Indy 500 Race Preview

The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is nearly upon us with qualifying completed and all but one of the practice sessions run. As always, the Indy 500 is one of the most important races of the season and, with double points on offer, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Indy GP winner Simon Pagenaud took the honour of pole position last weekend, continuing his remarkable upturn in form after a fairly dreadful start to the season. Starting alongside him on the front row will be the Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Ed Carpenter himself and Spencer Pigot, the latter of whom was the favourite to take pole after Saturday’s running.

Front Row qualifiers and their families (L-R) Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

The other ECR car of Ed Jones heads up the second row, followed by rookie sensation Colton Herta and last year’s Indy 500 champion Will Power. The last three of the Fast Nine drivers fill the third row with Sebastien Bourdais heading championship leader Josef Newgarden and 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi.

The Fast Nine Shootout very nearly didn’t happen after rain hit the track on the second day of qualifying, meaning the majority of the practice sessions due to take place that day were cancelled. This meant that Fernando Alonso, in his hastily modified McLaren, didn’t have time to set up his car properly, something which would come back to bite him in the Last Row Shootout.

Credit: Walter Kuhn/IndyCar

Six drivers vied for the last three places on the grid with one-off entrant Sage Karam taking 31st followed by James Hinchcliffe, who managed to avoid a non-start for what would’ve been the second year running, and the miracle that was Kyle Kaiser for Juncos, in a car that shouldn’t have really been in qualifying in the first place after his shunt on Friday.

The three drivers bumped out of the race were Alonso, after McLaren’s widely-reported catalogue of errors stretching back to the very first test, and the Carlin pair of Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton. After Alonso’s crash on Wednesday, he had also been running a Carlin-built car, meaning the British team lost three of their four entries on Bump Day.

While Alonso garnered much of the attention from qualifying for failing to do just that, it’s important not to forget the 33 drivers who did qualify for the race. Positions 10 to 30 were locked in after Saturday’s running with that group including pretty much all the big hitters who failed to make the Fast Nine, as well as a delighted Pippa Mann who, like Hinchcliffe, failed to qualify last year.

Pippa Mann celebrates qualifying for the race with her #39 team. Credit: James Black/IndyCar

Throughout both practice and qualifying there have been a number of big accidents but, thanks to safety innovations including cut-outs in the floors of the cars, there haven’t been any flips and all the drivers involved walked away unharmed. Alonso, Felix Rosenqvist, O’Ward, Kaiser and Hinchcliffe all suffered shunts, with Alonso and O’Ward making up two of the three bumped drivers.

As for the race, well we can expect to see a close-run fight for the victory with a number of notable drivers out of place on the grid. Generally speaking, the Fast Nine drivers stand the best chance of drinking the milk at the end of the race, but purely being in the race gives any driver a good enough shot at the win.

Pole-sitter Pagenaud will obviously be one to watch, as will second-place Carpenter who is always fast at the 500 and has come close to taking victory a number of times before. Last year’s Indy 500 champion Power will be a threat from sixth as he tries to defend his title. 2016 Indy 500 champion Rossi is another driver who will be chasing the win with his daring overtakes always grabbing the headlines.

Further down the grid, three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves could be someone to keep an eye out for after his race was ended abruptly last year, as will defending series champion Scott Dixon who is always one to factor into the race. There aren’t many drivers who you can rule out with any certainty, and that’s testament to how close the field is this year.

Scott Dixon with Robert Wickens. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

There is a threat of rain on Sunday so it’s probably best we brief you on the protocol if bad weather does affect the race. 101 of the 200 laps must be completed for the race to be classed as ‘official’ and for full points to be dished out; if this can’t happen on Sunday, as scheduled, the race can be postponed until Monday or later, depending on when the weather allows the race to be run. The current forecasts give around a 50% chance of rain during the race, so it’s certainly something to watch out for.

All being well weather-wise, the race will kick off at 12:30 pm local time which works out at 5:30 pm in the UK, so neatly fitting in after the Monaco GP.

Full Starting Grid:

  1. Simon Pagenaud
  2. Ed Carpenter
  3. Spencer Pigot
  4. Ed Jones
  5. Colton Herta (R)
  6. Will Power
  7. Sebastien Bourdais
  8. Josef Newgarden
  9. Alexander Rossi
  10. Marco Andretti
  11. Conor Daly
  12. Helio Castroneves
  13. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  14. Takuma Sato
  15. James Davison
  16. Tony Kanaan
  17. Graham Rahal
  18. Scott Dixon
  19. Oriol Servia
  20. Charlie Kimball
  21. JR Hildebrand
  22. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  23. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  24. Matheus Leist
  25. Jack Harvey
  26. Jordan King (R)
  27. Ben Hanley (R)
  28. Zach Veach
  29. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  30. Pippa Mann
  31. Sage Karam
  32. James Hinchcliffe
  33. Kyle Kaiser (R)

Featured Image Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

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