PREVIEW: The 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500
Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Elisabeth Brown
500 miles. 200 laps. One winner. The greatest spectacle in motor racing returns on Sunday. It will be the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, and one man has the chance to rewrite history. Helio Castroneves sealed his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory last year after a race-long battle with Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward. This year Castroneves starts down in 27th, but a victory would mean he’d stand alone in the record books as the only man to have won five Indianapolis 500s.
Due to the tradition and spectacle of the Indianapolis 500, the qualifying order has already been settled. Scott Dixon won his fifth Indianapolis 500 pole and broke the record for the fastest pole run at 234.046 MPH (376.661 KPH). Alongside him will be Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou, who is the defending champion, currently sitting in second in the championship. Palou finished second last year and was the closest man to Castroneves in the duel for victory. Rinus VeeKay, who seemed like the man to beat in qualifying and finished the Saturday session on top, will complete the front row. VeeKay was also strong around the speedway last year, and was in contention early on, only to finish down in eighth.
Row two will contain Indianapolis 500 veteran, Ed Carpenter, who is still looking for a maiden Indianapolis 500 win, and may have his best shot in years to do so. Alongside him are Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan, with four Chip Ganassi Racing’s and two Ed Carpenter Racing’s starting in the top six.
The grid contains multiple Indianapolis 500 winners in Dixon, Kanaan, Will Power, who qualified in 11th, Simon Pagenaud in 16th, Alexander Rossi, who qualified in 20th after a qualifying risk, and Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who line up 27th and 30th respectively.
Romain Grosjean won the rookie battle, qualifying in ninth, while Jimmie Johnson, a fan favorite for the race, looks to pick up his oval form in Texas, qualifying 12th. David Malukas also starred, just missing out in the fast 12, and is a contender, considering the pace of the Dale Coyne machines this month. Callum Ilott, Devlin DeFrancesco, Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Lundgaard line up 19th, 24th, 28th and 31st respectively.
Many different drivers may be in the mix for a first Indianapolis 500 win. O’Ward lines up in seventh, with Arrow McLaren SP looking mighty in the month of May. Zak Brown, McLaren Racing CEO, stated that O’Ward needs to win the Indianapolis 500 and the championship to have a shot at F1, and with O’Ward finishing sixth and fourth in previous Indianapolis 500 outings, he certainly has a shot at securing his first win.
Colton Herta, who won a thrilling wet-dry-wet race on the road course, as well as producing one of the greatest saves of all time, will be lining up only 25th, but the Californian has been quick at the Speedway and has always gone strong in the Indianapolis 500. Other names to watch out for are Josef Newgarden, one of the best on the grid, but still without an Indianapolis 500 crown, and Santino Ferrucci, whose oval form has been sensational, particularly in the Indianapolis 500. They line up next to each other in 14th and 15th.
Further back, Rossi and Scott McLaughlin are two names who can always provide action and excitement on ovals. Rossi is one of the best in the business at the Indianapolis 500, famously winning on his debut, and was very much in contention for victory in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The event is double points, and it will be crucial toward the end of the season due to how compact drivers are in the standings. Power leads Palou by 14 points, and McLaughlin, Dixon, Newgarden, Herta and O’Ward are within touching distance of Power’s position.
Oh, and it goes without saying - milk. 25 drivers have gone for whole, six for 2%, with Herta, Montoya and DeFrancesco wanting chocolate - slightly controversial. As does Graham Rahal, but “chocolate isn’t an option and tradition matters.” Marco Andretti has gone for a slightly humorous approach - “no orange juice” - in reference to Emerson Fittipaldi’s controversial drinking of orange juice in 1993.
Now that the important information has come your way, all you need to do is wait for the green flag to signify the start of the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis 500 is the greatest spectacle in motor racing, and the sight of 33 drivers in lines of three charging toward turn one is certainly supportive of this. There will be drama, entertainment, 500 miles of action, and a name written into the history books. Don’t miss it.