The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 Preview

It’s here. The ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just around the corner as the eyes of the world descend on Indianapolis. A race that is etched into motorsport folklore with unbridled, full-throttle, commitment, and speed. We are, of course, talking about the Indy 500!

May is an incredible month of racing with the Monaco GP on May 23 before Indy 500 on May 30, although the latter is more like a two-week event as practice and qualifying start the week before the intense 500-mile, 200-lap race.

In fact, qualifying is set to take place across both Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the general shootout with the ‘Fast Six’ on the final day.

We also return to some form of normality, with the Indy 500 returning to its rightful place at the end of May – following last year’s postponed event that took place in the middle of August. Unlike last year, we will also have spectators with 135,000 in attendance, a whopping 40% capacity!

DRIVERS! DRIVERS EVERYWHERE!

This season truly has been one to remember. The 2021 campaign has had five race winners in five races with three of those being first-time winners in Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and Rinus VeeKay.

Current championship leader Scott Dixon and Colton Herta won the other two races and the six-time champion will indeed be pushing for his second Indy 500 win having last achieved it in 2008.

The last seven winners are all present this year including Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, and defending 500′ winner Takuma Sato. Both Sato and Montoya head into this race seeking an incredible third win which would put them tied fourth on the all-time winners list alongside the likes of Bobby Unser and Dario Franchetti.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves also returns to the Brickyard. A win would put him tied first on the all-time list alongside A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Jr, and Rick Mears.

While the veterans of the sport all bring swathes of experience to the event, it’s the younger drivers who will certainly share the spotlight.

Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS in a spectacular display of racecraft, cutting his way through the field to beat pole-sitter, Romain Grosjean, to the chequered flag. Last year, the Dutchman qualified inside the ‘Fast Six’ on his first attempt at the Brickyard, setting one of the fastest speeds ever seen at the 500′ in the process.

Scott Dixon followed by Alex Palou. 500 Practice. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Alongside him in last year’s Fast Six’ was Alex Palou, who likely caught the attention of his current outfit Chip Ganassi with his performance that weekend. Heading into this weekend second in the championship, Palou has an incredible opportunity to capitalise on the double points on offer.

Graham Rahal was one of the fastest in the pre-season test at the Brickyard and showed a similar pace in this week’s practice. The American driver has shown some incredible pace this year putting in two top-five finishes at the double-header in Texas.

There really are contenders everywhere you look. With Patricio O’Ward. Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, and Scott McLaughlin also looking incredibly sharp coming into qualifying.

FRESH FACES

As ever, we welcome a host of fresh faces to the 500′. Among these are rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and RC Enerson and veterans Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferucci, Stefan Wilson, Ed Carpenter, and JR Hildebrand.

Marco Andretti returns with Andretti. He was last year’s pole-sitter and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend.

Simona De Silvestro. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Simona De Silvestro also makes her Indy 500 comeback with the all-female Paretta Autosport outfit. This marks De Silvestro’s first run since the 2015 edition of the race.  The Swiss driver has made hints that she could make further IndyCar outings with Paretta in the future.

Both Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson will not be taking part this weekend with both set to return at the Detriot GP.

HONDA VS CHEVY?

So far in practice, there doesn’t seem to be an overall advantage in what is set to be an incredibly competitive battle. Will Power with Penske Chevrolet topped Tuesday practice while Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda topped Wednesday.

Honda, and Chevy have three wins apiece in six attempts. While the only oval comparison we can make this year at Texas was slightly skewed due to qualifying being canceled with the championship standings used to set the grid for the race. Both races were one by an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Honda.

This race truly could be anyones for the taking.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS.

Thursday, May 20
5-11pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Friday, May 21
5-11:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Saturday, May 22
6-7:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday, May 23
6-7.30pm (BST): Last Chance Qualifying
7.30-9.30pm (BST): Fast Nine Qualifying

Friday, May 28                                                                                                                                       3-5:00pm (BST): Final indy 500 Practice

Sunday, May 30                                                                                                                      4:30/4:45 (BST): Indy 500 Race Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

Takuma Sato seizes second Indy 500 win

image Courtesy Of IndyCar

Takuma Sato seizes a second Indianapolis 500 victory from Scott Dixon during the closing stages of the race.

Dixon, who had led over one hundred and ten laps at The Brickyard was overtaken by the Japanese driver after the final round of pit stops and looked unstoppable as he continued to build over a second gap to the five-time IndyCar world champion.

Lapped traffic caused late drama as Sato lost a good amount of aerodynamic performance in dirty air. However, both Sato and Dixon cleared the troublesome backmarkers and It was looking to be a shootout finish.

That was until Specer Pigot brought out the final caution with less than five laps to go with a terrifying side on collision with the pit entry wall. Spencer was relatively unhurt by the incident and will go for medical check-ups immediately as a precaution.image Courtesy Of IndCar

Race officials refused to bring out the red flag, which had it been used would have given us a last-dash race to finish under an enthralling restart. Instead, Takuma Sato cruised to the finish line behind the safety car to be only the twentieth driver to take multiple Indy 500 victories, his first since 2017.

Dixon, was quick on his radio to suggest a red flag should be thrown, knowing his only chance of victory could have been snatched from him in that moment:

“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”

Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was closing in on the top two during the closing stages of the race only to cross the line in third.

Unfortunately for pole sitter, Marco Andretti, it was a day to forget as he rarely posed a threat to the front runners, tumbling down to thirteenth place. The search for another Andretti winner at 500 goes on.

For Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward he will take the coveted fastest rookie award crossing the line in seventh with a magnificent performance that saw him briefly leading the race. However, his performance will be bittersweet given circumstances of fellow teammates Oliver Askew and Fernando Alonso.

Following a caution caused by Dalton Kellet, a restart saw Conor Daly drop a wheel onto the concrete apron through turn four and fired his Ed Carpenter Chevrolet into the wall. Oliver Askew drove into the ensuing smokescreen and took avoiding action but lost control making heavy contact with both the wall and Daly.

image Courtesy Of IndCar

For two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, it was also a troublesome day where he struggled constantly with balance and clutch issues. He rarely appeared inside the top twenty eventually finishing in twenty first, crushing his dreams of taking the triple-crown on what may be his final attempt as he goes to race with the Renault F1 team for the next two years. However, he can take some solace that after two attempts, he has finally crossed the line to finish, what he may come to call ‘The Hardest Spectacle in the World’.

In this incident-filled race, there was eight non-finishers with James Davison, Marcus Ericsson, Oliver Askew, Conor Daly, Dalton Kellet, Alex Palou, Alex Rossi and Spencer Pigot all failing to cross the finish line.

Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi was running with frontrunners Dixon and Sato for the majority of the race. Indeed, it was Dixon and Rossi who were working together to pull away from the rest of the field during the second quarter of the race.

However, it was not to be for the 2017 Indy 500 winner, after an issue in the pits with a slow right rear caused Rossi to be released dangerously into the path of Takuma Sato. A subsequent investigation handed a penalty to Rossi sending him painfully to the back of the grid.

Clearly angered by the punishment, Rossi went straight on the attack making up five positions on the first lap of racing but his chances of victory quickly went from slim to zero as he became the latest retiree.

Losing the rear at turn two, Rossi slid the majority of the way down the wall on the back straight. In four previous Indy 500 entries, Rossi had a record of one victory and no finish lower than seventh. Now, he can add a DNF to that list.

Pit stops are always an opportunity for errors, but for Rinus VeeKay it was a constant early source of problems. The rookie Dutchman first stalled in a stop, but at the next stop earned a stop-go penalty for hitting team personnel – locking his brakes and sliding into the mechanics while entering for a stop.

However, the pivotal moment of the race may have come at lap 122, which saw Spanish rookie Alex Palou embrace the barrier at turn one, a similar incident to Marcus Ericsson 98 laps previously. The caution came at the wrong time to enable drivers to make it to the flag on one more fuel stop, but all drivers save for Felix Rosenqvist pitted for fresh tyres and none other than Sato and Dixon were at the head of this train, giving them an straight race to the finish.

Other noteworthy performances were of Santino Ferucci who finished in a magnificent fifth after a late charge saw him overtake defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. In addition, credit should be given to young star Colton Herta in eight and Britain’s Jack Harvey in ninth.

In the war between the engine manufacturers it was Honda that dominated with eight out of the top finishers. James Hinchliffe in seventh and Colton Herta in eight were the only Chevrolet powered cars in the top ten.

Top Ten Official Classification:

  1. Takuma Sato – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  2. Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing
  3. Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  4. Santino Ferucci – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
  5. Josef Newgarden – Team Pesnke
  6. Patricio O Ward – Arrow McLaren SP
  7. James Hinchliffe – Andretti Autosport
  8. Colton Herta – Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport
  9. Jack Harvey – Meyer Shank Racing
  10. Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport

The Blueprint – Takuma Sato Explains How To Win The Indy 500 | M1TG

Check out the latest video from Mobil 1 The Grid. In this piece, the Japanese driver discusses his win in 2017, how he went about winning the race, whilst laying down a blueprint of the key to success at Indianapolis.

Takuma On Winning The Indy 500: “In my entire life, maybe the birth of my child, that is obviously an amazing day. But besides on that, [winning at Indy] was my significant moment in my life, and certainly the best day of my race career. And that changed so many different things. I just never forget the feeling of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has and how deeply I understood the history and the energy that the Indy 500 has. That was just an unbelievable, amazing, amazing experience for me.”

Takuma On How To Win At Indy: “The key is to stay out of trouble problem, because it’s just such a long race. Anything can happen. Just stay calm, because the race comes back to you.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma On How Heartbreak In 2012 Prepared Him: “Going through all the preparation by yourself and as an athlete, you learn from your faults: What you didn’t go through, and what you know already. Then there is a great chance to learn new things. Moving forward, that’s the name of the sport. 2012 is obviously a bitter experience and but I really appreciate it because I’m proud that I was able to challenge for that. In the end, I failed it. But it’s really made me stronger. Going through every single year, there’s lots of ways you think about it, and of course, before the 2017 start, you’re going through 2012, saying ‘What could I have done? What should I have done? What we will need to do?’ And that’s exactly what I did. That was the moment I really needed.”

Takuma Sato On The Legacy Of Winning The Indy 500: “Indy 500 winner… we knew that’s a big deal. People say that it’s going to be forever, and then like almost every month there is some award or there is ceremonies and the events just it’s go on and on and on. When I go back to Japan, there was almost every week, an event or award. So it was an unbelievably busy winter, but it was a happy busy moment. The Indy 500 is beyond your imagination.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma Sato On Indy 2018: “I can’t imagine how it’s going to be as a defending champion going to the Month of May. I think it will be so cool, so pressured and so busy. I can’t wait [to] go there. But, equally, I think that now everyone wants to win and beat me so, basically, I have to have a huge challenge to do back-to-back race wins. Nothing is impossible, but I think it’s going to be very tough but we will challenge for that anyway.”

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