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Taking an early look at the 2019 Indianapolis 500 field tanner watkins | Open-Wheels.com

Following Saturday's announcement that Fernando Alonso and McLaren will return to the Indianapolis 500, another entry has been confirmed for the 103rd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Make no doubt about it, Alonso’s return to the Speedway will be headline news next May. With that being said, it will be just one of the many storylines to follow as Helio Castroneves returns for another shot at win No. 4, Marco Andretti continues his quest to kill the family curse and young guns Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson all serve to be legitimate threats in their first ‘500 start.

At present, there are 28 confirmed entries for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. These are teams that have announced their intentions to be at Indianapolis in May and their cars are accounted for. Broken down by engine manufacturer, this includes:

Karl Zemlin/INDYCAR

Chevrolet

Two entries will come from A.J. Foyt Racing in Brazilians Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist. Hometown team for Ed Carpenter Racing (with Scuderia Corsa) will supply three cars as Ed Carpenter, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones will run under the ECR banner.

Team Penske will again run four cars at Indianapolis as Josef Newgaren, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud return to the mix. The trio has four Indianapolis 500 wins between them, with Newgarden and Pagenaud itching to join that club in due time.

Then you have Juncos Racing, who has been under Chevrolet power for the past two years. Ricardo Juncos brought two cars to Indianapolis in 2017 before running only Kyle Kaiser last May. Right now we will only mark them down for one entry confirmed.

Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

Honda

The Honda brigade is a crowded group once again in 2019. Leading off will be Andretti Autosport with four confirmed entries on the books right now – Zach Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti – plus the possibility for a fifth car for someone like Carlos Munoz again. For now, we leave Andretti at four confirmed entries.

Moving down the line there is Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist inked for 2019. Dale Coyne Racing will bring another pair of drivers to the table (Sebastien Bourdais confirmed in one car) while Rahal Letterman Lanigan will also put two drivers in the running with Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.

Meyer Shank Racing will be back in Indy for the 2019 month of May with Jack Harvey as their driver, and then there is Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. With Robert Wickens out for 2019, the SPM crew will consist of James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson.

James Black/INDYCAR

Confirmed Entries, Unconfirmed Engines

Carlin embarked on their maiden IndyCar Series season running Chevrolet power with Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball at the helm of their two machines. The team will again have two drivers at the Indianapolis 500 in 2019, with Chilton confirmed and the other seat currently open.

The newly named Harding Steinbrenner Racing will be a group to watch for in May with talented young drivers Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward making their first Indianapolis 500 starts.

Finally we arrive at Fernando Alonso and McLaren. The duo will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again in 2019 as Alonso continues his pursuit of the elusive motorsports Triple Crown. While the expectation is that McLaren teams up with Andretti Autosport and Honda in some capacity, RACER reports that Zak Brown’s team will be staffed only with McLaren employees as a full-fledged independent team.

So, that is a pretty extensive list to have 28 cars committed to Indianapolis by the second week of November. The real fun begins, though, when you begin to imagine the possible ceiling for cars showing up in May.

Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

Unannounced Possibilities

Dreyer and Reinbold are all but confirmed to bring two cars back to Indianapolis in 2019, which would bump the car count to an even 30. It is hard to imagine that Carlos Munoz would not be in the field next May given his track record, and if he ran as a fifth Andretti car that puts us at 31.

Continuing to look into our crystal ball, it is expected that Juncos Racing will bring an additional car to Indianapolis in 2019 to pair with their primary driver. The same can be said for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, which would make even more sense for the newly formed team.

HSR would be wise to bring a veteran onboard as a third car to help mentor and guide their two talented rookies through the month of May. A driver like Oriol Servia comes to mind with his experience at IMS and advanced communication skills.

Those are likely entries at this point just waiting to be announced in due time. It also gets us to a nice round number of 33 entries – and only at Indy could you recognize 33 as a round number.

This is where the fun begins as we speculate into “bumping” territory. Dale Coyne Racing normally brings a third car, and even though Pippa Mann was one of the two left on the outside looking in, its more likely than unlikely that DCR has a third car in the stable for 2019.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is another team who had three cars at Indianapolis in 2018 and one car bumped out. The common theme building in the garage area is that qualifying for the ‘500 is continually getting harder, and the larger the team you have to gather data, the better. SPM could easily work three cars into their month of May plans next year.

Carlin has made it clear in recent months that they are at least exploring the thoughts of a third car on the full-time grid, so that puts them in the running for a third car at Indianapolis – even if it was just a one-off entry.

John Cote/INDYCAR

In late October, Michael Shank purchased an additional chassis from Dallara that gives him more flexibility in 2019, also with the potential to field a one-off to pair with Jack Harvey. That would do a lot for Meyer Shank Racing who hopes to eventually be a full-fledged IndyCar Series program without the needed help of a Schmidt Peterson Racing alliance.

Considering less likely scenarios, A.J. Foyt Racing could again bring a third car to Indianapolis. Last year A.J. was quoted as being not in favor of three team cars, but nonetheless, he teamed up with Belardi Auto Racing and brought James Davidson into the field. Foyt has run three cars at Indianapolis every year since 2015.

Also somewhat unlikely, but not entirely impossible, is the chance McLaren runs another car alongside Fernando Alonso. RACER reported today that Zak Brown was hesitant to shoot down the idea of a second car, and if McLaren is to truly function on their own, it makes more sense to run two cars with a full staff of engineers and mechanics coming over from Europe than just one car.

If all of these scenarios came to fruition, which is unlikely, that would be a whopping 39 entries fighting for those 33 spots on the grid. That would be an incredible turn of events after 33 cars showed up for the 2017 race and everyone made the show.

Again, it is unlikely all of those “maybes” become “yes” in the end, but there are always one or two surprise entries that arise in March and April as well that could take their place. A realistic number of entries next season is between 36 and 38, which will make for a great show on Bump Day next May.

Either way, we still have a ton of time left between now and opening day at the Speedway. Everything will sort out on its own, so for now, let’s just sit back and enjoy the possibilities while we dream of May.

Follow Open-Wheels on Twitter at @Open_Wheels and visit Open-Wheels.com. Header image courtesy of Shawn Gritzmacher/INDYCAR.

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Tanner Watkins
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