INDIANAPOLIS — After more than a year of waiting, one of the cornerstones of the American sporting landscape roars back to life. The 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pits 33 of the best racing athletes in the world against each other in a 500-mile quest for immortality. Some of racing’s legendary drivers made their names at Indianapolis. Who will join them Sunday, Aug. 23?
Here are 5 Things to Look For at the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Curse? What Curse?
Does the Andretti Curse exist in August?
Marco Andretti doesn’t seem to think it does.
The third-generation driver from one of racing’s most storied families has been one of the fastest drivers in the lead-up to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Last Sunday he became the first member of his famed racing family to win the Indy 500 pole in more than 30 years, joining his grandfather Mario as an Indianapolis 500 pole winner. 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti won the last of his three Indy 500 poles in 1987.
Now he seeks to join his grandfather on the Borg-Warner Trophy, by capping a perfect August with a win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday.
“I don’t think it (the curse) exists in August, so we are good,” Andretti said in an interview this week. “As a family we would talk that we are blessed, not cursed, but it is a cool media story, and we have been running with it.
“Results-wise, yeah, maybe there is something to it because, man, the three of us have been so dominant here. We have a bunch of podiums, but this is one place where that doesn’t matter.”
Team Penske chases The Captain’s 19th Indy 500 win from mid-pack
If Team Penske is to claim its third Indianapolis 500 win in a row, it will have to do it from further back in the starting field than normal.
The highest-placed Team Penske driver is Josef Newgarden, who starts 13th in the Indianapolis 500, while defending champion Simon Pagenaud starts 25th, one row behind 2018 winner Will Power, who starts 22nd. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves starts even further back, in 28th.
But luck may be in Team Penske’s favor. The last time the team failed to place a car in the first three rows of an Indianapolis 500 was 2002, when Castroneves and Gil de Ferran started 13th and 14th. Castroneves went on to win the race.
Fernando’s Final Chance at Triple Crown?
Fernando Alonso will start his second Indianapolis 500, but the two-time Formula One World Champion knows it may be his final chance to earn the “Triple Crown of Motorsports,” at least for the near future.
The Spanish driver, who has wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Monaco Grand Prix, qualified 26th in the No. 66 Ruoff Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. But he is due to return to Formula One in 2021 with Renault, so he won’t be able to race at Indianapolis next May due to conflicting events.
“I agree with you, the team has the potential to have a competitive package here,” Alonso told INDYCAR. “They have the experience, they have the talent, and they have the personnel. It’s up to us now to have a good event, clean days like we had today with no issues. We are trying to improve the car step by step, small set of changes but always trying to have 100 percent answers, positive or negative while not getting lost.”
Graham Hill is the only driver to complete the Triple Crown, while two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, the only other active driver with two wins, would complete the feat with a win at Le Mans.
No first-time jitters
Five rookie drivers will make their Indianapolis 500 debut Sunday, but two have shown no first-time jitters. Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, 19, qualified fourth, the best performance for a teenager in Indy 500 history. He was honored as the fastest rookie by the American Dairy Association on Tuesday. Another rookie, Spain’s Alex Palou, qualified seventh.
Eight former winners qualified for the Indy 500, the most former winners to start the race since a record 10 former winners started the 1992 race.
Helio Castroneves is the only multi-time winner who will compete in the race as he seeks to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500.
If one of the other seven former winners – Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Takuma Sato, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan or Scott Dixon — win on Sunday, they would join the exclusive club of 19 multi-time winners of the race