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Verizon INDYCAR Series

Indy 500 Thursday Stock Report

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After a vulnerable period at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years, Chevrolet has taken a stronger foothold with time trials weekend approaching.

Since the famous two and a half mile oval opened for practice Tuesday, three GM-backed pilots have reached LOCK status, and two others could advance to the summit after Thursday.

While the battle for the Verizon P1 Award has warmed up, the fight to avoid going home after time trials is coming into focus. The team that has suddenly become the most vulnerable to suffering this fate is Dale Coyne Racing. Conor Daly’s return to the cockpit since gaining notoriety on the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race,” has suffered a rough opening act and similar storylines loom above Pippa Mann and newcomer Zachary Claman De Melo. The picture looks eerily similar to what befell the Chicago-based operation in 1993, when they failed to qualify three entries.

The situation is negative for a few other hopefuls who are close to the cut line. Competitors such as Stefan Wilson, James Davison, Jack Harvey, and Kyle Kaiser will be hard pressed to find speed over the next two days to hold a better hand in advance of Saturday.

TEAM PENSKE: LOCKS (4): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Helio Castroneves

The story has morphed from where the Penske quartet will qualify, to can the entire squad advance to the Fast Nine Shootout? Things are on the up for the Chevrolet camp, which means the “Super Team” will enjoy the most substantial benefit.

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: LOCKS (4): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Carlos Munoz; SHOULD BE IN (1): Zach Veach; WORK TO DO (1): Stefan Wilson

Penske’s big surge could cost the Andretti group a seat or two in the fight for the pole position, yet their impact on the race itself will remain strong. No change in status for either Veach or Wilson, but chances tilt more toward being in the show as opposed to going home after time trials.

CHIP GANASSI RACING: LOCKS (2): Scott Dixon, Ed Jones

Same lyrics since early Grid-a-tology preview for CGR. The Iceman remains the best bet to make the Fast Nine, while Jones could drop a row or two with the Chevy advancements.

DALE COYNE RACING: LOCKS (1): Sebastien Bourdais; SHOULD BE IN (1): Conor Daly; WORK TO DO (2): Zachary Claman De Melo, Pippa Mann

Bourdais should be fine; however, his hopes to make his mark on the top three lines of the list are weakening. Daly’s position is trending toward to the tail-end, while Mann and last-minute replacement Claman De Melo also will have to fight to make the final cut.

A.J. FOYT RACING: LOCKS (1): Tony Kanaan; SHOULD BE IN (1): Matheus Leist; WORK TO DO (1): James Davison

Three drivers, each with a different status. The 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan continues to show muscle after posting the best lap without a draft on Wednesday. Reigning Freedom 100 king Matheus Leist is also making the most of a stronger GM package under the cowling, while the Belardi-assisted car for James Davison is lacking concerning qualifying security.

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS: LOCKS (2): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens, SHOULD BE IN (1): Jay Howard

Matching its pole capture from two years ago is more of a long shot after Wednesday, yet there seems to be nothing to worry about concerning getting all three entries into the 33-car field.

ED CARPENTER RACING: LOCKS (2): Ed Carpenter, Danica Patrick; SHOULD BE IN (1): Spencer Pigot

It has not been smooth sailing for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, but the writing is on the wall; Danica Patrick will qualify safely. Spencer Pigot should be another penciled-in starter by Fast Friday.

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING: LOCKS (3): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia

The Ohio-based speedsters are unlikely to challenge for time trials accolades. Thankfully, nothing suggests any panic regarding missing the show, a fate that struck them five years ago.

HARDING RACING: LOCKS (1): Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing are legitimate top-half qualifying threats. It is clear the Brian Barnhart-led operation wants to prove it can fend for themselves, without relying on others finding trouble. A well-earned lock for the high-speed oval specialists.

DREYER & REINBOLD RACING: LOCKS (1): Sage Karam; SHOULD BE IN (1):  JR Hildebrand

Dennis Reinbold’s organization does not typically feature in four-lap speed run mode, but the solid returns from Sage Karam seals up a lock for the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Expect teammate JR Hildebrand to join him sooner or later.

CARLIN MOTORSPORT: SHOULD BE IN (2): Charlie Kimball,  Max Chilton

Another top-ten speed chart placement from the 2015 Indy 500 third-place finisher is starting to build momentum. Chilton, likewise, is making progress toward escaping the struggle for the final row.

MEYER-SHANK RACING: WORK TO DO (1): Jack Harvey

Decent gains from the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires veteran, but Harvey must find more consistency to avoid an early clear out from Gasoline Alley after Sunday.

JUNCOS RACING: WORK TO DO (1): Kyle Kaiser

The reigning Indy Lights champion was not on the bottom of the list Wednesday; however, he is far from a comfortable outlook two days out from qualifications.

Stay tuned to POPULAR OPEN WHEEL, for our final grid projection coming after Fast Friday.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

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