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Indy 500 Silly Season Update

The path toward a 33-car field for the 101st Indianapolis 500 has continued to provide interesting storylines.

However, the biggest one to date came on Wednesday morning, when Andretti Autosport confirmed their sixth entry. In partnership with McLaren F1. Fernando Alonso will skip the Monaco Grand Prix to participate. The former world champion becomes the first active Formula 1 driver to try his luck at Indy since Mario Andretti in 1981.

This move is also notable since it represents an 18th Honda-powered entry in the field. The manufacturer reportedly will not provide any more lease deals, a bad sign for a possible partnership that could have involved Sam Schmidt and Will Marotti. It does not remove Marotti completely from rumors, but if God Bless America Racing wants a place on the grid, their hopes now rest with Chevrolet.

Here is the current projection of how things could shape up for the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Team Penske: Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya

The Captain will enter five cars at the Speedway for the first time, and all drivers have been confirmed.

Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball

Four full-time runners on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit and nothing is expected to change for one race.

Andretti Autosport: Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Fernando Alonso

Harvey’s deal involving Michael Shank Racing appeared to be the final piece for Andretti’s Indy 500 efforts. That is until McLaren decided to join the fun, giving Fernando Alonso a shot at Indy. The six-car team is the largest at the Brickyard since Andy Evans’ Team Scandia provided seven in 1996.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, Jay Howard

The Alonso to Andretti deal probably ends any chance of Will Marotti partnering with Sam Schmidt for a second consecutive year. Still, Schmidt features a strong three-car lineup.

Dale Coyne Racing: Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Jones, Pippa Mann

Three-car entry pretty much set in stone, unless additional Honda engine leases pop up.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia

The Ohio-based runners are set for May with a two-car entry, as has often been the case since its return to the full IndyCar circuit in 2012.

Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter, J.R. Hildebrand

As mentioned above, ECR will only enter two cars at Indy next month. Spencer Pigot has been given the okay to seek another ride for the 500, but could be on standby if J.R. Hildebrand is not cleared to compete. The 2011 runner-up suffered a broken hand last weekend at Long Beach.

A.J. Foyt Racing: Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, Zach Veach, TBA?

Zach Veach was confirmed as Foyt’s third driver last weekend at Long Beach. They could also add a fourth car to complete the field if needed

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves

Harding Racing confirmed its formation and technical alliance with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing earlier this week. 2015 Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves will drive with Larry Curry managing the operation.

Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser?, TBA?

If Kyle Kaiser is indeed one of the team’s two drivers, a confirmation should come soon. The Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway takes place later this month, and participation is mandatory. The team has also been considering a veteran driver with Sebastian Saavedra’s name being mentioned from a few inside sources.

Lazier Partners Racing: Buddy Lazier

Bob Lazier says plans are to return in some form at Indy this May. His son, 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier is likely to handle the driving duties once again.

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By 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.

A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory.

Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.