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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.

Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).