By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
There’s something about the Indianapolis 500 that just hits different! The 105th renewal of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing symbolizes a time where things are gradually getting back to what it was before the pandemic.
For starters, we’re back to seeing crowds witnessing the bravest drivers of the planet navigate around the 2.5-mile oval. More importantly, racing at IMS is back in the Month of May. Whether it’s someone’s first time seeing the action in person or for over half a century, there’s no other race on the planet that has such a vibe.
All 33 competitors have a story of their own. Some are already making history like Paretta Autosport being a predominant female organization with Simona De Silvestro. She’ll be looking to work her way up the leaderboard from the 33rd starting position.
Others such as Scott Dixon, who’ll lead the field to the green flag, are looking to re-write the record book once again. Not only Dixon would snap an eight-year Indy drought for Chip Ganassi Racing, but also equal Mario Andretti for second in all-time Indy car wins at 52.
However, there are others who’d like to deny him such as Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.
In a season that’s defined by the youth movement, winning four of the first five races no less. They’re eager of continuing making their mark as the sport’s future, especially VeeKay.
The series most recent winner at the GMR Grand Prix has shown Chevrolet do have the speed in a month dominated by Honda. Should he win the 500, he’ll be the youngest winner in race history and pretty confident about his odds.
“I definitely feel very good. We have a very strong car, especially in race trim we’re very strong. I think also the Chevy power is great in race trim. Very excited for that,” said VeeKay. “Arie (Luyendyk) came to me after my run. He told me, It took me five years to get to the front row. Once I started third, I won the race (in 1990). Let’s hope I can do the same as Arie.
“I’m just very happy with how the car behaved. All the work from the team was very, very good. We have a very strong qualifying car, but also in race trim, especially with only two cars in front of me, it’s going to be very good. I’m very excited to give it everything next week.”
Team Penske have struggled this month with neither making the Fast Nine for the second straight year. Will Power barely making the 33-car field and Simon Pagenaud’s mechanical issues highlight their sudden woeful month.
The question remains how they’ll fare on race day, something Pagenaud didn’t shy away about his No. 22 Chevrolet.
“The conditions next week are going to be cooler which is going to help us,” said the 2019 winner. “It’s going to add some downforce into the car. We’re in a good shape, but unfortunate to miss an hour and a half of practice that could’ve been useful. We’re also in a good shape because I’m happy with the race car.”
Time will ultimately tell how they’ll pan out on what should be a chaotic 200-lap saga. Temperatures should be in the high 60s, meaning more grip could make for a fascinating race. When it’s all set and done May 30, we’ll have a racer winner having milk, kissing the bricks and their face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
By the Numbers
What: 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 6
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Speedway, Indiana (Opened: 1909, first INDYCAR event was 1911)
When: Sunday, May 30
TV/Radio: NBC 11:00 a.m. ET / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channel 211)
Track Size: 2.5-mile oval
Race Length: 200 laps, 500 miles
Pole Sitter: Scott Dixon – No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (231.685 mph)
2020 Race Winner: Takuma Sato – No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (Started third, 27 laps led)
2020 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year: Pato O’Ward – No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet (finished sixth)
Track Qualifying Record: Arie Luyendyk – No. 5 Byrd/Treadway Racing Ford (236.986 mph – May 12, 1996)
Indy 500 Race Record: Tony Kanaan – No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet (187.433 mph – May 26, 2013)
From the Driver’s Seat
Scott Dixon (2008 Indy 500 Champion) – No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
“As we all know, it doesn’t really matter where you start, it’s where you finish. That’s going to be the focus now. We’re starting in a great position. For us it was really the goal to get in the Fast Nine with the team, and they did that.
“Winning a pole at the Indianapolis 500 is one of the toughest things to do. From a team standpoint, just how much work and effort goes into building these cars specifically for that pole run, it’s a lot of money and a lot of effort that it takes.
“We’ve been on the other side of it. We’ve had them before, but we’ve started well in the pack, too, where you can’t figure out why you’re in that position. Definitely feel goods for the team. I know the team is going to be proud of what we achieved today. Again, it’s just the starting position. We have to work on the rest.”
Simon Pagenaud (2019 Indy 500 Champion) – No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet
“We had an incredible package in ’19, and Chevy power really helped us tremendously all month, all two weeks long really. We knew we had a shot.
“There are so many things that can happen during the race that you’re not in control of. We tried to take our destiny in our own hands in the race and led a lot, maybe too much at some point, and then it turned back into our hands. It could have gone the other way.
“I think this year we’re close to being where we were in ’19, but I think the whole field is a lot closer. I can’t control the others. I can only control myself and my team, and I think we’re doing everything we can to be in the same spot.”
Last Time in the Indianapolis 500
For the first time in Indy 500 history, the 200-lap race wasn’t held in its traditional month. Instead, it was held in late August without a single fan in attendance. While COVID-19 put a stranglehold on everyone around the world, the show went on.
Right out of the gate, Scott Dixon blasted by pole sitter Marco Andretti and appeared to be on his way towards his second Indy 500. It was at the palm of his hands, leading a race-high 111 laps. But one man entered the chat and that was Takuma Sato.
The 2017 winner outsmarted Dixon late in the race with a bold pass on the frontstretch. While a few more drivers took their turn in first, it was the Japanese racer who shined bright and scored his second Indy 500 victory.
“Obviously, we pitted (a lap) short from Dixie. The fuel strategy was a bit tight. I saw Scott was coming right through out of Turn 4, and he was screaming coming at me. And I just held him off,” said Sato.
“This was the entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan team. HPD and Honda gave us a lot of power, a lot fuel mileage. And my boys…they sacrifice a lot. I can’t thank all of the people (enough).”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, May 28
- Carb Day (11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – NBCSN and Peacock)
Sunday, May 30
- NTT IndyCar Series Pre-Race Show (9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – NBC)
- 105th Indianapolis 500 (11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – NBC)
- NTT IndyCar Series Post-Race Show (4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – NBCSN)