The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is a tough one to predict. There is really no clear cut favorite in my view. I think the winner comes from the first three rows, but he may come from further back. The two engine manufacturers, Chevy and Honda, both have strengths. This is the closest field in history time wise. there are drivers capable of winning from deep in the field like Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon.
Chevy is the engine with more power. The fastest Honda is fifth on the grid. there are just three Hondas in the top nine. Honda engines will get better fuel mileage and their cars should be better over a long run. This is where I think a Honda powered car will have an advantage. Will the race end with a long run or will there be a restart with less than 20 laps to go? The edge then turns to Chevy.
There are several things to watch for in this race.
The forecast seems to change hourly. The outlook seems to be improving, but it is Indiana in Spring. Doug Boles said this morning we will probably know for certain Sunday morning. The temperature, which looks to be cooler than 2018, should aid the racing.
If teams see rain coming toward the track, we will see a flurry of pit stops. Will a team not in the lead pack gamble and stay out hoping the red flag comes out and the race is declared over? It may be worth a gamble.
Several drivers told me that passing will be difficult from 4th or fifth place and beyond. The driver who can do what Rossi did last year will himself in contention. The top three should be able to pass each other.
Look for most advancement to occur during pit stops.
This is the most interesting row in the field. Marco Andretti, looking to repeat his grandfather’s victory 50 years ago, I think has one of his best shots at winning. he has had speed this week. Bryan Herta is a master strategist. I think Andretti moves up slowly and steadily and will be there near the end.
Conor Daly has the best ride he has ever had at the Speedway. He took full advantage of it in qualifying 11th. He will need some breaks to contend for the win, but I think a top is definitely possible, and a top 5 not out of the question.
Helio Castroneves will have a lot of rooting for him to get victory number four. . He has been rather quiet all month. I’m not sure he has the car to get that elusive win. He may only have one more chance after this year.
This row will keep the leaders busy all day. All three will get some time at the front. If the weather and cautions play out in their favor, we could see a surprise winner.
It was a mixed qualifying result for the rookies. Colton Herta was the quickest in fifth, and Marcus Ericsson is a respectable 13th. The other rookies are bunched in the last four rows. Felix Rosenqvist, because of his crash, is the slowest rookie in 29th.
Herta will be the rookie who stars in this race. Rosenqvist will be one of the biggest movers, but there will need to be significant attrition for him to reach the top 10.
As is always the case, cautions will determine the strategy, especially late in the race. There be a fair amount of yellow time this year if we see any crashes like those that occurred in practice.
Once the pits open that will be the busiest part of the track. Crews will need to execute and the drivers will need to be careful on their exits.
Given my track record this year, you would be wise to bet on the drivers I don’t name, but here are my picks. this is a difficult race to call.
Winner- Ed Carpenter
It is time. Carpenter came close last year. the balance of his car was not as good the second half of the race. The cooler temperatures will take care of the balance problem. He will win a close battle with Alexander Rossi.
Rookie of the Year- Colton Herta
Herta should be past all the gremlins hat have plagued his last three races. We should see the driver we saw at COTA.
Cautions – 6 for 49 laps
These cars seem to have an unpredictable quality about them at times. I just hope that there are no injuries and that any accidents are not multi-car pileups.
I am not figuring in cautions for moisture.
The thing I’m most looking forward to is watching the NBC broadcast and pre-race. if it’s anything like their Kentucky Derby coverage, it will be incredible. I just hope the rain doesn’t spoil their debut.