Phoenix could have big impact on Nationwide title race

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With three wins at Phoenix International Raceway in his racing career – two in his previous life as an IndyCar driver and one in his current role as a stock car racer – Sam Hornish Jr. (pictured, No. 12) is feeling glad that his battle versus Austin Dillon (pictured, No. 3) for the Nationwide Series championship is coming to PIR this weekend.

“It is always great to comeback to a place that has been good to you,” Hornish said in a statement. “Phoenix definitely has a lot of great memories for me. We’ve won a few races here and they have been the kind of races that have meant more than just a great day at the race track.

“We are engaged in a pretty tight battle for this championship and there really isn’t a place that I would rather race this weekend than at Phoenix.”

But any optimism on Hornish’s part may have to be at least a little tempered, too. He sits second in the NNS standings (down six points to Dillon) with two races to go, and in the last couple of seasons, the penultimate race of the year has had a detrimental impact on the guy that’s been P2 in the table.

In 2011, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (now driving Sprint Cup for Roush Fenway Racing) held a 17-point edge over Elliott Sadler going into Phoenix. Sadler wound up in a multi-car incident in the final stages of the race and finished 27th while Stenhouse logged a sixth-place result to boost his lead to 41 points; Stenhouse would win the title one week later at Homestead-Miami Speedway by a margin of 45 points over Sadler.

Then, in 2012, Stenhouse and Sadler were fighting again for the championship but were tied atop the standings as Phoenix loomed. But with two laps to go in the race, Sadler made contact with Cole Whitt and went rear-first into the wall before getting hit by Brendan Gaughan.

Stenhouse finished third and opened up a lead of 20 points on Sadler, who finished 22nd. At Homestead, Stenhouse would wrap up his second consecutive NNS title with a sixth-place finish.

With one win and three Top-10s in his NNS career at Phoenix, Hornish has had more success there than Dillon. But Dillon has been no slouch, either, with finishes of fourth, sixth and sixth in his last three Phoenix starts.

“It’s a handling race track where it’s very important to work on your car and make sure it’s right for the race,” Dillon said in his own statement. “Phoenix International Raceway is a place where getting off of each corner is very big. Entry is important. You need to be stable but you need to be the first one to the gas.”

Also important for both men will be starting up front. In 18 of the last 23 NNS races at Phoenix, the winner has come from the first two rows.

Here’s the 33-driver starting field for today’s Indianapolis 500

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Want to know which driver is starting where in today’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Here’s the full 33-driver starting field:

Row 1

20 Ed Carpenter (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 1st

Past Indy 500 starts: 14

Best finish: 5th (2008)

 

22 Simon Pagenaud (France)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 2nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 8th (2013)

 

12 Will Power (Australia)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 3rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 2nd (2015)

 

Row 2

1 Josef Newgarden (USA)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 4th

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 3rd (2016)

 

18 Sebastien Bourdais (France)

Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 5th

Past Indy 500 starts: 6

Best finish: 7th (2014)

 

21 Spencer Pigot (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 6th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 18th (2017)

 

Row 3


13 Danica Patrick (USA)

Ed Carpenter Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 7th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 3rd (2009)

 

3 Helio Castroneves (Brazil)

Team Penske

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 8th

Past Indy 500 starts: 17

Best finish: 1st (2001, 2002, 2009)

 

9 Scott Dixon (New Zealand)

Chip Ganassi Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 9th

Past Indy 500 starts: 15

Best finish: 1st (2008)

 

Row 4

 

14 Tony Kanaan (Brazil)

A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 10th

Past Indy 500 starts: 16

Best finish: 1st (2013)

 

4 Matheus Leist (Brazil)

A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 11th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

98 Marco Andretti (USA)

Andretti Herta Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified 12th

Past Indy 500 starts: 12

Best finish: 2nd (2006)

 

Row 5

19 Zachary Claman Demelo (Canada)

Dale Coyne Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 13th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 14th

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 1st (2014)

 

23 Charlie Kimball (USA)

Carlin Motorsport

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified 15th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 3rd (2015)

 

Row 6

 

30 Takuma Sato (Japan)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 16th

Past Indy 500 starts: 8

Best finish: 1st (2017)

 

32 Kyle Kaiser (USA)

Juncos Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 17th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

6 Robert Wickens (Canada)

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 18th

Past Indy 500 starts: 0

Best finish: none

 

Row 7

 

33 James Davison (Australia)

A.J. Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Balardi

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 19th

Past Indy 500 starts: 3

Best finish: 16th

 

59 Max Chilton (England)

Carlin Motorsport

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 20th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 4th (2017)

 

29 Carlos Munoz (Columbia)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 21st

Past Indy 500 starts: 5

Best finish: 2nd (2013, 2016)

 

Row 8

 

88 Gabby Chaves (Columbia)

Harding Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 22nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 3

Best finish: 9th (2017)

 

25 Stefan Wilson (England)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified 23rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 28th (2016)

 

24 Sage Karam (USA)

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified 24th

Past Indy 500 starts: 4

Best finish: 9th (2014)

 

Row 9

 

26 Zach Veach (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 25th

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 26th (2017)

 

64 Oriol Servia (Spain)

Scuderia Corsa with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 26th

Past Indy 500 starts: 9

Best finish: 4th (2012)

 

66 J.R. Hildebrand (USA)

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Engine: Chevrolet

Qualified: 27th

Past Indy 500 starts: 7

Best finish: 2nd (2011)

 

Row 10

7 Jay Howard (England)

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports/AFS Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 28th

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 30th (2017)

 

10 Ed Jones (United Arab Emirates)

Chip Ganassi Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 29th

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 3rd (2017)

 

15 Graham Rahal (USA)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 30th

Past Indy 500 starts: 10

Best finish: 3rd (2011)

 

Row 11

 

60 Jack Harvey (England)

Meyer Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 31st

Past Indy 500 starts: 1

Best finish: 31st (2017)

 

27 Alexander Rossi (USA)

Andretti Autosport

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 32nd

Past Indy 500 starts: 2

Best finish: 1st (2016)

 

17 Conor Daly (USA)

Dale Coyne Racing

Engine: Honda

Qualified: 33rd

Past Indy 500 starts: 4

Best finish: 22nd (2013)

 

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