IndyCar

PREVIEW: 2021 NTT IndyCar Series – 105th Indianapolis 500

4 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Foyt, Unser, Mears. Franchitti, Wheldon, Castroneves. The most iconic names in NTT IndyCar Series history have their place on the most prestigious trophy in the sport, the Borg Warner Trophy. There’s only one thing standing between drivers and IndyCar immortality – 500 miles, four corners, and one yard of bricks. This Sunday, thirty-three of the world’s finest drivers will vie for their shot at glory, but only one will take the checkered flag and drink the milk in victory lane. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the 105th Indianapolis 500.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?

Away from it’s usual May date, the 104th Indianapolis 500 took place in August of 2020. Marco Andretti finally broke the family curse and started the race from pole position, but he wouldn’t even lead a single lap as he was passed by Scott Dixon.

Dixon dominated the majority of the race, as cautions claimed the cars of many less experienced drivers like Ben Hanley, Marcus Ericsson, Dalton Kellett, Conor Daly, Oliver Askew and Alex Palou. Dixon was closely followed by Alexander Rossi for much of the race, even using one another to save fuel during one stint. However, during the pit stops after Palou’s wreck on lap 122, Rossi and Takuma Sato made contact on pit road with IndyCar handing Rossi a penalty for an unsafe release. Rossi re-started the race on lap 132 from the rear of the field, making incredible overtakes as he charged back to the front, but his aggression got the better of him as he smashed the turn two wall on lap 144.

From this moment on, it was a two-car battle for the win between the dominant Dixon and charging Sato, coming down to the final pit stop. Sato made the first move, pitting on lap 168, and Dixon responded two laps later. A small error on pit lane by Dixon’s crew gave the lead to Sato, and the two began to duel for the lead. Sato threw a block on Dixon into turn one with fifteen laps to go, and from there began to build a gap. As the laps waned, Dixon seemed like he was closing in on the “Wild Thing”, but a scary crash by Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Spencer Pigot with five laps to go essentially ended the race under caution.

Pigot lost control in turn four and hit the outside wall, but mid-spin the car hooked left and ran Pigot straight into the end of the pit wall t-boning his Hy-Vee Honda and sending him back up the track. IndyCar did not red flag the race for the wreck to potentially get another restart, and awarded the win to Sato under caution with Dixon second and Graham Rahal third. This was Sato’s second Indianapolis 500 victory in three years, with his first coming in 2017.

(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar)

You can read the full race report here.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

Throughout almost all of the practice sessions, Chip Ganassi Racing proved that they had the cars to beat, and proved it in qualifying as well. All four of their cars ended up in the fast nine pole shootout, with Dixon claiming his fourth Indy 500 pole. Dixon’s teammates Tony Kanaan, Palou and Ericsson will start fifth, sixth and ninth respectively. Out of all four drivers, Dixon is the man to beat, looking to win his second Indy 500 and grow his points lead with the double points on offer this weekend.

Not only CGR, but Honda proved that they had the engine to beat as many Chevrolet-powered cars struggled to find pace. Team Penske languished with no drivers starting inside the top fifteen, with Will Power even needing to survive bump day to make the field on the final row and start thirty-second. Rookie Scott McLaughlin will be the highest-placed starter for Penske in seventeenth place, followed by Josef Newgarden in twenty-first and Simon Pagenaud in twenty-sixth.

There was one outlier to this, however, and that was Ed Carpenter Racing. ECR’s Rinus Veekay and Ed Carpenter were the only two Chevys in the fast nine, and they put together incredibly competitive runs to start third and fourth respectively. Daly, the third ECR driver, was consistently one of the fastest drivers across practice sessions, and though he starts down the field in nineteenth don’t count out Carpenter’s crew come Sunday.

Andretti Autosport also has some strong entries, with three cars inside the top ten. Colton Herta held the pole for a moment before it was snatched away by Dixon in fast nine qualifying, but has a very fast car and will be starting second. Also in the fast nine shootout for Andretti was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will start seventh. Hunter-Reay, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, has been looking for something to turn his luck around this season and a strong run at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” could be just the remedy for his woes. Speaking of Andretti drivers with woeful luck, 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Rossi just missed out on the fast nine, and will start the race from tenth place.

Another interesting story to watch will be that of Paretta Autosport, a Penske-affiliated team that became the first entry owned and driven by women to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Using the same chassis that Juncos Racing used to bump Fernando Alonso in 2019, Simona De Silvestro bested Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson to take the thirty-third and final starting spot in an inspiring story for women across the world of motorsports. De Silvestro is far from the first woman to qualify for the event, going as far back as Janet Guthrie in 1977, but the incredible success story of this female-forward team is one that everyone can root for.

(Photo Credit: Matt Fraver / Courtesy of IndyCar)

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEKEND?

Sunday 30 May

1200 EST / 1700 BST – Race

WHERE CAN I WATCH?

Coverage in the UK for the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, coverage for the race will be on NBC.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?

You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions. You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.

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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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