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Getting to 33: 2017 Indy 500 car count thus far

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This week sees the start of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a 21-car field. That means it’s also just over two months until practice begins for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, and inevitably the questions begin over where 33 cars will come from for this year’s race.

Here’s the breakdown thus far of confirmed entries:

  • 21 full-season entries (13 Honda, 8 Chevrolet)
  • Fifth Team Penske Chevrolet for Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda for Oriol Servia
  • Third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for Jay Howard
  • Dreyer & Reinbold entry for Sage Karam (expected to be Chevrolet)
  • Juncos Racing, one confirmed and two possible entries (expected to be Chevrolet)
  • Fifth Andretti Autosport Honda

So that’s a max 28, at an anticipated breakdown of 16 Hondas and 12 Chevrolets. So where do five more cars come from?

Dale Coyne Racing will have a third car, and Coyne told NBC Sports at the Phoenix Prix View test he’s working “with the usual suspect.” Although he didn’t name her directly, the implication was that he and Pippa Mann are continuing to work diligently together to see her back in a Coyne car for what would be the fifth straight year.

While not formally announced, the Larry Curry program with past Indy Lights champion and IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves appears well in the works, and looks set to be run out of the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing shop. Both Curry and Chaves were at the Phoenix test.

Question marks exist with Ed Carpenter Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises if either runs a third car, as they have in recent years.

As of the Phoenix test, Carpenter indicated they didn’t yet have plans to run a third car, but could prepare a third one if needed.

Meanwhile Foyt’s associate sponsor Al-Fe Heat Treating said upon continuation of its sponsorship with the team it wasn’t planning to sponsor a third: “While there aren’t plans to feature a third entry this year owing to the team’s reorganization over the winter, Al-Fe Heat Treating will continue to support and leverage Foyt’s motorsports program throughout the season.”

Add the Lazier Racing entry in whatever team name that is – it was Lazier/Burns Racing last year and Lazier Racing Partners before that – and the field would grow to 33 cars via some combination of an extra Honda or an extra Carpenter car. Or perhaps both. The math is tricky, but achievable at this stage.

Honda figures it can support at least 18 cars, with a 19th car a stretch. But they’d have to put 19 cars in the field of 33 if Chevrolet tops out at 14.

The list of free agents available isn’t the longest either but besides Mann and Chaves, expect NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell to continue working feverishly on his front to make it into another ‘500, as he’s probably the best and most experienced driver available at the moment.

Young guns who raced at some point in last year in Spencer Pigot, Matthew Brabham, RC Enerson and Stefan Wilson haven’t landed yet, either. There’s others as well who could be in line to make not just their Indianapolis 500 but also their IndyCar debuts, including some intriguing names from Indy Lights.

The full season silly season drew to a close early this year, with the field all but officially confirmed in November. Now, the Indianapolis 500 silly season is in full swing.

March 29 in Motorsports History: Scott Dixon wins first race after reunification

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Reunited and it felt so good.

That’s what drivers likely thought before the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the first time since 1995, major-league open-wheel racing in the United States was under the banner of a sole sanctioning body as Champ Car and the Indy Racing Leauge had reunified just a month prior.

Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead. Photo: Jim Hines/IndyCar.

The first race after reunification also saw a reversal of fortunes for Scott Dixon, who won the race after losing the 2007 IRL championship in crushing fashion.

In the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Dixon ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of the race. The race victory – and championship – went to Dixon’s future teammate, Dario Franchitti.

But the tides turned for Dixon nearly seven months later, and the Kiwi was able to win with the help of another driver’s misfortune.

Tony Kanaan was leading with seven laps remaining when E.J. Viso spun and made contact with Kanaan’s car. Kanaan remained on track through the caution period despite suffering obvious damage to his right front suspension.

On the final restart with three laps remaining, Dixon and others cars easily passed Kanaan’s wounded car on the outside. Dixon then maintained his lead through the checkered flag to win at Homestead for the second time in his career.

“I think Marco (Andretti) and T.K. probably had a little bit better cars today, but we came through with the win, and that’s what counts,” Dixon told ESPN after his 12th career victory.

Following his victory at Homestead, Dixon continued to redeem himself through the course of the 2008 season. In May, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first (and so far only) time. Following Indy, he went on to win four more times in 2008 and won his second series championship.

Also on this date:

1998: Mika Hakkinen won the Grand Prix of Brazil, the first of eight victories in his first championship season.

2010: Will Power won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was held on a Monday morning because of rain postponing the race on Sunday.

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