Predicting this year’s winner After the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was over, fans, media and people inside the auto racing world were concerned that the 101st would be a huge let down. Then came two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso to jolt the on-track excitement. The odds of Alonso winning are in his favor. What chances do the other 32 cars have at drinking milk and kissing the yard of bricks in this year’s Indianapolis 500? Let’s take a look.
Chevrolet or Honda?
Chevy has dominated the last three races in the Indy Car circuit with Penske drivers at the wheel. However, Honda has flexed their muscle during practice and qualifying for the 101st Indy 500 showing they can carry the horses. However, several of the Honda engines are showing their true colors, proving to be unreliable over the long haul. The question begs, do you want power or stamina?
Roger Penske has witnessed 16 of his drivers drink milk in victory lane at the Brickyard. Team Penske knows how to get around the place. After dominating the Indy Car circuit things looked bright for the five car team consisting of: three time winner Helio Castroneves, two time winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, and newest member of the team Josef Newgarden. But the Honda engines were too much for the Chevy’s and Penske’s Power was the only one that had a chance at winning the pole. Penske realized this early and has been focused on getting all five drivers up front towards the end of the race. Look for Penske to be there in the closing stages of the race.
The 2016 and beginning of this season, Andretti Autosport has struggled to crack a podium position. But there is something about the Indianapolis 500 that sees the best come out of the Andretti cars. Last year, rookie Alexander Rossi became the fourth Michael Andretti owned car since 2005 to win the Indy 500. Rossi, alongside Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay will once again start near the front of the pack as they march to the checkered flag.
After the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was completed, questions were being raised on how the Hulman and Co. would top such as historic race. In terms of on the track, Michael Andretti worked his Formula One connections and was able to bring in two-time world champion Fernando Alonso to Indianapolis. A man who never raced on an oval track has become a fan favorite in the Circle City overnight. All of the Andretti cars have been battling for the top of the pylon all month, and Alonso’s may be the strongest. But once the green flag drops, Alonso is going to be in for a wild ride.
Direct quote from Aleshin a few days ago:
"Some of the drivers who don't want to do the Indy 500 just have small balls" https://t.co/ahJORrJDJp
— Nick Yeoman (@NYeoman) May 22, 2017
There have been some dramatic changes at Chip Ganassi racing this offseason. First, Target– which had been with Ganassi’s CART and IndyCar teams for 27 years, ended their sponsorship in open wheel racing. Second, Ganassi Racing switched from Chevy to Honda engines. The result has been Scott Dixon securing three podium finishes and the pole for this year’s 500. Both Dixon and fan favorite Tony Kanaan have won this prestigious race before and are strong contenders for their faces to be on the Borg Warner again. Let us not forget Ganassi’s other two entries Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball will look to mix it up with the lead pack on Sunday. Regardless, history will be made if a Ganassi car wins the Indy 500 as it will be the first time the famed Target red was not on one of his cars.
Dale Coyne, Schmidt Peterson, AJ Foyt, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
Dale Coyne has the best chance of the medium to smaller teams to compete and possibly win this year’s race. Coyne’s odds took a major dip when Sebastien Bourdais had a violent crash and is replaced by James Davison. Rookie Ed Jones has not been intimidated by the veterans, Alonso, or the track and could be a solid top 10 pick.
Schmidt Peterson has three solid cars in James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, and Jay Howard starting in the middle of the pack. If Hinchcliffe wins he could be one of the most popular drivers to finish P1 with his Dancing with the Stars appearance and his come back from his horrific accident in 2015. However, I see these three cars finishing in the top 15.
— McLarenHondaAndretti (@McLarenIndy) May 25, 2017
AJ Foyt Enterprises have three cars in the 101st 500. Although Carlos Munoz has three top 5 finishes and Conor Daly is popular with the under 25 and Snake Pit crowd, they will start in row 8 and 9 respectively. Rookie Zach Veach has struggled in his first campaign at IMS and will start in the last row. Unfortunately, these cars have been low on power and will be battling in the rear of the field. An odd site to see since AJ Foyt is a four time winner of this great race but his only win in the 500 as an owner was in 1999 with Kenny Brack.
Local favorite Ed Carpenter has always had his cars ready to go come qualifying and leading laps during the race. But if history is to repeat itself, Carpenter only has one top 10 finish himself. Teammate J.R. Hildebrand was one turn away from winning the 500 mile race in 2011 and has four top 5 finishes.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan is popular with race fans as Bobby Rahal won the Indy 500 in 1986 and son Graham is sponsored by Steak n Shake. To those non race fans, comedian David Letterman is a partner with Bobby Rahal in ownership. A popular team will finish in the top 20 with Graham and Oriol Servia.
It’s hard for a one-off team to come in and put a car together that can compete for a cold glass of milk, let alone getting a team together. The last to win the 500 in a one-off was the late Dan Wheldon in 2011. The best chance a one-off has of winning is Sage Karam, who will drive with veterans Dryer and Reinbold. Popular driver Pippa Mann will be with Dale Coyne in her only race of the year. Buddy Lazier, winner of the 1996 Indy 500, is starting his 20th 500 but his car was in pieces and was not up to speed until Fast Friday. Lady luck and early exits by the big teams are needed for these cars to have any hope of cracking the top 10. That being said, Juncos Racing, Michael Shank Racing, and Harding Racing have expressed they will be in future IndyCar races, so look for them to be competitive in 2018 and 2019 as this year will be a learning curve.
My top 5 predictions for the 101st Indy 500: