Picking Six Faves To Win 106th Indianapolis 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2022

IndyCar Series driver Alex Palou earned the right to kiss the Astor Cup last fall. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Here is one veteran writer’s Pick-Six viewing guide of favorites to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” aka ”The Biggest Spectacle in Greatness” aka the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500:

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing _ The reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion finished second to four-time winner Helio Castroneves last May 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after an intense, 19-lap battle to the checkered flag. Castroneves completed the winning pass on the outside of Turn 1 on Lap 199 of the scheduled 200…and Palou has been obsessed with winning the Indy 500 since.

“Yes, absolutely,” Palou said on a cold Monday in March at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where a scheduled open oval test fell victim to weather. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t want another championship. But yes, for our team, No. 1 is the Indy 500. It’s the biggest event in motorsports and we were really close last year.”

Castroneves’ margin of victory over Palou was, in fact, 0.4928-seconds. A 25-year-old native of Spain, Palou qualified second for today’s 200-lapper in his No. 10 NTT DATA Honda, and whatever he learned during those closing laps against Helio one year ago will be on full display.

Also consider that an INDYCAR championship and an Indy 500 victory would place Palou ahead of Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport on the short list of series regulars under consideration for a fulltime Formula One ride.

Rinnus VeeKay. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing _ A front row starter, in third, as the highest-qualifying Chevrolet-powered entry. And so it was interesting to find the native of The Netherlands and his No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile entry 33rd and last on Friday’s traditional Carb Day speed chart. VeeKay ran only 18 laps during the 90-minute session with a top speed of 220.638 mph on his sixth circuit. Those numbers indicate VeeKay, 21, has a car that is dialed-in for 200 laps of racing, and he opted to park it in one piece.

Scott Dixon looking for second Indy win..

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing _ It’s difficult to imagine that somewhere among his six NTT IndyCar Series championships that “Dixie” has not added a second Indy 500 victory to his first in 2008. Dixon led seven laps at IMS last year after starting on-pole, en route to fading to a puzzling, 17th-place finish. Still, he’s the greatest INDYCAR driver of this generation _ with apologies to Helio Castroneves _ and capable of wheeling the pole-sitting No. 9 PNC Bank Honda into that elevated Victory Circle and the Bank of Roger.  

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is looking for first 500 win.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske _ An Indy 500 victory is the one shiny object missing in Newgarden’s otherwise stellar INDYCAR career, highlighted by NTT IndyCar Series championships in 2017 and 2019. But given the value team (and series and IMS) owner Roger Penske places on the Borg-Warner Trophy, you can bet Josef is feeling pressed to add his name to “The Captain’s” rollcall of milk-swigging, IMS champions. Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Shell Team Penske Chevrolet, won the only oval race run to-date this season with a stealthy, last-lap move around teammate Scott McLaughlin at Texas Motor Speedway on March 20. And as proven Friday during the annual Ruoff Mortgage Pit Stop Challenge, Josef has the fastest pit crew on the premises.

Helio Castroneves in search of No. 5. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing _ A no-nonsense Helio qualified for his INDYCAR start at IMS last May on a mission to re-invigorate his open-wheel career. His record-tying fourth Indy 500 victory made that happen and today Castroneves is looking to separate himself from the esteemed ranks of A.J. Foyt Jr., the late Al Unser and Rick Mears. Helio’s numbers in qualifying and on Carb Day in his No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda haven’t been top-of-the-chart, but there’s no debating the popular Brazilian can spin magic around the 2.5-mile IMS oval. He’s the last driver to win this event back-to-back (2001-02). If Helio wins today, he should skip the trademark fence-climb and take on The Pagoda.

Jimmie Johnson will be looking to add a 500 win to his resume.

Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing _ “Jimmiemania” has not officially launched, yet.  But Johnson’s workmanlike “Month of May” at IMS in the No. 48 Carvana Honda has added to the buzz created by the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s sixth-place finish in his open-wheel, oval-track debut at Texas Motor Speedway on March 20. Here is the opinion of 2004 Cup champ Kurt Busch, who was voted Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 2014 after a sixth-place finish: “I think Jimmie’s been needing to do this. I think he’s an oval racer at heart. The experience level that he has is all on ovals. He’s got thousands of laps around Indianapolis (in NASCAR and INDYCAR). He’s ready. This is his best chance to go for the ‘W’ and get the milk bath afterwards.”

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 (1997) 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 and Ford Racing). 


Starting grid for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:33.8162 (234.046 mph)
2. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 02:34.1761 (233.499)
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 02:34.2516 (233.385)
4. (33) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:34.4532 (233.080)
5. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 02:34.6630 (232.764)
6. (1) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:34.9243 (232.372)
7. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 02:34.7022 (232.705)
8. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 02:35.0506 (232.182)
9. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 02:35.1729 (231.999)
10. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.3935 (231.670)
11. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:35.4846 (231.534)
12. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 02:35.6664 (231.264)
13. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 02:35.4356 (231.607)
14. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:35.4541 (231.580)
15. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 02:35.5019 (231.508)
16. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 02:35.6590 (231.275)
17. (11) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.7684 (231.112)
18. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:35.8451 (230.999)
19. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 02:35.8707 (230.961)
20. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.9713 (230.812)
21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.0022 (230.766)
22. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.2064 (230.464)
23. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.2875 (230.345)
24. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 02:36.3002 (230.326)
25. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 02:36.3620 (230.235)
26. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 02:36.4167 (230.154)
27. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 02:36.7741 (229.630)
28. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 02:36.9269 (229.406)
29. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 02:37.2628 (228.916)
30. (6) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:37.4655 (228.622)
31. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 02:38.5531 (227.053)
32. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:38.6944 (226.851)
33. (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, no time (no speed)





| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2022
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