Photo: Indycar, Joe Skibinski
It is finally time. The Indianapolis 500 will run Sunday as a very different event than we normally witness. It’s been delayed three months, a safety plan developed, and attendance was limited then done away with. Now the race is set.
The field is mixture of current and future stars of the series. Two rookies start in the first three rows surrounded by long time veterans. The rookie class has done very well this season, and I look for some of them to do quite well Sunday. I think one of the veterans will win, but I expect three rookies in the top ten at the finish.
Here are some things to look at for the 104th running:
Sunday may be the final 500 for some popular drivers, particularly Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso. Castroneves is in the final year of a three year deal to drive in the 500 with Team Penske. With the disbanding of Penske’s IMSA team, Castroneves has nothing secure for next season. he is looking for a full time Indycar ride. Penske said the other day he would not rule Castroneves out for next year. The team looks like it will be pretty full already. Castroneves has been one of the greatest drivers in 500 history with three wins and three second place finishes.
Alonso’s contract with Renault in formula 1 for the next two seasons precludes him from racing in the 500. He has said he will come back after his Renault contract ends, but he will be 42 years old then.
Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be retiring at the end of this year? His contract is believed to be up, and DHL’s sponsorship agreement also ends after this season. Will he come back for Indianapolis one offs?
Watch and enjoy these three drivers Sunday. We don’t know if they’ll be back.
Charging from the Back
Will Power starts 22nd, Simon Pagenaud rolls off 25th, Castroneves starts 28th. despite the poor qualifying runs, look for the three penske drivers to be near the front by the end of the race. Pagenaud has not qualified well all season. He won at iowa after starting last, but this is a different situation.
Watch for the Ed Carpenter and Conor Daly to im prove from their sixth row grid positions. The ECR cars disappointed a bit in qualifying, but they should be good for the race..
Drivers are saying passing will be difficult and may take four to five laps instead of two or three. Today’s practice might give us a hint. Passes need to be planned and executed wisely. Team penske cars appeared to have little trouble passing cars during the first two days of practice.
Pits- Strategy and Mistakes
We have seen virtually every team have an issue in the pits through the frist six races. The mistakes could be from the delay in starting the seaon and the lack of practice time for crew members. A mistake Sunday could be costly, especially on one the later pit stops.
Will a team gamble on fuel strategy? It depends on how the race plays out with the cautions. How much will the 58 pounds of the aeroscreen affect fuel mileage and tires?
Rinus VeeKay qualified fourth and Alex Palou starts seventh. VeeKay has improved since his shaky debut in Texas, but I’m not sure what to expect from him here. Driving for Ed carpenter racing is a plus at IMS. He should end up in the top ten.
Palou has been fast, and I am interestef to see how he handles a longer race. He needs flawless pit stops and smart strategy calls.
Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew start a bit further back than i expected. If they can avoid trouble, look for the Arrow McLaren SP cars to move up steadily during the first half of the race. At Iowa both cars stuck to their plan and were contending.
And the Winner Is…
While Marco Andretti wowed everyone with his dominant pole run, I am going with Scott Dixon to win his second Indianapolis 500. Dixon has been steady all year in winning the first three races to begin the season. He has been quietly quick during practice and qualifying. This team is prepared to go to Victory lane. A win would would put Dixon in a favorable spot to win his sixth championship.
For Rookie of the Year, look for Rinus VeeKay to take the honor. th 19 year old loves the speedway. Carpenter said he has taken to the track quicker than Josef Newgarden did.