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It’s a Memorial Day tradition. A Slice of Americana. The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
We’re talking about the one, the only, Indianapolis 500.
The race is a Memorial Day weekend tradition, and — if you can work it into your schedule and/or budget some year — it’s something every sports fan should attend at least once. It’s just incredible.
Whether you’ve been keeping up with the NTT IndyCar Series or not (you should be though; it’s great) you’re bound to at least check in on the race Sunday afternoon.
Few races have a habit of delivering excitement the way the Indianapolis 500 does. I mean, you’ve got cars traveling at 220+ miles per hour. If you can’t find that exciting in and of itself, then I think you’re just being difficult.
This year is shaping up to be a doozy, and all through the month of May, there have been several drivers and teams emerging as ones to watch. However, anything can happen, which means there can always be an unexpected winner.
What I’m saying is picking an Indy 500 winner can be a real crapshoot… but let’s try anyway.
Could The Indy 500 Winner Come From The Front Row?
The front row of this year’s Indy 500 wasn’t a total shocker. Polesitter Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing is always quick. Alongside him is Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who has become something of an Indy 500 qualifying specialist. Then. there’s Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist in 3rd who topped several sessions this month,
Rosenqvist has had a really May and through qualifying has been the fastest of the bunch for Arrow McLaren.
The same can be said about Palou, who will start the race as the lead Ganassi car. Palou is such a sure-handed driver that he can almost always put himself in contention in any race. That’s why he already has a championship to his name, despite only being in his third season.
Anyone on the first row could take an Indy 500, victory but the driver who intrigues me most is VeeKay. That’s because he has only qualified outside of the first row once. That was in 2020, and he started in 4th.
However, Veekay’s best finish is 8th, which he achieved in 2020. In 2021, he finished 20th, but 2022 was majorly disappointing. While he led a lap, he crashed after 38 laps and finished 33rd in last year’s race. Dead last.
Veekay is too good around Indianapolis Motor Speedway to not have that translate to Sunday at some point. Could this be the year?
The Rest Of The CGR Stable Stable
Two teams are looking like absolute world beaters, with every single driver looking primed to make a bid for a nice frosty bottle of milk. Let’s start with Chip Ganassi Racing, whose Alex Palou is the polesitter this year.
Ganassi is always a threat. Perhaps this year more so than any year in quite some time. Their cars are fast. All four drivers made it into the Fast 12 last weekend and the team will have one driver on each of the first four rows of the grid. Palou in 1st, Scott Dixon in 6th, Takuma Sato in 8th, and Marcus Ericcson in 10th.
Even wilder, Palou is the only one of the team’s drivers who hasn’t already won an Indy 500. Marcus Ericsson is the reigning Indy 500 cham\p, Scott Dixon won in 2008, while Takuma Sato — who is driving the No. 11 only on ovals this season — has won twice; once in 2017 and again in 2020.
In the final practice session, Sato and Dixon were the two fastest drivers, while Palou finished the session 4th.
Given their history, the performance we’ve seen from their cars all month, and the skill of the drivers in their lineup, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see a CGR driver win the Indy 500 for the second straight year.
Arrow McLaren Looks Ready To Win An Indy 500
While McLaren has won three Indy 500s, their current IndyCar program — Arrow McLaren — has yet to add to that total. However, they look increasingly ready to change that every year.
While Arrow McLaren has three full-time drivers, they like to run an extra car in the Indy 500. In 2021 and 2022 Juan Pablo Montoya was behind the wheel of the team’s extra car. In 2024, it’ll be Kyle Larson. But this year, it’s 2013 Indy 500 champ Tony Kanaan.
McLaren also managed to get all four of its drivers into the Fast 12, with Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward making the Fast 6. They’ll start 3rd and 5th respectively.
Alexander Rossi and Kanaan — who have both won Indy 500s before — will start in 7th and 9th.
Much like Chip Ganassi Racing, Arrow McLaren seemed to have dialed in their cars and every single one of them was flying. Rosenqvist has looked especially solid, but Pato O’Ward has had strong showings in previous 500s.
But then, can you discount the experience Rossi and Kannan have? Do you see why this race is so great? There are lots of drivers who could easily find themselves up front at the finish.
Plus, something crazy can always happen that would allow others farther back in the field a chance.
Could Helio Castroneves win a record-breaking 5th Indianapolis 500? Could an Andretti Autosports driver steal a win after a disappointing month of May? Could a Penske driver steal a win from down the order after a strong final practice session?
Truthfully, anything can happen.
But who’s going to win? Again, it’s tough, but I’m going to go with Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist to make it two straight Swedish winners.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle