For the past 75 years, the Indianapolis 500 has famously featured a grand starting field of 33 cars for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. That number is in jeopardy this season, though, as the matter of who will fill out the Indy 500 field remains unresolved with just over a month before the first cars take to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29.
According to a report from Marshall Pruett of RACER, IndyCar is attempting to find a team to become the 33rd entry into the Indianapolis 500 field, and the sanctioning body's options have narrowed despite meeting with several race teams. While 32 cars are currently set to enter the 500, issues with putting together an experienced crew and a lack of drivers with the funding necessary to support an extra Indy 500 entry have created a major hurdle for the sport and its biggest race.
According to RACER, IndyCar held multiple meetings with teams at Texas Motor Speedway about a 33rd Indy 500 entry, and also plan to hold more meetings at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday and Sunday. Several prospective entries have reportedly fallen, through, including a proposed Honda-backed entry for Katherine Legge, a Chevrolet-backed entry for Zach Veach and the idea of James Hinchcliffe entering the race in a Dale Coyne Racing car.
IndyCar having trouble putting together a 33-car field for the Indianapolis 500 continues what has been a long-standing issue with car counts for the race. In the race's glory years, well over 33 cars attempted the 500 annually, making qualifications and "Bump Day" some of the most dramatic of the Month of May.
But in the years after the 1996 split in American open wheel racing, car counts have dwindled to the point where the sanctioning body has been just able to fill the field with 33 entries and a little more left over. Last year, 35 cars attempted to make the Indianapolis 500 starting field.
RACER stated that, as things stand, the likeliest options for a 33rd Indy 500 entry include Simona De Silvestro for Paretta Autosport and Stefan Wilson for Cusick Motorsports. However, there is a strong possibility that one or both teams concerned opt to skip the Indy 500 to focus on races later in the season.
The Indianapolis 500 field has featured at least 33 cars every year since 1934, and the number is based on a traditional ruling that each car on-track should have 400 feet all to itself. The field was expanded to 35 cars in certain years coinciding with a split between USAC and CART, as well as the split between CART and the Indy Racing League.