10 storylines for Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network)

Honda vs. Chevy

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 in 2021, 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 despite Honda going 1-2.

Last year, 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 the 106th Running of the Indy 500. They also led 166 of the 200 laps too.

The Honda’s looked good in practice during the opening week before too 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 race practice, Honda had 11 of the top 14 speeds. For Carb Day, Honda went 1-2-3-4 again.

Did Chevy do enough to flip the script after being shutout of the last two Indy 500’s?

They have four of the top five starters and six in the top nine.

“I think Chevy has a bit of an advantage on the power,” said Will Power. “I feel like we have good horsepower, and I think we’re in good shape. A lot of people who are extremely good, a lot of teams.

Helio Castroneves’ Drive For 5

In 106 past years of the Indianapolis 500, no one has ever won this race more than 4 times. Prior to 2021, only 3 drivers had crossed the famed yard of bricks first on 4 occasions. Then Helio Castroneves stamped his name into the record book by becoming the fourth one to do so. Can he now be the first to win No. 5?

He’s had a quiet month last year. Castroneves was 22nd on the opening day speed chart. He was 22nd again on Day 3 (Wednesday was washed out). On Monday of race week, he was 13th. He qualified 27th and finished seventh.

After a tough start to the year that has seen him collected in two first lap crashes and has him mired deep in the points in 20th (-74), how much longer does he want to keep doing this?

“As long as I have the passion,” Castroneves admitted on Thursday afternoon “Nothing you can change. Nothing can beat it when you have passion and it’s run by good people behind you that you can have the same goal. And work ethic you know, continue to work and make sure that you find those details because technology, competition. I will say evolution, you know, it could change that you can’t run the same computer that you have, like 10 years ago. Right? So you’re gonna continue improving and somehow because of the cars keep changing. You find something new. So as long as I keep having fun.”

Right now, he’s having fun.

AJ Foyt got his fourth win in his 20th start. He had 35 total Indy 500 starts (most ever) but could win in a rear engine, front engine, bricks or pavement. Hell, the guy could win on any surface as he holds the record for most championships (7) and most wins (67). He finished runner-up in the race in 1976 and again in 1979. No one has completed as many miles (12,272.50) as Foyt either. 

Al Unser Sr. also has four wins. He did so in his 22nd start as he’s made 27 overall Indy starts. He also had three runner-ups (1967, 1972 and 1983). He finished third four times (1977, 1984, 1988 and 1992) too. On top of that, Unser has led the most laps ever (644) and second most miles (10,890). Unser, had 39 career open wheel wins too (5th most) to go along with 31 runner-ups (6th), 98 podiums (fifth) and 140 top fives (sixth).

Rick Mears has four wins and he got his fourth in his only his 14th start. In fact, in just 15 Indy 500 starts, Mears had nine top fives including a runner-up (1982) and two third place runs (1983 and 1986). Mears had six Indy 500 poles (most ever) but ranks 13th in career Indy Car wins, 13th in runner-ups (22), 15th in podiums (74) and 12th in top fives (111).

Castroneves has four wins in 22 starts. The Brazilian has the third most miles completed too. He’s also had three runners-up and all three rank among the closest finishes in the 106-year history too. Gil de Ferran stopped his back-to-back reign in 2001 and 2002 with a win by just .2990-seconds over him in ’03. In 2014, Ryan Hunter-Reay stopped him by only .0600-seconds which still ranks as the second closest Indy 500 finish ever. Takuma Sato bested him by .2011-seconds in 2017 for the sixth closest result.

Combine those results, Castroneves is .5601-seconds from being a seven-time winner. So, can he get to five at least?

Both Bobby Unser and Al Unser won in 1981 and 1987 respectively as 47-year-olds. Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1993 at the age of 46. Gordon Johncock won in 1982 at the rightful age of 45.

Foyt made 15 attempts after notching his fourth Indy 500 victory in 1977 to score his fifth win. He’d never do so with only scoring two top fives after including a runner-up finish in 1979.

Unser was the next to join the four win club in 1987. He’d try five more times to earn a fifth ‘500 triumph with finishes of 3rd, 24th, 13th, 3rd and 12th respectively.

Mears joined in 1991. A 26th place finish in 1992’s race was his final shot.

“Well, we basically felt we’re feeling very strong and it’s some of the rules changed a little bit bigger than me,” said Castroneves. “This is the actual Indy 500 car. And, and we were able to we were able to have some too many laps on it, but feels like we’re in the right direction. And I’m excited man, it’s great to be back again. In the special with this weather, nice weather. Got to take advantage of these today, obviously. But yeah, we want to take as much as we want to run as much as possible so that we can learn just new aerodynamics bits.

“Every time you’re behind the steering wheel here you always learn something. And it’s funny because you like feel things you like, I didn’t feel this last year. So I’m telling my engineers always the same. It’s like, I know, but I didn’t feel this before. So, it’s funny, because you kind of like understand what the bar you like and that you’ve felt before and what you need to achieve. And that’s what we hear.”

Tony Kanaan practices for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Tony Kanaan’s Last Lap

“What INDYCAR made me, I’m an INDYCAR driver, and I always will be,” Tony Kanaan said on an unseasonably warm afternoon this past winter in Indianapolis. This was his second retirement announcement of his career. The last came back in January 2020 when Kanaan said his part-time gig for the upcoming NTT INDYCAR Series season would be his last. It would be dubbed, “TK’s Last Lap.”

A lot has occurred since then to bring him back to these hallowed grounds to make another announcement. A pandemic, an Indy 500 without fans, Jimmie Johnson coming back and most importantly, a third place finish in what was going to likely be his last Indy 500 last May.

Combine all of that and being 48-year-old and you get to where we are on now. His final Month of May as a driver. Kanaan said that he’s committed to this decision still and has had such a good month, that he starts ninth on Sunday.

“Somebody said, Do you think you’re going to regret? I don’t think ‘regret’ is the right word to say,” Kanaan continued. “I’m going to miss it every day of my life. I miss it now. Mario Andretti drives a two-seater just because.

“I’m fine. I think I’m fine.

“End of May, I think it’s going to get more difficult from now on. I’m at peace in my decision. I have a great team behind me. I think I had a great career. I have a really good shot of winning this thing. If I win, might be sitting here again next year. You never know (smiling).”

Which is why the question comes back up, “is this truly it or if he does well again, does he come back in 2024?

“Well, let me put it this way. We’re in the sport that you have to perform,” Kanaan said. “Unfortunately or not, we’re all judged by our last result. That can drive you up or can drive you down, right?

“Let’s be real here. If I hadn’t done what I did last year, probably would have been my final one. That’s why I didn’t make any announcement. That was exactly what I thought.

“Then you go out and you fight for the lead and you fight for the win until the last lap, then you’re on a high. People actually are demanding, Why don’t you come back? Then you get an invitation from a very good team to do it.

“Chances are you’re playing with the odds here, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I didn’t want to wait. I said, You know what, if I win, Zak is going to have a problem, but also I can look around and say, All right, well, I said it was the last one. I’m happy with that. I’ll just come back here the following year to grab my Baby Borg in front of everybody and say, Guys, have fun.

“That’s why. I’m 48, although we keep saying we’re young. I’ve been doing part-time races for the last four years now. Let’s face it, I’m not going to get a full-time job in a top team right now. We have some young guns, these kids are unbelievable. I know people kept saying that for years and years. The old guys are still performing, which is good for us. Every time Helio wins, trust me, as much as I hate the guy, but we fought our entire lives, it’s good, because it shows we can still do it.

“The time is coming. It’s not something that, Now if I win, I’ll get a full-time ride in 2024 at McLaren. I mean, who could they have there? I look at Penske, all the teams now.

“That’s why. I think it’s in the wall and it’s fine.

“As much as people make fun of me, I think even if I win, I think it will be a good way to go home.”

We know Kyle Larson is already committed to the team for this seat in 2024. Chip Ganassi Racing’s door is now closed. The only competitive team left to go run for is Team Penske and we know they’re not going to expand to a part-time Indy only ride.

Which is why this more than like, is truly it for Kanaan. As he said, last year was supposed to be it and he wasn’t just going to return in 2023 to race. He wanted to win it and if he was going to win it, it had to be for a big team.

“You’re never ready for this. But you got to weigh your options,” he says. “I went from a full-time to a part-time. You’re 48. You had a great career. As much as you don’t want to go, it’s there. If you’re smart, you make the right decisions at the right time.

“I came to this sport to win everything I could and to do the best I could. I would hate to be coming to this place just to participate. So you weigh your opportunities.

“Last year was a really good one. When I finished that race, I was ready, if nothing, because it was a two-year deal that I announced my retirement two years before. The question was asked, Do you think you can do it again?

“I think I can do it again for 10 more years the way I take care of myself. But that’s not the point. Am I going to get the chance to do at the right place again, to win it.

“Zak (Brown at McLaren) called and I look at the results. The two teams that dominated was the one that I was in and the one that I was calling. So you can’t refuse that.”

Kanaan says that he first approached Ganassi on a possible reunion for another go at it for 2024. When it didn’t pan out, he called Brown back to get this deal done for one last go.

“Well, I think Zak — to be fair, we tried to make it work with Chip,” Kanaan admitted. “Chip just couldn’t make it as far as the sponsor. Jimmie (Johnson) was leaving. The deal was a three-year deal. That was that. Then when Zak called, I said, Zak, look, we got to wait a little bit. I think I owe that to Chip. We did that.

“It was obvious that it was not going to happen. I said, Hey, Zak, do you want to talk?

“So that was it. Then honestly it was funny because the conversation was a WhatsApp text saying, I’m ready.

“Me too.

“The next one was, Do we have a deal?

“I said, Yes.

“That was it. We didn’t discuss anything else. He sent me the deal, I signed it, sent it back. It was very simple. That’s how it happened.

“But, yeah, if it wasn’t for the result, I don’t think I would be here today saying I’m racing my last one. I’d probably be here doing something else.”

Kanaan’s not. He’s here announcing that he will race one more time. In the No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet, a number that not only is synonymous with McLaren, but with Kanaan as well.

“No. 66. Bruce McLaren and McLaren won their first race in 1966. Mark Donohue was here in ’72. My first go-kart number was No. 6. I picked that. My entire go-kart career, I won five championships of that,” said Kanaan.

“One of the races that I couldn’t race the 6, I raced 66. When Zak told me the story, the number, it’s just perfect. That’s what we’re rocking on. I love it. I can’t wait. I’m excited we have also a lot of sponsors. One of our biggest sponsors is SmartStop. They’re jumping in as a main sponsor. Excited about that.”

Ahead is the walkoff now.

“I mean, I’m probably going to be wearing sunglasses, a hat, crying like a baby on driver intros. That is expected. It’s emotional enough when you’re not retiring just to be part of this energy and this day, this race, let alone knowing it’s your last time you’re doing it. Once you put the helmet on, it’s game on.

“It’s going to be emotional when I get out of the car, regardless of position I finish. If I win, awesome. If I don’t, I still think this entire place will be supporting me for it.

“I mean, no, I’m not ready, but it’s not a sad story. It’s a really cool one. It’s nice to see how many people appreciate, which I kind of get surprised. You never think about how you set examples. You have your 15-year-old kid saying that, Proud of you. The story, you can inspire so many people, the fans.

“What INDYCAR made me, I’m an INDYCAR driver, and I always will be.”

In his rookie ‘500 in 2002, he led 23 laps and was leading on Lap 90. That’s when Jimmy Vasser and Bruno Junqueria each slowed with car troubles. Oil was on the track and no one noticed. Kanaan found it and crashed in Turn 3 while leading the race.

Two years later, he led 28 laps and in a position to win. He’d gamble but it was the wrong call. He handed the lead off to Buddy Rice and severe weather then struck ending the race slightly prior to the 200 lap mark.

Two years after that Kanaan took over the lead on Lap 183 but needed a quick stop for fuel. A caution came out on Lap 191 and he lost the lead as a result.

A year later, rain kept Kanaan out of victory lane again. He was in the lead on Lap 113 when rain began. A red flag ensued. The race however, would later resume. On the Lap 156 restart, while leading, Kanaan came up on a lap car and lost control and spun at pit entry. It cost him another chance at sipping the milk.

The next two years, while running in the top 5, he crashed in Turn 3. In 2008 it was an issue with teammate Marco Andretti forcing Kanaan off line and the next year a drive shaft broke down the backstretch making Kanaan a passenger.

In 2010, he crashed in Turn 1 on pole day. He couldn’t make a qualifying attempt. On Bump Day, he crashed in the same manner in the same spot on the track, in his backup car. He narrowly made the field in starting last.

Now, after the 2011 season, he was so close many times of winning Indy. Now, he was 0-for-10. In the process, he had a front row seat for good buddy Dan Wheldon who won twice. Another good friend in Dario Franchitti also won twice at that point. Another friend in Helio Castroneves had won three times.

While Kanaan was 0-for-10, his friends were 6-for-10 in that same span. After all this heartbreak, he could have just walked off in the Fall of 2011 and called it quits.

That’s not in Kanaan’s DNA. Despite all these challenges, he felt like an Indy win was coming.

It nearly did. Again in 2012.

Kanaan went from fifth to first on a bold maneuver with 14 laps remaining. He’d hold onto the lead for the next seven laps. However, on Lap 194, he was passed and once again, he watched Franchitti score another Indy 500 win.

His friends won 70% of the Indy 500’s that Kanaan had entered. Kanaan had 5 top 5 finishes in those races and crashed out or spun while running inside the top 5 in four more.

For the 2013 season, magic struck. In the most competitive Indy 500 ever, Kanaan finally found his glory. Kanaan passed Ryan Hunter-Reay, an Andretti car mind you, with two laps remaining. Good buddy, Franchitti, crashed behind ending the race under caution.

Kanaan was filled with joy. In his 12th attempt, he finally won Indy. Unfortunately, that Fall, Franchitti was injured in a back crash at Houston. Another friend hurt.

Franchitti wanted 1 driver as his replacement – Kanaan.

Franchitti retired that offseason and in came Kanaan with Chip Ganassi Racing in his place. Kanaan would win in Franchitti’s car in the 2014 season finale at…Fontana of all places.

The same spot to where 15 years prior, in a season finale, his teammate and good friend Greg Moore was killed. Now, Kanaan, in good friend Franchitti’s car, in a season finale to where he’s lost two friends in the final races of seasons, 1 at Fontana, won.

He’d score a pair of Top-5 finishes in four Indy 500 starts with Ganassi before moving to AJ Foyt Racing in 2018. He’d run two years full-time before that 2020 announcement that it would be his last year.

Ovals only.

Then came a pandemic.

Kanaan felt it wasn’t right to go out that way. His fans deserved more. So he came back in 2021. The catch, it was with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Jimmie Johnson had no interest in racing on ovals and in order for him to make this work, he needed a partner to take over the reigns for him on the high speed tracks. Kanaan was a perfect fit. The thing is, Johnson had a multi-year deal so it meant Kanaan had a couple more “final laps.”

But, with Johnson wanting to race ovals in 2022, where did this leave Kanaan?

One more shot.

He’d finish third in last year’s Indy 500 and made the decision that he wasn’t ready to call it quits. However, where could he land.

McLaren wanted to expand and Kanaan was the perfect fit.

“To win the 500. Very simple,” Kanaan said on what Zak Brown asked him to do when he hired the popular Brazilian driver.

Can Rahal Win?

“Make no mistake, this is Stef’s ride, and I’m happy to fill in.” Graham Rahal said on Tuesday morning as he was announced to be replacing the injured Stefan Wilson in Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

“Sometimes weird things happen in this world. We’re fortunate to be here.”

Following his incident during Monday’s practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Katherine Legge, Wilson was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital for further tests. It was then that it was disclosed that Wilson suffered a fracture of the 12th thoracic vertebrae and will stay overnight at the hospital for further tests and observation.

Based on this type of injury, Wilson was not cleared to race.

So, some may wonder now, how did this work out to get Rahal?

First off, Rahal and Wilson have a great connection and friendship already. Rahal and Justin Wilson, Stef’s brother, were teammates at Newman Haas Racing. That blossomed into a relationship with Stef too and they’ve remained close.

Both drivers are also pretty similar in stature too, so not many changes in the car may need to be made. Thirdly, Rahal and DRR have a past history together too.

Graham drove for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at Iowa Speedway in 2010 to ninth place. Rahal’s partners.

The main holdup was Rahal is a Honda driver for a Honda team. DRR is a Chevrolet team. That didn’t pose to be too much of a holdup. Honda obliged to allow this to happen and Rahal was easily chosen to be the 33rd driver in.

“I must say, Dennis mentioned Chevy, and equally so Honda, for allowing me to do this,” Rahal noted on Tuesday morning. “I think I told Dennis when he called me, I said, I’m not really sure I want to waste your time. I’ve spent my entire career in a Honda. I’ve never driven anything other than that. I’m not really sure that we’ll be able to get the releases in place to be able to make this happen.

“They really came together, two manufacturers, to allow this to take place, to allow us to go race on Sunday, and hopefully get this car moving towards the front and have a really, really strong run.

“Because again, while I was very appreciative, I knew the hurdles were going to be massive. This wasn’t just as easy as saying yes.

“You know, I think we both, last night we were sitting there at about 10:30 and going, I can’t believe this actually happened, that both Honda and Chevy allowed this to happen. So we’re very, very appreciative of that.

“Frankly, that would be a better question for Dennis and Dad to answer than me because I knew that the challenges were far greater than me, and I needed to step aside because contractually I don’t know what all is said between RLL and Honda, RLL and our partners. But I know that this guy here to my right is a high-class individual, and I know he and dad spoke and worked things out right away.

“I’m surprised, but it was certainly exciting for me to hear late last night that we were going to be able to make this happen.”

Another big thing is Rahal has sponsorship he can bring. Hunter-Reay’s car has no funding. By Cusick and their sponsors already on the 24 car and Rahal bringing over what he has, it helps alleviate the financial impact as well.

With a substitution, the car will have to drop to 33rd (Outside of Row 11) at the start but can still race. Rahal notes that he’ll be back there with his original teammates as Katherine Legge starts 30th, Christian Lundgaard in 31st and Jack Harvey in 32nd. He’s 33rd.

The other attractive aspect to have Rahal in the car is the fact that they don’t need to do a special practice session now either.

