2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500 – Preview

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Credit: Bret Kelley / Courtesy of IndyCar

The biggest race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series is now just days away from getting the green flag. Qualifying is now completed and just one more practice session is scheduled before the 2018 Indianapolis 500 takes place on Sunday. Here is everything you need to know ahead of the 102nd running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. ”

What happened in 2017 at the Indianapolis 500?

Chip Ganassi Racing captured the pole for the Indianapolis 500 one year ago, with Scott Dixon hoping to capture his second win at the Brickyard. However, these hopes would be dashed early on when he was caught up in a terrifying crash with Jay Howard. Jay would bounce off of the outside wall on the exit of turn one and would be sent back across the track.

Dixon’s car launched itself over the back of Howard’s, with Scott being sent into the catch fencing on the inside of the track. His car was disintegrated in the impact with the fence, but thankfully he walked away from the incident unscathed; as did Howard.

One of the biggest headlines heading into the race was Fernando Alonso making his IndyCar debut to try and win the second part of the “triple crown.” He qualified a superb fifth place in his McLaren Honda – run by Andretti Autosport – and he found himself leading the race for an extended amount of time during the mid-stages.

However, Alonso’s fantastic debut came to an abrupt end when, once again, a Honda engine would let go on him. The Spaniard would retire from the race on lap 179 of 200.

The most laps led by a single driver would go to Max Chilton, with the British driver running at the front for much of the closing stages of the race despite having been a lap down early on. After a late caution, the race would be restarted for the last time with eleven laps remaining. Helio Castroneves took over the lead from Chilton with under ten laps to go, with Takuma Sato following Castroneves through soon after to take second place.

From there, it became a straight duel between Castroneves and Sato. Takuma would move into the lead with just a handful of laps to go, with Castroneves ultimately unable to find a way back by. At the end of lap 200, Takuma Sato would become the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500, with Castroneves coming home in second and rookie Ed Jones in third. Chilton and Tony Kanaan completed the top five.

You can read the full race report from last year’s Indianapolis 500 here: 

What should I look out for this Sunday?

Throughout the month of May so far, there has been a lot of speculation as to how well drivers will be able to overtake in the race this Sunday. The cars this season have a lot less downforce than in previous years, with some drivers saying that overtaking will be a lot harder as a result. However, others have said after practice that they are still able to slingshot their way by other cars using the slipstream. In Monday’s penultimate practice session, overtaking looked easy enough, but we will have to wait until the race itself to know for sure.

In qualifying last weekend, Ed Carpenter took his third Indy 500 pole position after a stunning lap in his #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. However, despite starting at the front twice before, Ed has yet to finish an Indy 500 any higher than fifth place.

When he started on pole in 2013, Carpenter slipped down the order to tenth. He got pole again the following year, but he failed to finish the 2014 race after colliding with James Hinchcliffe. This year, Ed will be at the front at the drop of the green flag yet again, but he will be hoping to finally be at the front when the all-important chequered flag flies after five-hundred miles of racing. Keep another eye on his team-mates too, with both Spencer Pigot and the returning Danica Patrick also starting inside the top ten in fast cars.

Team Penske were right on the coat-tails of Carpenter in qualifying. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power will share the front-row with Ed, with Josef Newgarden fourth and Helio Castronevesfurther back in ninth.

For Castroneves, a fourth Indy 500 win on Sunday would be an amazing way to perhaps cap-off his full-time IndyCar career. He was moved over to Penske’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programme this year, meaning he is only racing in IndyCar for this month before returning to endurance racing. A win for Helio would be a popular one for the fans, but it would certainly be an emotional moment for the Brazilian veteran himself.

For the remaining three Penske drivers, a win on Sunday would be their first at the Brickyard. An Indy 500 win has so far eluded Power in his ten previous attempts, with fellow series champions Pagenaud and Newgarden hoping to add the historic race win to their impressive resumes. All are capable of accomplishing it if the cards fall their way on Sunday.

Another team expected to do well this weekend is Andretti Autosport. Andretti drivers have won the last two Indy 500’s, but the team has not really shown the pace to do so again in practice so far. Not one of their five drivers made it into the “Fast Nine.” In particular, Alexander Rossi will start all the way down in thirty-second place after a problem on his qualifying run. It will be interesting to see whether the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner can charge through the field to be in contention again.

Finally, keep an eye on the rookies in the field. It is often said that the circuit itself chooses who will win. On numerous occasions, fate has chosen a rookie driver; most recently with Rossi two years ago. A number of the rookie drivers in the field have been impressive so far this month, with Matheus LeistZachary Claman De Melo and Kyle Kaiser starting further up than perhaps expected, with all three inside the top twenty.

However, don’t count out Robert Wickens either. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have had a tough time this month, with James Hinchcliffe being shockingly and emotionally bumped from the field and Wickens crashing in Monday’s practice session. Don’t rule-out Wickens bouncing back to finish strongly, though.

The Canadian rookie has been the sensation of the season so far after nearly winning from pole on debut at St. Petersburg and finishing on the podium at ISM Raceway and in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. There is every chance that Robert could be in the mix this weekend to, not only take his first Verizon IndyCar Series victory, but also take the win in one of the most famous races in the world.

You can find the full qualifying order, as well as other details from last weekend’s session, in our qualifying report:

What is the schedule for Indianapolis 500?

Friday 25 May

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Carb Day Final Practice
13:30 ET / 18:30 GMT – Pit Stop Competition

Sunday 27 May

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the Indianapolis 500?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the race itself. Race day coverage will start on Sunday at 15:30 BST on BT Sport 1.

In the United States, television coverage for the Indy 500 will be provided by ABC. Final practice and the Pit Stop Competition will be broadcast on NBCSN.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Indianapolis for this weekend’s 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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