Indy 500 in the rearview mirror, my thoughts from the Month of May

INDIANAPOLIS — The Month of May comes to a close today but after a grueling three week stretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we’re left with a what should not have been an under the radar Indy 500 champion in a thrilling 106th Running of the event.

Ganassi Caps Strong Month With Victory

Heading into race, we all felt like this was Chip Ganassi Racing’s to lose. Ganassi went 2-3-4-6-10 on opening day, 2-5-7-20-29 on Thursday practice (Day 2), 2-3-4-9-20 during qualifying weekend, 1-2-3-5-22 on Monday’s practice and took 5 of the top 12 starting spots including 4 of the top 6 overall. After putting all 4 full time drivers in the top 7 at Texas, I thought this could be their race to lose.

However, they’d not won the Indy 500 since 2012.

Until Sunday….

They had 1-2 early and 1-3 in the end.

The thing is, it’s not the top 2 Ganassi finishers that we’d all thought it would be. Scott Dixon won the pole, led 95 laps but was speeding on pit lane on his final stop while leading.

For Alex Palou, he had a similar fate to what occurred to Dixon in 2021. When Callum Ilott crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 68, Palou was coming down to pit lane. Unfortunately, Ilott’s crash sparked a quick caution light which in turn closed pit road. Palou wasn’t fully on pit lane yet which caused him to have to pass on by. Unfortunately, his No. 10 Dallara-Honda was out of gas and he’d have to pit again a lap later while the pits were closed. That was a penalty. That’s why they took an emergency service and would pit again when the pits opened. 3 pit stops in a 4 lap span took him down to 30th. He would rebound to finish 9th but it was a day of what might have been for him too.

Palou led 47 laps and if you combine that with Dixon’s 95 you get the Ganassi duo leading 142 of 200 laps but neither having a win to show for it.

It was Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan picking up where they left off and sealing the deal.


Alex Palou and Scott Dixon came up just short due to pit lane for Sunday’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Will Dixon Ever Win Indy Again?

Scott Dixon has to wonder what he ever did to piss this place off. I mean legend states that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway picks its winners. For some reason, despite Scott Dixon becoming the all-time laps led leader in the 106 year history of this great event, he’ll leave 2021 with just 1 win in his 20 tries.

Dixon keeps finding ways to lose here at that. He led 73 laps but finished runner-up to his Ganassi teammate of Dario Franchitti in 2009. He led 73 more laps in a 5th place run in 2011. In 2012, he led 53 laps but was runner-up again to Franchitti. He was on the pole and led 83 laps in 2015 but finished 4th. He won the pole in 2017 but had a frightening crash in Turn 1 that year and would come home 32nd. He led 111 laps in a runner-up effort in 2020, 7 laps from the pole in 2021 to where he was caught out by an ill timed first caution which saw his No. 9 Dallara-Honda having to do an emergency pit stop under a closed pit road and then stall as a result. He fell a lap down and would finish 17th.

This year, he was 2nd in literally all but 1 practice session, qualified on the pole with a record setting pole lap and led 95 circuits before speeding on pit road for his final pit stop. That relegated him to 21st in the end.


Scott Dixon now has 5 Indy poles and 27 INDYCAR poles overall. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Dixon Still The King Of Speed At Indy

When you think speed and Indianapolis, you think big. However, when you think drivers and speed, the first one that comes up is Arie Luyendyk. He has the current one lap and four lap average records. In saying that, Scott Dixon at a four lap average of 234 mph just became the quickest pole sitter in Indy 500 history. It was his 5th career pole which is one shy of Rick Mears for most ever. He also is the new lap leaders record at 665 laps led making Dixon the overall quickest driver at Indy.

What’s wild is the fact that out of 665 laps led and 5 poles, he has 1 win. Marcus Ericsson has led 13 total laps here with 1 win too.


Ed Carpenter leads his teammate Rinus VeeKay around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for practice. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Will ECR Ever Get That Elusive Indy 500 Victory

ECR always seems to be in this role but they’ve also not capitalized either. They had 2 of the top 4 starters in Sunday’s race for an event that’s now seen the winner come from the top 8 in each of the last 6 years. For a team with at least 1 driver in the final round qualifying shootout for 10 straight years now, you’d think that they’d have found a win in that span. Instead, as they showed on Sunday, they’ve still not.


Penske/Andretti Surprisingly Quiet

At one point of this race, Andretti Autosport and Team Penske had combined to win the Indianapolis 500 in 6 straight years. They’re 0-for-3 since. In fact, they combined to lead just 3 of 200 laps on Sunday. Despite having 8 of the 33 combined starters, they finished 5th (Alexander Rossi), 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power), 20th (Devlin DeFrancesco), 22nd (Marco Andretti), 29th (Scott McLaughlin), 30th (Colton Herta) and 31st (Romain Grosjean). That’s 3 of the bottom 5.

