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Indianapolis 500 Preview

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will have a very, very different feel for its 104th running on Sunday. Any other year, approximately a quarter of a million people descend on Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Memorial Day Weekend. However, like every other sporting event in 2020, Coronavirus caused a disruption to the Indianapolis 500. IMS President Roger Penske originally stated that the race would not be run without fans, and on June 26th it was announced that the crowd would be limited to 50% capacity. That number eventually shrunk to 25% as announced on July 22nd. Then, on August 4th the plug was pulled and it was announced that there would be no fans in the Speedway for the Indianapolis 500.

In the state of Indiana, this was a crushing blow. Hoosier families are very proud of how many consecutive Indy 500’s they have attended and those streaks will be broken this year. Going to the track on Memorial Day weekend (which obviously already wasn’t happening in 2020) is one of the greatest traditions in the state so not being able to hear the roar of the engines at all was a very tough pill to swallow for many. 

However, despite the lack of fans in the stands, the show will go on. On Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time the 33 drives will start their engines for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. The fanfare may not be inside the speedway this year, but people all over the world will still be tuned in to watch the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The pre-race festivities will begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC.

Before diving into a Row-by-Row preview of the 33 driver field, let’s hit a few of the headlines entering Sunday’s race. I know a lot of the KSR audience is probably more interested in horse racing that Indy Car racing so I promise not to let this drone on forever.

8 Past Winners in the Field

Nearly 25% of the field will be looking to recapture the coveted celebratory milk after the 500 mile race. Indy Car legend Helio Castroneves has won the Indianapolis 500 three times (2001, 2002, 2009). Along with Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud (2019), Will Power (2018), Tony Kanaan (2013), Alexander Rossi (2016), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Scott Dixon (2008), and Takuma Sato (2017) have all won the race in the past. 

Will any of the past winners reclaim glory? Will one of the veteran drivers get over the hump to win their first Borg-Warner trophy? Or, will one of the exciting rookies break through and win in their first running of the 500? 

Honda vs. Chevrolet

The Honda cars clearly were the fastest at the track during last week’s qualifying. Honda put eight cars in the “Fast Nine” on Sunday and only Rinus VeeKay, a Rookie, was able to get a Chevrolet in the first three rows qualifying fourth. The next Chevy in the field after Veekay is back in Row 5 in the 13th starting position with Josef Newgarden. 

Other Indianapolis 500 veterans like Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, and Helio Castroneves will look to make up ground on race day for Chevy, but the field seems to be set up for Honda to capture their first win since 2017. After winning the last two Indy 500’s, Chevy has 11 wins to Honda’s 12.

Andretti Autosport in a Good Position

After placing four drivers in the “Fast Nine” the Andretti team had a somewhat disappointing qualifying round on Sunday only getting one driver, Marco Andretti (Pole Sitter) in the first row. However, Ryan Hunter-Reay (5th), James Hinchcliffe (6th), and Alexander Rossi (9th) are all starting within the first three rows and have fast enough cars to win the race. Colin Herta, another Andretti driver, qualified 10th and Zach Veach came in 17th to round out the team. 

Marco Andretti will be seeking his first Indianapolis 500 win from the pole position while Hunter-Reay and Rossi each have won the race and are trying to get back to the winner’s circle. Former pole sitter James Hinchcliffe is also seeking his first win at the Motor Speedway as well.

Picks are made at the end of the article!

Row 1

Marco Andretti won the pole and was the first Andretti to do so since his grandpa, Mario, did in 33 years ago when Marco wasn’t even one year old yet. His car was excellent throughout the week of qualifying and will be a favorite heading into the race. He has five Top 5 finishes in his career in the Indianapolis 500 including finishing second in his first race back in 2006.

Former winners Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato will give him plenty of stiff competition at the front of the field. Dixon was the only other driver besides Marco Andretti to post a qualifying speed over 231 miles per hour and was mere fractions of a second from capturing the pole position.