According to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES rulebook, rule 4.3.3, it states:

“Provided INDYCAR approves the substitution, and the change takes place prior to the parade and pace laps, the original Driver entered for the Race may be substituted by:

“Oval Events – Another approved Driver who has already participated in practice, or a special session for the current Event.”

If it’s another driver that hasn’t raced on an oval since last year’s Indy 500, then they’d have to find time to do a refresher before Carb Day.

The refresher consists of two phases.

Here’s the rule:

“If a Driver has not participated in an oval Event in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since the prior year’s
Indianapolis 500® Mile Race, INDYCAR will determine if any additional testing shall be required. In addition to Car control, placement and interaction with other Cars on-Track to the satisfaction of INDYCAR, the refresher test consists of the 30 laps that make up the second and third phases of the ROP. No such Driver will be eligible for a Qualifications attempt prior to completing the refresher test.

“Phase 2 requires a driver to complete 15 more laps at speeds between 210-215 mph. The final stage, Phase 3, requires a driver to complete 15 laps at speeds over 215 mph.”

They no longer has to do that.

Now, what can Rahal do in this ride? I think he can still have an impact here.

“I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t think we could win,” Rahal said.

It’s a wild scenario that’s similar to 1987. Al Unser Sr. didn’t have a ride that year. Danny Ongais was concussed in a practice crash. Penske called Unser back to see if he could fill in.

The thing is, they didn’t have a car. Their primary was crashed. So, Penske brought the back-up car over from a hotel lobby in Reading, Pennsylvania that’s purpose was to be a show car.

Unser became the second four-time winner that year.

That came a year after Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indy 500.

Also, there’s this. In 1992 Scott Goodyear and his Walker Racing teammate of Mike Groff swapped rides. Goodyear was the full-time driver and in the 1992 chassis. Groff was a part-timer and in the 1991 chassis. They swapped cars in order to take advantage of a favorable qualifying day.

It didn’t work.

Groff made the race qualifying in 26th, Goodyear was bumped. Goodyear got his car back and replaced Groff for that year’s race. He had to start last.

Wilson qualified the No. 24 Chevrolet that Rahal will now drive in 25th. Groff qualified the car Goodyear took over in 26th.

Goodyear came from last to finish second in one of the closest finishes in Indy 500 history. Does Rahal have it in him?

Indy chooses it’s winners…

Ganassi Cars Still Strong And Have All The Stories

Monday was the first time all month that a Chip Ganassi Racing car wasn’t leading the end of day speed charts. Still, they had 3 of the top four and look to be equally as strong now that we enter race week.

Last week, Ganassi went 1-2-4-7 on opening day. On Thursday, they went 1-2-7-9. On Fast Friday, they went 1-4-10-14 but 1-2 on the four-lap average chart. For qualifying, they put all four cars into the Shootout with qualifying 1-6-8-10.

“I think last year we were super good all practice, the whole week as well,” said Ericsson. “I think we are as good this year for sure.

“I think the team has done a really good job of trying to improve the package that we already had last year very strong. I definitely feel we’re in a very, very good spot.

“We feel strong. We feel better than last year, and last year we were pretty good.

“We feel better. We worked hard in the winter already to improve on a strong package. Testing is testing, it’s hard to make conclusions. But of course we feel we’re going to be fighting up front. From what we’ve seen so far, we should be up there.

“We don’t want to underestimate our competition because there’s a lot of good teams that work really hard to improve. We can’t underestimate that challenge going into this weekend and the next one.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing camp has all the stories. Can Ericsson become the first driver to go back-to-back since Helio Castroneves in 2001-2002? Can Alex Palou pull off the IMS sweep? GMR Grand Prix win, Indy 500 pole win, Indy 500 win?

Can Takuma Sato win his third ‘500 with his third team? Can Scott Dixon earn his second Indy 500 crown?

Pato O’Ward said that he expected the Chip Ganassi Racing cars were going to be the ones that everyone was going to be chasing again.

“Obviously last year the Ganassi’s were the different benchmark. They’re the ones that we’re chasing,” said last year’s runner-up finisher, Pato O’Ward.

So far, he looks to be right.

The drivers have all made mention that the Ganassi camp seems untouchable right now, but a lot can still obviously change.

In 2020, they led 119 of 200 laps. In 2021, they had 4 of the top 9 starters including 2 more on the front row with leading 42 of 200 laps and having 3 finishers in the top 11 including a runner-up. They didn’t have a win in either race.

Last year, they led 163 of 200 laps (82%).

That’s 324 of 600 (54%) of the overall laps led in the Aeroscreen era and already this month leading the charge. However, with all those laps led, they do have just one win in this span.

Indianapolis is a hard place to win. It picks its winners. It’s why there’s no reason to give up and hand the Borg Warner over to Ganassi…yet.

A lot can happen over the course of a 500 mile race. A bad pit stop. A badly timed caution. A speeding penalty. You can be good for 199 laps, but not the one that matters.

Right now, Ganassi are the favorites, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much at this point either.

For Sato, he joins Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2023 Indy 500. Sato could enter rare air with an Indy 500 win in May. He’s drank the milk twice after an Indy 500 triumph. He’s actively searching for a 3rd opportunity at doing so.

10 drivers have won this race 3 or more times with only 4 of the 10 having won this prestigious event a record setting four times. Sato can become the 11th in May.

What’s even more rare about this is, if he win, this would mark the third team he’s won Indy with. Only three drivers (Al Unser, Bobby Unser and AJ Foyt) have accomplished that feat. 2 of the 3 are in the 4-win club.

Sato has won this race in three-year increments too. 2017, 2020…2023?

Being a part-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver is tough enough. Doing so at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is another story. The 2021 race was the 1st time in 10 years since we last saw a part time driver actually win the Indianapolis 500. Dan Wheldon did so in thrilling fashion that day in 2011 which came 10 years prior to Helio Castroneves joining the 4-win club a couple of years ago now. Wheldon’s win came 10 years after the last in which Castroneves did it in 2001 too. Now, can one of the talented drivers on this list do so this year?

“You definitely don’t have the momentum or rhythm,” Takuma Sato told me on Wednesday morning in the shadows of the victory podium of being a part-time driver this year.

Does Sato get to put his input, as a two-time Indy 500 champion, or does he have to adapt to Ganassi’s style who’s dominated the last three years overall? Ganassi drivers combined to lead 163 of 200 laps (82%) last year.

“Definitely both ways,’” he told me on that subject. “They’re certainly an organization that I never seen that kind of a scale and resource. Definitely, that was impressive. But not only for that the even finding when they’re small bits and pieces on the detail that a small team I’ve been to that even if I can ask, they didn’t have.

“So I brought some and I learned so much from the team. Just can’t wait can’t wait.”

He has three top three finishes in the last six years here and knows even though he doesn’t want to slow down, his years coming are slowing down. The oldest driver to ever win this race is Al Unser at 47. Sato is 46.

For Dixon, he 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, second place on the all-time poles list (he has 5, Rick Mears has 6), he still sits here with just one lone Indy 500 victory (2008) in 20 tries.

He was fourth on the overall speed chart in 2021. He was in that exact same spot in 2022. He won the pole both years. As luck would have it, he was fourth on the open test speed chart last month.

Will that equate out to an Indy 500 win?

He says it’s hard telling. There’s so many different testing plans and aero configurations that everyone kind of has their own plans and works as their own pace.

“I don’t know I think the biggest thing is to get through the new aero pieces,” Dixon said on if you can take anything away from the test in regards to May. “Just kind of tick all the boxes on that side of things. We’ve got our own test plan, test bench, dampers, all that kind of stuff that we kind of need to get some matrices done on those. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of it’s an interesting day just because of the winds. So some of the stuff will be a little bit tough, especially this afternoon, but as always, it’s great to be back here and I could be wrong in some ways.”

I mean think about it, the car hasn’t changed much. The personnel mostly remains the same and if they change teams, they take secrets with them. That makes what Ganassi is doing even more impressive that they can remain on top with all these factors.

“Yeah, it’s a team effort,” Dixon told me. “You know, it’s every kind of department I think trying to get the most out of it our kind of our engineering group during a lot of homework in the offseason. Plus the addition you know, with your partners, right, you know, how do I know I’ve been digging real deep for qualifier speed, but also race, speed, drivability, all kinds of those things. “So you know, it’s never again, it’s never going to be 1,2,3,4 or five big things. It’s going to be hundreds of small things. And I think you know, this team last year the year before that, does that really well so you know, I know they haven’t made up so hopefully we can continue to have some great success here.”

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.

Last 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.

Can Dixon finally pick up a second Indy 500 win?

He starts sixth.

Josef Newgarden during Thursday’s Indy 500 open test. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Can Team Penske Finally Get Another Indy 500 Win

Roger Penske bought the Speedway in late 2019 and turned the ultimate flex up to a whole new level. See, his parking space is located just outside of the media center in the shadows of the pagoda. Everyone else’s space is known through initials. Mark Miles’ is MM. Doug Boles’ is DB. Penske’s? It’s 18. Not RP. The 18 stands for Indy 500 victories.

At the time, he had won two straight Indy 500’s. A third seemed likely in the very near future. But, as we sit here today, he’s 0-for-3 and surprisingly hasn’t even been close. He’s 0-for-4 in the GMR Grand Prix too.

Heading into last year’s Month of May, Team Penske was off to a successful start to the 2022 season and everyone was talking about them being the ones to win last 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 were once again, nowhere to really be found in Indy.

That included another winless Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

They failed to lead a single lap a year ago here 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).

Penske qualified 13-22-25-28 in 2020, finished 5-11-14-22. They’d lead a grand total of 16 laps that day. A year later, they’d qualify 17-21-26-32 and finish 3-12-20-30 with just 3 laps led all day.

This was going to be their year right? They looked vastly improved during the week of practice and had all three cars in the top 12 of the four-lap average report from Fast Friday including 3rd and 4th respectively.

However, they once again only got one car through to the Fast 12 Shootout and that’s Will Power taking the 12th and final spot. Scott McLaughlin (232.677 mph) starts in the Middle of Row 5 (14th) and Josef Newgarden (232.402 mph) will roll off in the Middle of Row 6 (17th).

McLaren meanwhile, put two of their three cars to the Shootout last year and finished 2-4-11. All three ahead of the top finishing Penske.

On Saturday, McLaren had all four cars in the Shootout while Penske has one. Has McLaren passed Penske in the pecking order among the Chevrolet camp?

“I think there’s no doubt that they’ve done a tremendous job,” Josef Newgarden told me. “They’ve just excelled. We fell short today. There’s no hiding it. We did not do a good enough job. I can’t speak highly enough about Chevrolet. I think they’ve been tremendous this whole season, particularly tremendous today.

“You can see that by evidence of everybody that was up there. We weren’t missing anything from that side. They’ve been a great partner for us.

“We seem to be able to figure out most situations, but for whatever reason this cruel mistress, she’s just tricking us. I don’t understand how so. I think all of us don’t fully understand it.

“You don’t stop working. I think for us, we’ve just got to continue to put in the work and not have an ego about it. We weren’t good enough, let’s figure out why. Indy is not easy. This is not an easy place to just succeed. I don’t care how many Indy 500s you have, what team you are, there are no guarantees when you show up here.

“We don’t have an ego about it. We have to work hard, come back, do a better job.”

Newgarden says that they’ve not left a single stone unturned in the fight back to the top at Indy.

“Look, there’s no place to hide,” he says. “We’re just not fast enough. We really weren’t. It’s unfortunate. I feel terrible for our team because I’m front and center of being able to witness the amount of effort that has gone into this place. It is just not from a shortage of effort.

“We’re obviously just missing something else. I don’t know how we’re missing it. We’ve worked hard, all of us collectively. We’ve tried to have no ego about it. It’s just not enough.

“I think we’re still short. Unfortunately the weird thing was I think we were more in the mix yesterday. I think the wind plays a big factor into that. Maybe we’re missing something in these type of conditions that we saw today.

“Any way you want to slice it, we just weren’t good enough. We’ve got to go back and really assess again. Unfortunately we’ve been doing that every single year here. What’s most important now is we’re going to focus on the race. I do believe with how tight the field is, as Tony talked about, there’s opportunity anywhere. If you qualify for the race, there’s opportunity anywhere to win this event. We have to put our focus to that now and be able to collect ourselves after the 500 and see what we can do better. I have strong confidence we have great race cars and can be in the fight on Sunday.”

Newgarden has won everything but this race. The 26-race winner in INDYCAR competition is 0-for-11 in this race with just five total Top-10 finishes in it. 3 of those 5 top 10 results were in the top 5 however, but Newgarden has yet to drink the milk here.

Power is one that has won the race (2018).

Scott McLaughlin is the relative newbie. He’s only 0-for-2 here but is eyeing his first top 10 on the 2.5-mile oval. He was 10th in the test.

“There’s always room to grow,” McLaughlin said. “It’s been an up-and-down few years, but obviously last year was fantastic in terms of my development, and then this year having a win already before coming to Indy is a nice feeling.

“But as the guys have said, I think as a team, I think we’ve really worked together well between the three drivers, between the engineers, between everybody that’s behind the scenes and put in the hard work to make sure we get speed.

“But also, it’s not just here. It’s all the other tracks, as well. I think we’ve really worked together and the camaraderie in the team has been great.

“From a personal perspective, there’s always times where I can find a bit more of myself, and I’ll continue chipping away at that. New stuff will pop up every year, doesn’t matter if it’s third, fourth or the tenth year.

“I feel like I’m in a good place right now, feel comfortable in the car, feel comfortable here at this place, and hopefully that bodes well for the rest of the month.”

They come to the Indy 500 reeling off of a disappointing GMR Grand Prix which saw them qualify 12th, 13th and 16th and have just one car even finish in the top 10. That comes after winning 2 of the previous 3 races and having 2 of the 3 podium finishers in the race prior at Barber.

Alexander Rossi is all smiles on pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

McLaren’s Year?

The last non Penske Chevrolet team to win at Indy was in 1992 with Galles and Al Unser Jr. Also, Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport have combined to have won every NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship since 2003. The trio have also won 14 of the last 18 Indy 500’s and 18 of the last 23 (since 2000). RLL is the outlier who took two of the top three spots in 2020 and have won 2 of the 5 that the “Big 3” didn’t since 2000. Plus, the last non Penske Chevrolet driver to win at Indy was Al Unser Jr. with Galles in 1992. Meyer Shank Racing won in 2021 with Helio Castroneves and now that they have Simon Pagenaud in their organization for a second straight year, they boast two of the last four Indy 500 winners.

So, who comes out on top on Sunday?

The best Penske qualifier is 12th. The best Andretti is 15th.

Can McLaren capitalize on Sunday? They have all four cars coming from the top nine and enter having put all three full-time cars in the top five of the GMR Grand Prix including a podium finish for 2 of them.

McLaren has the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and now 5th place finishers from last year’s race.

“I think it’s still a pretty big day for us,” Rosenqvist said. “I mean, we’ve been good here the last couple years. Today to have all the cars in the top eight, in this competition, it’s really hard. We saw with Tony today, even if he’s doing a perfect job, still things that can outside factors that can play in, it can become really difficult in this field.

“Super proud of the whole team for executing. That last run we did was just phenomenal. Almost in a 234 average. That was pretty mind-blowing how we found so much speed. We weren’t super happy on our first run, so we had two or three reasons to think we were going to go quicker. We kind of put them all together, wow, what a run.

“Team Chevy as well, great job. Yeah, just a fun time to be in Arrow McLaren right now. Everything kind of resets for tomorrow, but we definitely feeling good right now.”

Santino Ferrucci practices his No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Can AJ Foyt Racing Return To Victory Lane at Indy For 1st Time Since 1999?

Arrow McLaren Racing had all four cars in the Fast 12 Shootout. Chip Ganassi Racing also had all four of their cars in it too. Ed Carpenter Racing is back in the Shootout for the 11th straight year. Team Penske has Will Power. The final two spots?

Both to AJ Foyt Racing.

Santino Ferrucci qualified late in the opening line on Saturday with a four-lap average of 233.147 mph. That was solidly in. So was rookie teammate Benjamin Pedersen who went 232.739 mph as the 11th qualifier of the day. That stood the test of time and advanced both to Sunday’s Shootout.

“Yeah, I think it’s a pretty impressive feat for the team,” Ferrucci said. “To see the 14 up the front, my teammate right there as well who went earlier in the day, it’s been pretty awesome. To see us up there is pretty sick, man.”

In Pedersen’s case, his time is the second fastest ever for a rookie here.

On Sunday, Ferrucci put down the second fastest time (233.911 mph) in the Fast 12 Shootout. Pedersen was 232.671 mph which was good enough for 11th. Ferrucci would go 233.661 mph as the second to last qualifier in the Fast Six to qualify on the Inside of Row 2 in fourth.

As a result, Foyt cars remarkably outqualified all three Penske’s this weekend. The Foyt cars start P4-P11 while Penske will be P12-P14-P17.

“We fell short today,” Josef Newgarden told me yesterday. “There’s no hiding it. We did not do a good enough job. I can’t speak highly enough about Chevrolet. I think they’ve been tremendous this whole season, particularly tremendous today.

“You can see that by evidence of everybody that was up there. We weren’t missing anything from that side. They’ve been a great partner for us.

“We seem to be able to figure out most situations, but for whatever reason this cruel mistress, she’s just tricking us. I don’t understand how so. I think all of us don’t fully understand it.

“You don’t stop working. I think for us, we’ve just got to continue to put in the work and not have an ego about it. We weren’t good enough, let’s figure out why. Indy is not easy. This is not an easy place to just succeed. I don’t care how many Indy 500s you have, what team you are, there are no guarantees when you show up here.

“We don’t have an ego about it. We have to work hard, come back, do a better job.”

Newgarden says that they’ve not left a single stone unturned in the fight back to the top at Indy.

“Look, there’s no place to hide,” he says. “We’re just not fast enough. We really weren’t. It’s unfortunate. I feel terrible for our team because I’m front and center of being able to witness the amount of effort that has gone into this place. It is just not from a shortage of effort.

“We’re obviously just missing something else. I don’t know how we’re missing it. We’ve worked hard, all of us collectively. We’ve tried to have no ego about it. It’s just not enough.

“I think we’re still short. Unfortunately the weird thing was I think we were more in the mix yesterday. I think the wind plays a big factor into that. Maybe we’re missing something in these type of conditions that we saw today.

