We are six days away from the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Most drivers have an idea how their car is going to fare on Sunday and with just two practices left (Monday and Carb Day Friday), some drivers are running out of time to find speed from their car.
Temperatures are expected Sunday to be in the low 80’s with a chance of thunderstorms so ideal weather conditions like we saw the first 4 days of practice won’t exist likely on race day.
We have 7 former winners and 6 rookies in this years field. Simon Pagenaud claimed the pole on Sunday and continues to have a great May with also winning the Indy Grand Prix earlier on the month. Ed Carpenter Racing has all three of its cars within the first two rows with Ed Carpenter (2nd), Spencer Pigot (3rd) and Ed Jones (4th). The highest starting rookie is Colton Herta (son of former driver and crew chief Bryan Herta). The defending champion Will Power starts outside of row 2.
This race is expected to be a great race again and there are roughly 12 cars who could win this race. Will fuel strategy dictate the winner like it did for Alexander Rossi in 2016? How will the rookies fare this Sunday with 6 of them making the field? One rookie to keep an eye out for besides Herta is new Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist who has shown speed this month and had an accident last week coming out of turn 2. With the leadership of Ganassi and former winner Scott Dixon as his teammate, Rosenqvist could be a name to start remembering here at the track. Below are my picks for drivers to watch as well as my prediction to who will be drinking the milk in victory lane come Sunday evening.
DRIVERS TO WATCH
#22 – Simon Pagenaud: Simon has already had a great May with winning the Indy Grand Prix and then claiming the pole for the Indy 500. Starting his 7th Indy 500 with a career-best 6th place finish last year, Pagenaud has to be one of the favorites to claim Roger Penske’s 19th Indy 500 title.
#20 Ed Carpenter: Indy native Ed Carpenter is no stranger to starting the race out front, as Ed Carpenter has been on the pole 3 times for this race had a front row start 4 times and finished a career-best 2nd last year! Ed is a local favorite being from Indianapolis and a Butler graduate, this would be the sentimental pick that every race fan would be happy with if Carpenter won. Ed will be in contention late Sunday and as long as he can stay out of trouble and have quick pit stops, Carpenter will have a chance to win in front of his hometown fans!
#21 Spencer Pigot: Spencer had the provisional pole on Saturday before settling for P3 on Sunday after the “Fast 9” qualifications. Pigot has a fast ride and has shown the speed all month long, now it’s if he can handle the task of 500 miles to immortality. This is Pigot’s 4th start and finished 18th last year as he looks to improve on that. I think Spencer has a decent 1st half of the race before falling just outside of the top 10 on lap 200.
#12 Will Power: Will Power has the experience, he has the win and now can rest easy knowing that he’s already claimed the top crown. This drive for Power should be “fun” since the pressure to win at Indianapolis for Roger Penske is no longer there. Power said himself that it is hard to repeat as Indy 500 champion (last time done was Castroneves in 2001 & 2002). With the history of this race, I just can’t see Power getting everything right the 2nd straight year, BUT I do expect Will to have a top 10 run in Sunday’s race.
#2 Josef Newgarden: Newgarden was my pick last year to win the race, but ended up having an 8th place finish with nothing exciting to show throughout the race. This is Team Penske’s 3rd best car and you have to think Newgarden finally pulls off the Indy win as he goes into his 8th start. I think Newgarden is within the Top 10 Sunday as the checkered flag falls.
#27 Alexander Rossi: Rossi came in as a rookie and won the 100th running in 2016 after some great fuel strategy as he coasted on fumes into victory lane. Rossi has to be considered as one of the favorite’s to win the race Sunday. Rossi has had a good month of May with fast speeds and has shown to have a strong car as he worked his way through traffic during practice each day. Rossi started 32nd last year after an issue with the car pushed him back, but he stormed to the front quickly and settled for a 4th place finish. Rossi has performed well in his three starts finishing 1st, 7th, and 4th. I believe Rossi will continue that trend this year with another Top 5 performance as he will be the top Andretti Autosport car on Sunday. I like Rossi a lot on Sunday!
#98 Marco Andretti: Yes, it would be a storybook ending for the Andretti curse to be lifted here at IMS on the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s 1969 Indy 500 win, but I just don’t believe Marco has the car this year to compete late in the race. Marco has shown speed earlier last week topping the charts with a “tow 229 mph”, but overall his car hasn’t shown much promise this year. Last year Marco started 12th and finished 12th, and with Marco starting 10th in this year’s race, I believe he finished in the Top 10 with a respectful performance. Maybe he will get the speed and car handling right next year?
When I look at this field and try to figure out who’s going to win, I have to look at drivers who are owning the month of May and have been on top of the speed charts all month long. The name that stands out to me with the way he practiced going through traffic and some moves he made, I’m taking #27, Alexander Rossi, to win his 2nd Indianapolis 500 this Sunday! Rossi seemed to be able to place his car anywhere he wanted, moving up in traffic, back in traffic and place his car anywhere on the track that he wanted to. Rossi has the experience and a win already here, this one will not have him coasting in on fumes as Andretti Autosport gets another Indy 500 title.
If I had a 2nd pick, and I am giving myself a second pick for Sunday….. I’ll go with hometown hero #20 Ed Carpenter if Rossi doesn’t take it!
My Predicted Finishing Order: Top 15
- #27 Alexander Rossi (2nd Indy 500 win)
- #12 Will Power
- #22 Simon Pagenaud
- #20 Ed Carpenter
- #2 Josef Newgarden
- #66 Ed Jones
- #14 Tony Kanaan
- #98 Marco Andretti
- #3 Helio Castroneves
- #21 Spencer Pigot
- #9 Scott Dixon
- #88 Colton Herta (R)
- #7 Marcus Ericsson
- #30 Takuma Sato
- #5 James Hinchcliffe
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