This is it. The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is now upon us. The most prestigious race on the calendar, the Indianapolis 500, is just days away.
Thirty-three drivers will go 200 laps around the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a chance to kiss the bricks and drink the ice-cold milk waiting for them in victory lane.
For those in the championship that are vying for the Astor Cup as much as they are the Borg Warner Trophy, this race is worth double points and could have huge implications on the championship. Coming into this race, the ultra-consistent Will Power leads the championship with 170 points. He is followed by Alex Palou in second with 156 points, and Scott McLaughlin sits third only four points behind the defending champion. Josef Newgarden sits fourth in the championship after struggling in the GMR Grand Prix earlier this month, while Indy 500 polesitter Scott Dixon sits fifth on 133 points.
Who etches their name into the history books? Who will claim the Borg Warner Trophy? Will double-points launch a championship-winning campaign, or will a costly mistake create an insurmountable setback? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Indianapolis 500.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
To put it into one word, history. Helio Castroneves won the 105th Indianapolis 500, becoming the fourth driver ever to win the race four times.
The Brazilian battled with two of the series’ young stars in Palou and Pato O’Ward throughout the second half of the race, eventually coming down to just Castroneves and Palou. The duo traded the lead back and forth in the final ten laps of the race, but Castroneves made the winning move with two laps to go, boldly going around the outside of Palou in turn one to take the lead and never look back as he claimed his historic victory.
Dixon led the field to green but got caught out by the first caution of the race as Stefan Wilson crashed in the pit lane on lap 31. Dixon, along with Alexander Rossi, were low on fuel and ran out as they made it to the pit lane, setting them back tremendously.
Out front, Colton Herta and Rinus Veekay traded time leading the field, with Conor Daly even leading laps to a thunderous hometown ovation. After the next two pit cycles Castroneves, Palou, and O’Ward found themselves at the front before the second caution flew on lap 119. Graham Rahal did not have his left rear tyre securely on the car, and it came off as he exited the pits, slamming the wall in turn two just in front of the leaders. Thankfully, Rahal did not collect any other drivers and was unharmed.
From the lap 126 restart and onwards it was the battle between Castroneves, Palou, and O’Ward to the finish, with “Spiderman” taking the historic victory.
You can read the full report here.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
Chip Ganassi Racing has had some of the fastest cars all month in practice, and proved that speed by putting all five cars in the front four rows in qualifying last weekend.
Dixon of course broke the record for the fastest four lap pole average in race history with a 234.046 mph speed, and barring any bad luck or timing like he’s had in the past two Indy 500s, he should once again be a favorite with the fastest car in the field. Joining him on the front row is Palou, who starts second. Palou knows what it takes to be in a position to fight for a win at the end of the race, he showed that last year, but will that bit more experience help him win it all this year?
Starting on the second row are Marcus Ericsson in fifth and Tony Kanaan in sixth. Ericsson has been quietly quick throughout practice, finishing in the top five in most of the practice sessions this month and could be a contender. Kanaan knows what it takes to win at Indy, and his experience could benefit him much like it did his fellow countryman Castroneves last year.
But the most intriguing name to me of the Ganassi bunch is Jimmie Johnson. Many felt Johnson would be more successful in IndyCar on the ovals thanks to his NASCAR background, but for the seven-time Cup Series champ to make the fast twelve on his first attempt is an amazing achievement. To back that up, he is by far the most experienced driver in the field when it comes to 500 mile races. Ten drivers have won the Indy 500 on their first attempt, will Johnson become number eleven?
The only other team able to keep up with CGR in qualifying was Ed Carpenter Racing, with two cars on the front two rows. Veekay once again finds himself on the front row in third, with boss Ed Carpenter right behind in fourth. Veekay struggled with saving fuel last year and dropped down to eighth after being a contender for the win for the early part of the race, will he be able to correct those mistakes and be a contender for the full 500 miles?
Another name to watch come Sunday will be Takuma Sato. The two-time Indy 500 winner turned heads by leading three-straight practice sessions and finishing in the top five for an additional two, making it into the fast twelve and qualifying tenth. Although he may not be a favorite, I wouldn’t count out Sato getting a real shot at his third Indy 500.
Lastly, I’d like to look at row nine of the starting grid, where we find Herta, Scott McLaughlin, and the defending champ Castroneves. Only one of the Andretti Autosport cars found their way into the fast twelve last weekend, and it was a surprised that it wasn’t Herta having started on the front row last year. McLaughlin gambled in the fast lane on the first day of qualifying and failed to improve, falling down the order eleven places from where he was in fifteenth to his starting position of twenty-sixth. Simon Pagenaud started twenty-sixth last year and finished third, so all hope isn’t lost for McLaughlin.
Finally we come to the defending champion Castroneves, starting twenty-seventh. The champ has a lot of work to do if he wants to defend his crown and become the first driver to win five Indy 500s, so keep an eye on the 06 car as he looks to make history once again.
Friday 27 May
0800 PST / 1100 EST / 1500 GMT – Final Practice (Carb Day)
Sunday 29 May
0800 PST / 1100 EST / 1500 GMT – 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, while Carb Day will be streamed on the Peacock streaming service.
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.