After shuttering operations earlier this year due to lack of sponsorship, Tony George's Vision Racing team will make a triumphant return to the track at the Indianapolis 500, again with driver Ed Carpenter at the wheel of its No. 20 Dallara-Honda.
Carpenter and Vision will work with Panther Racing as a teammate to Dan Wheldon. According to the Vision Racing Twitter account, the cars will be provided by Vision, while the crew and engineering will be handled by Panther. So far, no sponsors have been announced for the effort.
This means that 34 cars have submitted entry blanks for the race, and we're not even halfway through April. Seeing as plenty of last-minute deals usually come together over the course of the month, this year's may be the largest Indianapolis 500 field in years.
As for Carpenter and Vision, it will be their latest and greatest chance to finally make it to Victory Lane. Carpenter will, if he qualifies, make his 100th career IZOD IndyCar Series start. His best career finish is second, at Kentucky last year, which helped propel him to a career-best 12th place finish in points. Ovals have always been his forte, especially Indianapolis, where he finished 5th in 2008 and has four finishes of 11th or better in the last five years.
Joining forces with Panther was about the best move that Vision could make, as Panther's cars have finished second in the prestigious event in each of the past two years. This will be the fourth consecutive year that the team has expanded for the month of May, although the second car did not appear on track in 2008. Last year, the second car was driven by Scott Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar co-champion, who finished 14th.
It will also return George to the track that he ran throughout most of the past two decades. George's contributions to the speedway were immense; while the race lost prestige for a few years as top open-wheel teams preferred to stay in CART, he did raise the American open-wheel driver count exponentially, and brought NASCAR, Formula 1, and IROC to the fabled course. While only NASCAR remains, the Brickyard 400 is considered one of the sport's crown jewels.
Indianapolis 500 practice opens May 15 with rookie orientation. The field will be set on the weekend of May 22-23, and the race itself taked place on May 30.