Is Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 a battle of Ganassi vs. McLaren?

INDIANAPOLIS — 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. Eight of the top 10 drivers in the starting lineup all belong to Ganassi and McLaren. Is this their race to lose?

Most of the drivers in the field seem to think so.

Still, it’s no secret that the top two choices have to be Palou from Ganassi and Pato O’Ward from McLaren. They’re the last two runner-up finishers here, Palou in 2021 and O’Ward last year. They just went 1-2 in the GMR Grand Prix and O’Ward has finished runner-up three times this season alone.

O’Ward has 12 top four finishes in 16 oval starts and a top 10 in all three Indy 500 tries. He went from sixth to fourth to second to…first?

Seems legit.

The thing is, Indy is usually dominated by veterans. Since 2009 (14 races), all but one of them were won by a driver in his 30’s.

The average age of an Indy race winner in this span is 36. Palou is 26. The last driver to win at 26 years-old was Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. Dan Wheldon did it in 2005. Helio Castroneves scored his first win in 2001 at the same age. Same for AJ Foyt (1961) and George Souders (1927).

O’Ward is 24. A 24-year-old only won this race four times, the last being Alexander Rossi in 2016. Billy Arnold (1930), Jacques Villeneuve (1995) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) are the others.

Can either buck the trend?

Ganassi went 1-2 in all but one practice session this month with Scott Dixon being second in all but one of them and Sato leading three himself. Palou was fourth best in all but one race practice session as well.

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