“Any way you want to slice it, we just weren’t good enough. We’ve got to go back and really assess again. Unfortunately we’ve been doing that every single year here. What’s most important now is we’re going to focus on the race. I do believe with how tight the field is, as Tony talked about, there’s opportunity anywhere. If you qualify for the race, there’s opportunity anywhere to win this event. We have to put our focus to that now and be able to collect ourselves after the 500 and see what we can do better. I have strong confidence we have great race cars and can be in the fight on Sunday.”

What’s shocking enough, for Ferrucci, it’s impressive that he was in the Shootout that in a sense for what he told me on Tuesday regarding him hating qualifying here.

“I’ve always hated qualifying,” Ferrucci admitted. “I was shaking after my first qualifying run. I was happy it was done. So I just I don’t know. It doesn’t matter me I’ve just I’ve never started well here. I’ve never qualified well here I’ve got a 23rd to 19th and a 15th in qualifying and all the top 10 finishes so yes, I would much rather start on the outside row five or six then have to manage being upfront. When we got up from the Dryer car, started 15th last year and we stayed up front all day till the very end, so it’s one of those things where we can definitely do it. My focus is always race car.

“I’m not afraid to pass people I’m not afraid to you know, be on the limits in the pits.”

Closing on race day is something he has almost always done. He went from 23rd to 7th as a rookie. A year later, he improved from 19th to 4th. In 2021, he qualified 23rd but finished sixth. Last year, he was running as high as fourth twice in the race and as late as Lap 158 but ended up 10th when it was all said and done.

What happens now that we know that he only has three cars in front of him on Sunday.

“I’m still never a fan of qualifying,” he admitted even after the fact that he’s in the Shootout. “I’m a racer through and through. Getting these four laps out of the way was amazing for us and the team to be as fast as we are. It’s incredible, a major feat. To have to go out and do it again tomorrow against once again the same super competitive top 12, obviously it’s something that I’m looking forward to as a team because it’s something new for everybody.

“Personally as a driver, yeah, it’s definitely something I’m happy to check off the list, happy I don’t have to pass as many cars come Sunday. But, yeah, I’m more looking forward to the race than anything else.”

What’s scary to the field is, Ferrucci admits that his actual “race” car is better than this qualifying setup.

 “I actually feel a lot more comfortable in the race car than I have been in the qualifying car. To be in the Fast 12 and have a shot at pole tomorrow I think is huge.

“Our car definitely has some more in it. It’s getting really tight up top there. Inches are going to make the difference. I’m excited to see what we can do tomorrow.”

Ferrucci also notes this year he can get back to taking more risks as a full-time driver. Last year with DRR, it was just a one-race deal. He babied the car because of that. This year, this is his ride and his ride only. He’s going to go back to the old Ferrucci approach of being overly aggressive.

“You know, last year the team did really save me a bit,” he said. “I didn’t have the greatest restarts which is kind of unusual. I was definitely taking more of a step back being on a you know, just a one ride time to deal because I really needed to finish. So, this year you know I can go a little bit more out ahead of my skis per se and really be aggressive but also just being comfortable. So starting in the back for me people make mistakes trying to push the frontier early and I just you know I’m more of the last 75 laps kind of guy.”

That’s music to the ears of his boss, AJ Foyt.

Ferrucci is just a younger version of AJ Foyt. Brash. Doesn’t care what people think about him. Fast. Races anything. Makes everything that he does race in competitive. He’s raced sprints, he’s raced midgets, he’s raced an INDYCAR a NASCAR, you name it. He also likes to work on his own cars just as his new boss.

Foyt sees a lot of himself in this young racer too and now the 24-year-old is back in Indy Car with a potential to bring AJ Foyt Racing back from the ashes and into the national limelight again.

Ferrucci lives in Texas. That’s where Foyt lives. That’s where this 14 car resides. Ferrucci’s lucky number?


Ferrucci’s favorite driver he idolized growing up?

Tony Stewart.

Now, he’s in the 14 car at Indy.

“Yeah, it’s cool. I mean, I idolized Tony (Stewart) growing up,” Ferrucci says of driving the 14 car here this month. AJ is a bit before my time so it’s kind of cool to see it come full circle and I’m really good buddies with Chase Briscoe who’s also in the 14 car in NASCAR. So for us, it’s kind of cool, at least for me. It’s really cool.

“I saw Tony, actually right after I had signed with AJ. And he was really happy and I was really happy . Yeah, it’s definitely a full circle aha moment for me in my lifetime but ya know, I’m it’s I definitely want to get that that sixth win for him and my first in this in this car be so freakin special.”

The last two years, he’s done so in a part-time role. Now, he’s racing all the races in a season again.

“It’s definitely less stressful,” Ferrucci told me on Tuesday morning of opening day for 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 practice. “Put it this way, you know, the checks consistent.”

Ferrucci this year joins AJ Foyt Racing. That comes after running for Dale Coyne Racing in 2019, then shifting to the Coyne with Vasser Sullivan entry in 2020, then over to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in their third car for 2021 and finally with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing last year. The last two years were one-off efforts. Ferrucci says that being with Foyt is more a work in progress feel in comparison to the past.

“It’s a lot of work,” he told me. “It’s a lot of work, you know, and I really like that, because, you know, going back with our RLL car, you know, the car was really good. All I really had to do every weekend was show up and finish in the top 10. Nothing to it. But here, you know, it’s continuous work, you know, trying to figure out where to go with the dampers, what to do with the car, how to, you know, roll everything into the weekend with the team because we’ve started every weekend, a couple of seconds off the pace, and we managed to get it within a couple of times. I mean, the GP was no different. We started in no man’s land and by the time we did race day, minus the hiccup we were running 13th from dead last so you know, we are finding the speed. We’re hoping that the GP for us was kind of our tipping point of you know rolling out of the trailer better a lot easier.”

No More Double Points

For the first time since the 2013 season, the Indianapolis 500 will pay the same amount of points as the rest of the races on the schedule. The NTT INDYCAR Series issued a release this past February confirming the news.

The series first adopted the move to a double points race for 2014. It was initially slated for the three 500-mile races run that season (Indianapolis, Pocono, Fontana). A year later, that was dropped in favor of double points for just the Indy 500 as well as the season finale.

That lasted through 2019. With a change in stewardship between the Hulman George Family to Roger Penske, the double points model was scrapped for the season finale but left alone for Indy.

That drew the ire of drivers and teams. Most favored a move away from double points for any race all together. Now, the move was finally made.

I get both sides of the coin here in a reason for it and against it. The race is the biggest of the season and should reward more points and money. Why not have this race stand out above the rest? It’s not just another race on the schedule. It’s bigger than that.

So, it should award double points.

Some drivers say, no. Will Power last year that he was strongly against it saying that the race should be double purse instead of double points. He says the intensity of winning this race wouldn’t matter if you gave 0 points.

However, I can put that quarter and rest it on my thumb and flick it over to the other side and say that it doesn’t merit double points too. Does the Daytona 500 or Monaco Grand Prix award more points than the other races on the NASCAR and F1 schedules respectively? Does the Super Bowl double points scored for touchdowns and field goals?

The problem with double points for Indy is two-fold. One-offs can steal some valuable points from full time entries. Also, it can hide the fact that someone had a bad season but got a top three or four at Indy can nullify some bad results later and keep them in the title race longer. It works reverse to someone who maybe had a heck of a season but didn’t get a top 10 or dare I say top 15 at Indy and cost them valuable points to a championship rival that did.

Indy essentially counts for two races and if you have a bad result, it can make or break your championship hopes down the road. Is that fair?

That’s why I see this on both sides and can see why it’s a debate. For fans, it absolutely adds to the intensity and pressure. That’s a win. For teams though, this race they already want to win at the most, do they need added pressure?

The other part is that we’ve not seen a driver win the championship and the Indy 500 in the same season since 2010. It’s only happened 5 times since the 1996 split at that. So, while winning the Indy 500 with double points now is great, it doesn’t mean a guaranteed title either. No driver has won Indy with double points and won the title in the same year.

“I think it’s good we’ve dropped the double points in the finale,” Newgarden said last year. “I was never a fan of that, and I’m still not quite a fan of the double points at Indy. But like I said, we know the rules, we know the landscape going in, so I don’t think we can fall back on that. It would be an endless discussion of saying if this went different or that went different, I could go down the road and cite a lot of examples, but we always end up where we are, and unfortunately, we’re a little bit short this year.”

Feel Good Stories

The storylines are insurmountable. Just look at Row 10. Callum Ilott’s car wasn’t even put together 24 hours before he qualified. RC Enerson and Able Motorsports weren’t even an NTT INDYCAR SERIES team five day before either. Katherine Legge is the only female qualifier in the field.

Thing about that.

Ilott was a rookie last year, but witnessed what Indy is all about as a sophomore this week. It’s been a miserable visit to Indianapolis for him with being terrible in the test back in April, slowest on Opening Day (34th out of 34), 32nd quickest on Thursday and last again on Fast Friday.

The same problems from April’s test followed his No. 77 Dallara-Chevrolet over to May. The car just wouldn’t go straight. It was sketchy. With it feeling this way on Friday, they decided enough was enough. Might as well change cars.

Some pondered if it was far too late. Why not swap them out earlier? Well, you can’t turn back time and if they went forward with the car that they had, they’d be the one looking on the outside in on Sunday night.

The team only turned 31 laps in the test, 80 laps on Opening Day, 71 laps on Thursday and seven laps on Friday. That’s 189 total laps and 3 mph from the next closest car.

“Last year was the first experience for me at the 500. There was no Bump Day. It was quite an easy process. Made life a lot more relaxing,” said Ilott.

“48 hours ago, I even put bets that I wasn’t going to make the race basically because you just knew it wasn’t going well. At that point then it becomes a pit of a panic, desperation. For sure for me, I was probably the first to be quite desperate as soon as I drove the car on Wednesday. But we had time to work with it.

“Coming into today, I was really confident. Honestly I just knew if we just got a clear couple of runs, the car had pace.”

They remarkably changed the car overnight and were ready for the morning practice session. The best four-lap average they could do was 224 mph.

Ilott went out early and wasn’t fast enough. He was only 227.720 mph on his first run. That was bumped. He went out again. They jumped nearly four mph over the course of four laps in qualifying with a four-lap average of 231.182 mph.

The speed put him 27th and he’d only lose one more spot the rest of the way and will start next Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 28th.

“I don’t know where to start with that. It’s been a tough week, a tough month actually from the open test,” Ilott said. “We changed chassis middle of yesterday. I was kind of given an almost impossible task from what some people said. Just tried to keep the confidence high.

“The first run wasn’t great. I don’t think my engineers would even look at the video because they were scared to watch it. We just managed to turn the car around into something that was fast, managed to scrape four laps out of it.

“So yeah, super special. In some ways it’s kind of one of those never-give-up situations, prove people wrong on that side. At the end of the day kind of feels like a win even though you’re 27th or something. That’s life sometimes.”

For Enerson, they just stuck to their own pace all week. They didn’t take part in April’s open test, was 30th, 28th and 33rd on the speed charts this week and had 4-lap average from Friday which was good enough for 33rd. Enerson only had to qualify once on Saturday. He went 231.129 mph in his No. 50 Dallara-Chevrolet. He now knows that he’ll be starting on the Middle of Row 10 on Sunday.

For Legge, what an emotional roller coaster she was on. Her four-lap average of 231.070 mph seemed good early. Then drivers behind her started getting bumped one after another.

First Ilott (227.720), then Graham Rahal (228.526 mph), then Sting Ray Robb (229.955 mph), then Jack Harvey (230.098 mph), Helio Castroneves went faster, then Christian Lundgaard (230.522 mph) and finally David Malukas (230.779 mph) were all bumped out.

Lundgaard was back in but only at 230.859 mph. Legge was back to 29th. With 13 minutes left in the day, David Malukas bumped his way back in convincingly at 231.070 mph. Legge was down to the bump spot.

Rahal, Robb and Lundgaard each had another shot. Rahal was waved off. Robb was waved off. Lundgaard was the last driver as the gun went off after his opening lap. It wasn’t good enough. Second lap wasn’t either. Legge was safe.

For the first time since 2021 we have a female in the Indy 500. For the first time since 2013, Legge is in it.

Then you have Sting Ray Robb squeaking his way in. Yes that’s his name. Agustin Canapino from Argentina. Benjamin Pedersen with Foyt.

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