Row 2

Rinus VeeKay is an ultra-talented 19 year old Rookie on the Ed Carpenter Racing team that will look to compete at the front of the field in his first running of the 500. VeeKay finished fifth in the Grand Prix at the Motor Speedway several weeks back. 

Joining the Rookie VeeKay the Row 2 are Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay won the race back in 2014 while Hinchcliffe had the pole in 2016.

Row 3

Alexander Rossi headlines this group of drivers. Rossi won his first Indianapolis 500 race in 2016 and has finished 7th, 4th, and 2nd since. He is a definitely a driver who can win this race.

Alex Palou is another one of the Rookies in the field this year and has two Top 10s in the Indy Car Series this year. Graham Rahal, who’s dad Bobby won the 1986 Indy 500, has finished in the Top 5 two times. He finished 27th last year.

Row 4

Both Colin Herta and Marcus Ericsson ran their first Indianapolis 500 in 2019 where Herta finished dead last and Ericsson came in 23rd. This will be Spencer Pigot’s fifth 500 after finishing 14th last year, the best finish of his career. 

Row 5

When looking for a driver to pick outside of the Top 10, Josef Newgarden may be your best bet. Newgarden is coming off of a win at the Iowa Speedway and finished 4th last year at the Indianapolis 500. He has four Top 10 finishes in the 500 in his career.

Row 6

Ed Carpenter, who attended high school in Indianapolis and graduated from Butler University, and Conor Daly, a native of the Indianapolis area are both in Row 6. Daly races for Ed Carpenter’s team as well. Carpenter has been on the pole three times in his career with a career best finish of 2nd place in 2018. Daly had a career best finish of 10th place last year.

Row 7

Rookie Oliver Askew has put together a pretty good season in 2020 and is coming off consecutive 3rd and 6th place finishes at the Iowa Speedway. Look for Askew to outperform his qualifying position.

Santino Ferruci finished 7th place last year in his first Indianapolis 500.

Row 8

All the way back in Row 8 are a pair of former 500 winners. Will Power is starting in 22nd position after finishing in 5th in 2019. Power has seven Top 10 finishes, has been in the Top 5 four times, and won the race in 2018. He just finished 2nd place out at the Iowa 250.

Tony Kanaan is a longtime staple at the Motor Speedway. Kanaan has ten Top 10 finishes and has been in the Top 5 eight times. He won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 as well. 

Rounding out Row 8 in 24th place is Dalton Kellett, a Rookie who has ran very well at the Speedway in the past as part of the Indy Lights Series.

Row 9

2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud will begin in 25th position after being the pole sitter last year. Pagenaud finished 3rd at the Grand Prix earlier this season and won one of the Iowa 250 races while finishing 4th in the other. Despite a tough week of qualifying, Pagenaud is absolutely a threat to quickly move up towards the front of the pack.

Fernando Alonso is running in his second Indy 500 after finishing 24th in 2017. He is one of the all-time great Formula One drivers. James Davison has been racing on the NASCAR Cup Series this year but is entering his 7th 500 after finishing a career-best 12th place last year.

Row 10

The most successful Indy Car driver in the field, Helio Castroneves, is starting all the way back in 28th place. Castroneves won the first two Indianapolis 500’s that he raced in in 2001 and 2002 and then won his third in 2009. He has 14 Top 10 finishes, 8 Top 5 finishes, and has been on the pole four times. After an illustrious career at the Motor Speedway Castroneves has finished 27th and 18th the past two years.

Row 11

JR Hildebrand headlines the back row as four time Top 10 finisher. He came in 2nd place in the 2011 race. Sage Karam and Ben Hanley finished 19th and 32nd respectively in 2019. Hildebrand was 20th.

Picks

Special guest picker Dalton Vachon (@Dalton_Vachon44) has selected Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, and Marco Andretti as his potential winners.

@BRamseyKSR I’m going with Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, and Josef Newgarden.

Article written by Brandon Ramsey

Basketball X's & O's for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @BRamseyKSR