Indianapolis 500 Practice Gets Off To A Soggy Non-Start

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 17 2023

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson is looking to go back to back at Indy this month. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

First scheduled practice for the 107th edition of the Indianapolis 500 was washed-out Tuesday by intermittent showers, the downtime at Indianapolis Motor Speedway adding another layer of urgency for 34 drivers set to compete for 33 starting positions.

Nine former winners _ including reigning champion Marcus Ericsson and four-time winner Helio Castroneves _ will attempt to get up to speed around the famed 2.5-mile oval today beginning at 10 a.m. (EDT). Five minutes of installation laps for all cars will be followed by a Rookie Orientation Program for driver R.C. Enerson from 10:15 a.m. to noon. Practice for all cars will run from noon to 6 p.m.

Sweden’s Ericsson delivered a workmanlike performance for Chip Ganassi Racing last May while holding off a late charge by native Mexican Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren to claim his first 500 victory and fifth event win for Ganassi as a sole team-owner.

“The Month of May is here and I can’t wait for everything, honestly,” said Ericsson, 32. “It’s going to be amazing and I’m looking forward to be here competing as the defending champion. It’s an exciting month ahead. Let’s do it!”

Ericsson has improved on ovals each year he’s been in CGR’s No. 8 Honda, working with three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010, 2012) of Scotland and putting in hours of studying on-board footage of team-leader Scott Dixon. Ericsson posted an average finish of 5.0 (second-best among NTT IndyCar Series regulars) on ovals last season after averaging a 12.8 finishing position in 2021 and 16.2 in 2020.

Fan favorite Castroneves joined A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears in the exclusive Four-Time Winners Club on May 30, 2021 wheeling the No. 06 Honda in his IMS debut for Meyer Shank Racing. The native Brazilian scored his previous Indy 500 victories (2001, 2002, 2009) for Team Penske.

Other former champions looking to repeat in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” are two-time winner Takuma Sato (2017, 2020) of Japan along with single winners Dixon of New Zealand (2008), Tony Kanaan of Brazil (2013), “Captain America” Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Will Power of Australia (2018) and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (2019). The record for winners in one Indy 500 field is 10, set in 1992.

Castroneves and Kanaan are both 48-years-old, and a victory by either would make them the oldest winner in 500 history. That record is held by the late Unser Sr., who won the 1987 edition just five days short of his 48th birthday.

Ericsson is aiming to become the first back-to-back winner since Castroneves accomplished the feat in 2001 and 2002. If Ericsson secures a repeat win, he would earn a bonus of $420,000 courtesy of BorgWarner, namesake of the Indy 500 trophy. That amount is more than the entire yearly purse up to and including the 50th anniversary of the 500 in 1961, which paid out $397,910. The field payout jumped to $425,652 in 1962.

The entry list also includes seven former NTT IndyCar Series champions. Dixon sits atop that list via his six titles for CGR, followed by two-time/reigning champ Power of Team Penske and fellow-two-timer Josef Newgarden, also of Team Penske. Rounding out that elite group are Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Pagenaud and Spaniard Alex Palou, winner of Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix on the IMS Road-Course.

“Really looking forward to the 500, as always with the Month of May,” said Dixon, 42, anticipating his 21st career start in the series’ crown jewel event. “We’re going to try and go out and get some redemption from last year. I hope that our cars are as fast as they always are with Ganassi here for the 500. I’m going to try and enjoy it as much as possible and get after this race and see what lies ahead.”

Dixon qualified on-pole for a second consecutive Indy 500 last May with a four-lap/10-mile average of 234.046 mph in his No. 9 Honda. Dixon will attempt to become the first driver to qualify P1 for three consecutive 500s this weekend. Another pole would allow “Dixie” to tie Mears, of Team Penske, for the most in race history with six.

British driver Katherine Legge has returned to the Speedway for the Month of May, having last raced in the Indianapolis 500 in 2013. A two-time 500 starter, Legge will drive a one-off entry as the fourth car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland was the last female to drive in the race, in 2021.

Four drivers will compete for Rookie of the Year. That lineup features multiple Argentina touring car champion Agustín Canapino, along with 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone race winners Benjamin Pedersen of Denmark and Sting Ray Robb. Enerson, who narrowly missed making the field of 33 in 2021, is back for another run with Abel Motorsports, an INDY NXT by Firestone team making its first attempt at the 500.

Last washout of an Indianapolis 500 practice day was May 18, 2022. Tuesday marked only the third complete cancellation of practice in the last seven years, as the last rainout before 2022 was May 17, 2016.

Practice is now booked to run through Friday, May 19. PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, followed by a two-hour practice Monday, May 22. The traditional final two-hour practice is set for Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday, May 26.

The 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 28. Live Race Day coverage will begin on NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network at 11 a.m. (EDT), with the green flag set to wave at 12:45 p.m.


Winners (9) _ Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi.

Rookies (4) _ Agustín Canapino, R.C. Enerson, Benjamin Pedersen, Sting Ray Robb.

U.S. drivers (13) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, R.C. Enerson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Sting Ray Robb, Alexander Rossi.

International drivers (21 from 14 countries) _ Agustín Canapino, Helio Castroneves, Devlin DeFrancesco, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Callum Ilott, Tony Kanaan, Katherine Legge, Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Benjamin Pedersen, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, Rinus VeeKay, Stefan Wilson.

Engines (34) _ Honda 17, Chevrolet 17 (all cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone Firehawk tires).

Point Standings (top-15): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 174; 2, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren, 168; 3, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 155; 4, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, 134; 5, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 133; 6, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 131; 7, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 127; 8, Will Power, Team Penske, 122; 9, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 111; 10, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren and Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport, 108; 12, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb/Agajanian, 107; 13, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren, 97; 14, Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing, 92; 15, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 86.


Sunday, March 5 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.: Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, April 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Sunday, April 16 _ Streets of Long Beach: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport

Sunday, April 30 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske

Saturday, May 13 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, May 28 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 4 _ Streets of Detroit, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 18 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis., USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 2 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio. USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 16 _ Streets of Toronto, Peacock

Saturday, July 22 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, July 23 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 6 _ Streets of Nashville, NBC/Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 12 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 27 _World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill., NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 3 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 10 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif., NBC/Peacock

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 17 2023
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