Andretti Autosport capped a rough month on the oval with a rough day in the Indy 500. While Alexander Rossi went from 20th to 5th for his 5th top 7 result in 7 ‘500 tries, the rest of the lineup had a race to forget about.

Rookie Romain Grosjean found the wall on Lap 105 and would finish a disappointing 31st. Colton Herta was only one spot better (30th) after battling an ill handling race car all day. That likely was a direct result of his Carb Day crash on Friday. He has no top fives and just 1 top 10 in four career Indy 500 starts.

Marco Andretti finished a quiet 22nd while Devlin DeFranceco was 20th in his Indy debut.

5-20-22-30-31 with 3 total laps led all day. They head to Belle Isle 10th (Herta), 11th (Rossi), 15th (Grosjean) and 26th (DeFrancesco) in points.

Will Team Penske really start off 0-3 in his 1st three years with the keys here in Indianapolis? Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

In terms of Penske, heading into the Month of May, Team Penske was off to an undefeated start to the 2022 season and the team everyone was talking about to win this year’s Indy 500. They had won each of the 1st 3 races, started on the front row in 4 of the 5 and have taken 6 of the 15 podiums spots available.

They’re winless since.

That includes another winless Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to where they’re now 0-for-3 here on the oval since Roger Penske took over the keys to the place in January 2020.

They failed to lead a single lap on Sunday and now have led a grand total of 19 over the last 3 years (600 laps). They finished 13th (Josef Newgarden), 15th (Will Power) and 29th (Scott McLaughlin).


Alexander Rossi Will Get Another Indy 500 Triumph Soon

Rossi won as a rookie in 2016 but felt like the 2017 race was the one that got away. He started 3rd but finished 7th that day. In 2018, he finished 4th. A year after that was his intense end of race battle with Simon Pagenaud to where he came home runner-up. In 2020, he had a top 3 car before a pit stop penalty late which put him to the back and a crash ensued while pushing hard to get back to the front. For 2021, he was caught out by the 1st caution/pit sequence. This year, he didn’t qualify well (20th) but charged up to finish 5th for his 5th top 7 in 7 tries here. Take 2020 and 2021 and put him where he should have finished and he’d have a top 7 every year.


David Malukas has been the top rookie this week but not getting the attention for it. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Malukas The Real Rookie Of The Year

Nothing against Jimmie Johnson as he’s a hell of a talent and had a strong Month of May, but I honestly feel like David Malukas should have been the one celebrating the award instead. Malukas was 7th quickest on opening day, 3rd on Thursday, 14th on Monday and started 13th. He was the highest finishing rookie and came home 12 spots ahead of Johnson.

This is a similar situation to Sage Karam in 2014 when Kurt Busch, not he, was named this distinction. It’s also in the same realm when Fernando Alonso was 24th in 2017 and another DCR car in Ed Jones finished 3rd but Alonso was named Rookie of the Year then too.


Honda Outpaces Chevrolet

Chevrolet had the preferred power in this race in 2018 and again in 2019. They’ve swept the front row both years. In 2018, they led nearly 150 of the 200 laps run. For 2019, they combined to lead 155 of the 200 laps.

Then in 2020 it was all Honda. This time Honda swept the front row and took 11 of the top 12 starting spots. They’d lead 180 of the 200 laps and sweep the top four finishing spots and take 8 of the top 10 finishers overall.

How much could Chevrolet close the gap back up?

They did by a lot. They led over 100 laps a year ago but it was also closer between the 2 manufacturers. Each had 3 cars in the top six while Honda had better qualifying pace, it was virtually even in race pace.

So, what happens this time around?

Chevy had led nearly 80% of the laps and won all 4 races entering the Month of May. Honda however instead swept the month including producing 6 of the top 9 finishers in Sunday’s Indy 500. They also led 166 of the 200 laps too.

The Honda’s looked good in practice during the opening week before Chevy turned the wick up in qualifying on Saturday to sweep the provisional front row. On Sunday, the Honda’s adjusted and took 4 of the top 6 starting spots.

In Monday’s practice, Honda had 11 of the top 14 speeds. For Carb Day, Honda went 1-2-3-4 again.

Santino Ferrucci has a top 10 in 4 races for 3 different teams here. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

O’Ward, Ferrucci, Palou’s Time Is Coming

Pato O’Ward keeps inching closer and closer to an Indy win. From 6th in 2020, to 4th in 2021 to now 2nd in 2022. Trends state he will win next year in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Santino Ferrucci is another one that’s worth putting the Sharpie to his name for a top 10 finisher too. Ferrucci started 2rd and finished 7th as a rookie in 2019, went from 19th to 4th in 2020 and 23rd to 6th in 2021. On Sunday, he went from 15th to 10th for his 3rd different team in 4 years.

Ferrucci quickly got into the top 10 during the first stint and had a top five car for most of the way at that.

