Rarely in the 104 race history of the Indianapolis 500 have generational lines been so distinct. There are the older veterans in their 40s- Scott Dixon, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Takuma Sato- and the young drivers with three or fewer years of experience, all under age 25- Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay, Alex Palou, and Pato O’Ward. All are talented and competitive. This combination of young drivers and older veterans should make for a great race. The veterans have numerous wins, and the rookies named already have seven total wins in a combined five ears of experience.
I still consider the Indianapolis 500 a veteran’s race. Experience counts a lot here. As we saw in 2016, however, a veteran on the pit box can coach a rookie to the victory. There are several drivers who could win this race. I have had a more difficult time picking a winner this year than I did in 2007. That year I didn’t make my pick until after the Carb Day session. Dario Franchitti mad a bold move going into turn 1, passing two cars. He instantly became my pick. befor eI share my choice, there are some other story lines to follow in what will be an historic race
The Brink of History
Many possibilities exist for an historic day Sunday. Should Scott Dixon win, he will have a double shot of records. The win will his 52nd, tying Mario Andretti for second on the all time career victory list. Dixon also will join seven other drivers as two time winners of the 500. Takuma Sato was themost recent two time winner last year.
If either Colton Herta or Rinus VeeKay win, they will become the youngest winner in 500 history, breaking a record that has stood since 1952. Troy Ruttman won that year at the age of 22 years, 80 days. On race day, Herta will be 21 years, 61 days old, VeeKay will be 20 years, 260 days old.
More potential for multiple race winners exist- Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power seek their second victory. Juan Pablo Montoya and Sato are looking for their third, and Helio Castroneves has a chance to become the fourth four time winner.
Honda vs. Chevy
Through the first three days of practice last week Chevy and Honda powered cars seemed to be evenly matched. When the engines received the added boost, Honda teams surged ahead. Only the Chevys from Ed Carpenter Racing were competitive, and two team cars were in the Fast Nine. Pato O’Ward had the next fastest Chevy in 12th place. Most puzzling was the lack of speed from Team Penske. their highest qualifier was rookie Scott McLaughlin in 17th.
With the boost taken out for the race, will Chevy cars be able to get to the front and challenge the Hondas? With limited passing deep in the pack, the Penske cars have quite a challenge ahead on Sunday.
The two engine manufacturers have been close all year. Honda holds a three point lead in the manufacturers’ standings.
Chip Ganassi Racing has four strong cars all starting in the first three rows. Dixon is on the pole, Palou starts sixth, Kanaan fifth, and Marcus Ericsson rolls off from ninth. Dixon, Palou, and Kanaan could have their own three way fight for the top spot. Dixon leads Palou by just 13 points (18 unofficially after the fast nine points) for the series championship.
Ed Carpenter Racing has Rinus VeeKay starting thoird and Ed carpenter beginning the race in fourth place. Carpenter’s only goal each year is to win the 500. Veekay, winner of the GMR Grand Prix two weeks ago, is looking to complete a may sweep. A team 1-2 finish is not out of the question. Who would win?
Andretti Autosport is in great shape. Colton Herta lines up second, Hunter-Reay seventh, and Alexander Rossi is 10th. The race could come down to a duel between Herta and Rossi, who i think has the best chance to win of anyone outside the top nine.
Others to Watch
Paretta Autosport and driver Simona DeSilvestro will have many watching their progress. The team will have an historic ove3r the wall crew consisting of four women. Paretta’s staff is about 70% women. getting in the field is quite an accomplishment for this new team.
How far can Will Power advance? He starts thirty-second, the worst qualifying spot in his career. He needs to careful at the start. I believe he can get a top twenty with some creative pit strategy.
Many are considering defending race winner Takuma Sato as a repeat winner, but he has a tough way to go from 15th. I always like to track the previous year’s winner.
This is a challenging field to pick winner from. There is a driver I have had my eye on this season. I first took notice of him at Barber during qualifying. he is on a team capable of delivering a championship drive. While the 500 is a veteran’s track, I am going with Alex Palou. Palou is the only driver to lead laps in every race this season, and that streak stays intact Sunday.