Full field set for Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS — The field is set for the Indianapolis 500. And, more importantly, it's full.

On an otherwise ho-hum day of qualifying, nine cars made the field on their first attempts, ending any potential last-minute drama and assuring the May 27 race would start with a full field of 33 cars for 64th consecutive year. Things went almost as smoothly Sunday as race organizers could have expected.

"We're happy to see it," Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus said. "There was very little doubt in my mind that we wouldn't. To put it another way, I was confident we would end up with 33 cars."

The script could have been better.

For the first time since 2004, there were no bump attempts — taking away the intrigue of last year's enthralling finish when Marco Andretti bumped his way into the race by knocking out teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final four-lap qualifying attempt of the month. Heck, there weren't even any rumors floating around Gasoline Alley about late additions to Indy's entry list.

The three slowest qualifiers, all of whom qualified at less than 215 mph, didn't have to sweat out anything. It will be the first time the 11th row is filled with cars under 215 since 204, too.

Despite getting a rude welcome to the Brickyard's 2.5-mile oval, former Formula One driver Jean Alesi still made the race. The Frenchman will start 33rd after finishing with a four-lap qualifying average of 210.094 — the slowest speed of any Indy starter since the late Fermin Velez went 206.512 in 1997.

"It's a big relief for me to finally get into this race," said Alesi, one of seven rookies in the Indy field. "This is an amazing experience for me. I'm 47 years old, and I have learned more in one week than I did in my entire Formula One career."

Now the bigger questions.

Simona de Silvestro and Alesi will be the only drivers using the lumbering Lotus engines in next Sunday's race. They'll start 32nd and 33rd. De Silvestro had the second-slowest qualification speed at 214.393.

Alesi has already said he feels "unsafe" on the track with faster cars trying to pass him and worries he'll become an impediment to other drivers. He was almost 161/2; mph slower than Saturday's pole winner, Australia's Ryan Briscoe, who went 226.484.

"The speed difference is too great," points leader Will Power said Friday when asked about the disparity. "Simona is one of the best drivers in the series, so it has nothing to do with her, it has to do with the situation she's in, and it's a pity if it comes to her not racing. But it is bloody dangerous, honestly."

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