You also can’t count out Alex Palou as a future winner. He finished runner-up in 2021, led 47 of the 1st 68 laps on Sunday and still rebounded to finish 9th.


How Many Veterans Will Be Back?

Juan Pablo Montoya is currently 46. Will he be back to Indy when he’s 47? AMSP is expanding to 3 full time cars in 2023 and we know Montoya won’t be one of those 3. I also can’t see them running 4 cars at Indy so is this the last we’ve seen of Montoya?

The oldest to win this race is Al Unser at 47.

What about Tony Kanaan? He doesn’t want to retire but hinted on Sunday that this could be it. He’ll be 48 next year.

Helio Castroneves is a free agent but I can’t see him walking away just yet. Takuma Sato will be 46 next season and getting close to his retirement.

I don’t think we get all 4 back in 2023.


Marcus Ericsson showed this place really does pick its winner. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Trends Were Spot On

I wrote entering this weekend about who trends said would win this race. Well, they were right by picking Marcus Ericsson.

Rookies:

We’ve seen just 10 total rookies win in 105 past years, 3 since 1967 at that. The last came in 2016 on a fluke fuel call. I’d avoid Jimmie Johnson (+1600), Romain Grosjean (+3000), David Malukas (+5000), Callum Ilott (+10000), Devlin DeFrancesco (+10000), Kyle Kirkwood (+10000) and Christian Lundgaard (+10000).

AJ Foyt Racing

They’ve not won at Indy since 1999. They’ve not won an Indy Car race since 2013. I don’t see it out of them this year either so don’t take JR Hildebrand (+10000), Kyle Kirkwood (+10000) or Dalton Kellett (+20000).

Any One Starting 26th Or Worse

Only 1 driver has won this race from the Outside of Row 9 (Fred Frame in 1932) and just 3 drivers in 105 years have won this race from a starting position of 26th or worse. In fact, all 3 instances came from 1936 and prior. That eliminates Scott McLaughlin, Helio Castroneves, Kyle Kirkwood, Dalton Kellett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Christian Lundgaard, Jack Harvey and Stefan Wilson.

Starting Spots (18th, 23rd, 24th Too)

No one has won the Indy 500 from these 3 spots either. That takes out Conor Daly, Marco Andretti and Devlin DeFrancesco.

Recent Past Winners:

We’ve seen a lot of parity lately in this race. Since 2011, only Takuma Sato has won this race more than once. That would eliminate Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alexander Rossi, Sato, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.

Chip Ganassi Racing hasn’t won this race in a decade, does that change next Sunday? Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

So, who’s left?

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter, Marcus Ericsson, Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci, Graham Rahal, Sage Karam and Colton Herta.

Since 1967, just 3 drivers scored their 1st career INDYCAR win in the Indy 500. It was Arie Luyendyk (1990), Buddy Lazier (1996) and Alexander Rossi (2016). I don’t see that happening this time around so that eliminates Ferrucci and Karam.

The last driver to win from 25th? Johnny Rutherford in 1974. I’d eliminate Herta. The last time a driver won from 21st? 1924. Eliminate Graham Rahal. In fact, we’ve seen 34 straight races to where the winner came from 19th or better here.

That narrows it down to the top 15 with Dixon, Palou, VeeKay, Carpenter, Ericsson, O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Newgarden. We’ve seen 10 straight years with a different car number win. No. 50, No. 11, No. 28, No. 2, No. 98, No. 26, No. 12, No. 22, No. 30 and No. 06. This affects only Newgarden.

So, we’re down to the top 8 starters. The last 5 years the winner came from the top 8. Among the last 5 winners, 3 of the 5 finished outside the top 10 the year prior to their victory.

That opens up Dixon, Ericsson and Rosenqvist.

5th place has won here 7 times. The last time the No. 8 won was in 1956 by Pat Flaherty.

8th place has won here 3 times. The last time the No. 7 won here was in 1949 by Bill Holland

The pole has won here 21 times with the last time for the No. 9 being in 2008 by Scott Dixon.

4 of the last 6 years the race winner has been 0-fer in terms of season championships. That breaks it down to Ericsson vs. Rosenqvist.


Indy Is Back

The Indy 500 has been on the rise over the last decade but it wasn’t until now that it fully came back. See, 2016 sold a lot of tickets because of the 100th anniversary year. The crowds would take a natural drop in 2017 but the goal was to gain every year after that. 2017 dropped from 2016 but 2018 gained over 2017. 2019 was up over 2018. Then all momentum was halted in 2020. 2021 saw limited capacity. 2022 it was back in a big way.

Over 320k attended Sunday’s 106th Running with the largest crowds on all the other days here in decades occurred prior. Practice days were packed. So was qualifying weekend. Factor in near record speeds and a fun race and you can see the Indy 500 is back to it’s rightful place again.

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