The NTT IndyCar Series has conducted five races to date: two on permanent road courses, one street/airport course and an oval-track doubleheader. The results show a level of parity unseen in most high-level open-wheel series: five different winners from four diverse teams.
Spaniard Alex Palou earned his first INDYCAR win at Barber Motorsports Park for Chip Ganassi Racing, Colton Herta took the double checkers with Andretti Autosport at St. Petersburg, six-time champ Scott Dixon won the first race on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval with Chip Ganassi Racing, Pato O’Ward broke through for his first INDYCAR win in the second Texas race for Arrow McLaren SP and, to start Indianapolis’ month of May handily, Rinus Veekay earned his first INDYCAR victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. Three of those five are first-time winners in the series.
It’s definitely been an exciting and inviting start to the season, and now the biggest race of the year is on tap: the 105th Indianapolis 500 takes place on May 30th on the historic Brickyard oval. Teams are, of course, already settled in to their garages at Indy and turning cars from road-racing rockets to propellants that will tackle the 2.5-mile nearly flat oval starting with Tuesday’s practice. There are 35 entries for 33 spots on the 11 rows of race starters, which connotes the importance of this week’s practices and qualifying sessions: they’re essential to garner success in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The entry list for this 105th race is quite interesting, with a total of nine former winners vying to take the green flags the day before Memorial Day. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves is assigned to Meyer Shank Racing, his first time not competing here with Team Penske since the turn of the century. Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon is still hankering for his second Baby Borg with Chip Ganassi Racing after winning in 2008, while Aussie Will Power is hoping to take a second trophy for Team Penske.
Simon Pagenaud won in 2019 for Team Penske while Alexander Rossi, in his rookie year, earned the victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016. He and his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, are both hoping for a second Indy 500 win. Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s two-time and defending winner is entered in his familiar No. 30, joined by Tony Kanaan in the No. 48 for Chip Ganassi Racing – standing in for road/street contestant Jimmie Johnson, while Juan Pablo Montoya, a two-time winner is racing for Arrow McLaren SP a second time this month.
There is a robust rookie class, led by Kiwi Scott McLaughlin, the fourth Team Penske entry, who showed his oval chops with a second-place result on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month. He’s joined by Pietro Fittipaldi, driving the No. 51 in place of fellow rookie and oval novice Romain Grosjean, who has hinted he’d like to try an oval – at some point. No doubt Grosjean was amplified by his second-place result this past weekend in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A late entry for RC Enerson with new team Top Gun Racing, is what brought the entry list to a bumpable 35 Dallara cars. Speaking of new teams, look for the No. 16 of Simona de Silvestro, who is racing for Beth Paretta-owned Paretta Autosport, with technical support from Team Penske.
The entry list includes 18 Chevrolet-powered entries, looking to stop Honda’s 17 cars from taking the final two spots in the field as well as the race-closing checkered flags. Every car uses the fourth-generation Dallara chassis once known by the code DW12 in honor of the 2005 and 2011 winner, the late Dan Wheldon. It’s now referred to as the IR12 and has universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork that includes the aero screen covering much of the cockpit area.
Every garage area at Indianapolis will have its eyes trained to the skies over the next couple of weeks, as the central area of the United States has been known to invite weather adjustments – particularly in the month of May. At this point in time, qualifying looks good for Saturday and Sunday of this week, but it’s unclear whether the now-predicted scattered thunderstorms and showers for Memorial Day weekend will occur. The saying “It’s raining in Terre Haute,” due west of the city, is a familiar one, but hopefully won’t be used at any time for the race. To make the 500 an official race, at least 100 laps need to be run. Hopefully, they’ll all occur on Sunday, May 30th.