PREVIEW: 2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500

by Jordan Groves

The grid is set and it’s almost time for the green flag to wave for one of the biggest races of the year in all of motorsport. This Sunday, thirty-three drivers will embark on a quest to write their name into the history books by winning the 2019 Indianapolis 500. Who will have their likeness placed upon the famous Borg-Warner trophy? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the race.

What happened in 2018 at the Indianapolis 500?

The majority of last year’s race was led by the pole-sitter, Ed Carpenter. The American got a great start to lead ahead of the challenge Team Penske‘s of Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Carpenter would end up leading sixty-five of the two-hundred laps, but shortly before the half-way point, Penske would get Power out into the lead of the race during a pit-stop sequence.

Carpenter’s car seemed to be happy enough whilst leading the race, but when he had cars ahead of him, things changed. Power would be able to hold a sizable advantage at times as the race drew to a close, but with only a handful of laps to go, a curveball was thrown.

On lap 188, Tony Kanaan would bring out the caution after spinning into the wall. This caution would enable a number drivers, who were out in front of the field after pitting once less than the rest of the drivers, to try and gamble and make it to the end without stopping again.

Leading the field to the restart with less than ten laps to go would be Oriol Servia for Scuderia Corsa, but the Spaniard would almost immediately lose the lead to Stefan Wilson and Jack Harvey; both of whom were critical on fuel but determined to try and steal a shock victory.

Will Power, who was safe on fuel, soon found himself back up into third place with less than five laps to go. Shortly thereafter, Wilson and Harvey would be forced to pit for fuel. The lead was surrendered over to Power, who would go on to cruise around the final few laps of the race to take the chequered flag.

The win was an incredibly emotional one for Power. The Indy 500 victory was somewhat of an end to a long journey he has taken during his time in the IndyCar series. He started off struggling to get good results, but now, he must be considered a contender at every speedway; such has been his improvement over the years. The win would also cap off an incredible month of May for Will after the Australian won on the road course at Indianapolis a few weeks prior; becoming the first driver to do the Indy double in IndyCar.

Pole-sitter Ed Carpenter would finish the race three seconds down on Power in second place. Scott Dixon would take third ahead of Alexander Rossi, who arguably put on the drive of the day, pulling off ridiculously brave overtakes to go from thirty-second on the grid to fourth place. Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top five.

You can read the full race reports from last year’s Indianapolis 500 by following the link below

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this Sunday?

After qualifying last weekend, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud will start from pole position and will be joined by Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot on the front row. Pagenaud is riding a fantastic wave of momentum at the moment, having snapped a year-long winless streak by winning the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course earlier in the month.

Twelve months ago, Pagenaud’s Penske team-mate, Will Power, did the double at Indianapolis by winning the Grand Prix and the 500 back-to-back. This time around, Pagenaud will be attempting to repeat history by doing the same. The 2016 series champion has already answered a lot of his critics from the past seasons, but writing his name in the history books by winning the Indianapolis 500 would all but silence them.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Pagenaud will have to hold off three hungry attacks starting directly behind him. Ed Carpenter Racing had their strongest ever qualifying performance last weekend when all three cars qualified in the top four. The team, with team owner Ed Carpenter, in particular, have shown fantastic speed year-in, year-out at Indianapolis, but the team have not been able to convert strong grid spots into a win just yet. This year, Carpenter, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones will be hoping to change that.

Seven drivers will start Sunday’s race as former winners of the Indianapolis 500. The highest-placed former winner will be reigning winner Will Power in sixth-place, with 2016 winner, Alexander Rossi, little further back on the grid in ninth place. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves will try to take a record-equalling fourth win from twelfth on the grid, whilst the remaining winners, Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will all look to take their second Indy 500 win from the midfield.

On the flip-side, seven drivers will enter the race classified as rookies and will be hoping to pull off a major upset by parking themselves in victory circle. Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta will lead the class of rookies away from a solid fifth on the grid, with the added experience of having won at the Brickyard in the Indy Lights Freedom 100 last year. He is also already an NTT IndyCar Series race winner, having won a few races ago at the Circuit of the Americas.

Hoping to deny Herta the chance of a rookie win will be former Formula 1 driver, Marcus Ericsson. The Swedish rookie, racing for Arrow Schmidt Peterson, will roll-off in thirteenth for his first Indianapolis 500, with fellow full-time rookie Santino Ferrucci starting ten places behind him in twenty-third place.

British drivers, Jordan King and Ben Hanley will start deep in the field for their first Indianapolis 500 appearances. King will start twenty-sixth ahead of Hanley in twenty-seventh. Both will start ahead of the full-time rookie, Felix Rosenqvist and the last rookie in the field, Kyle Kaiser; the man responsible for bumping Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing out of the field last Sunday.

It is far from unprecedented for a rookie to win in the Indianapolis 500, with the most recent example coming from 2016 when Rossi took a sensational victory with a fuel gamble. Including the winner of the first-ever Indianapolis 500 in 1911, Ray Haroun, eight drivers have won the famous race as rookies. The 2019 rookie class will be hoping to add their names to that list on Sunday.

You can read the full race reports from last year’s Indianapolis 500 by following the link below

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 24 May

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Carb Day final practice
14:00 ET / 19:00 GMT – Pit-stop competition

Sunday 26 May

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the 2019 Indianapolis 500?

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

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, the race will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for the Indianapolis 500 will be shown on NBC Sports.

Further coverage of Carb Day final practice and the pit-stop competition will be provided in the United States by NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

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

If you cannot make it to Indianapolis for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag.

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

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