108th Indy 500: Race Day form guide

It’s finally here. We hope to get 500 miles of racing in before rain intercedes, and regardless of how the weather affects the event, we have some clear objectives and needs by the 11 teams and 33 drivers set to compete in the 108th Indianapolis 500. Here are a few pre-race thoughts to consider:


The stars of last year’s 500 have starred again with Santino Ferrucci qualifying sixth. It would be too much to ask the kid from Connecticut to take Foyt back to where they last finished — a remarkable third — or better at Indy, but that’s the obvious ask for the No. 14 Chevy crew.

Foyt’s done so well, one fan referred to their technical partners at Team Penske as the “Foyt B Team,” which is harsh, but that’s the only squad — along with Arrow McLaren — separating them from taking the lead. Sting Ray Robb starts a decent 23rd and with his name sitting last in the championship, he needs to keep the No. 41 Chevy off the walls and take advantage of other crashers to leave May with something positive in hand in the points.



Andretti’s last Indy 500 win was in 2017 with Takuma Sato, and before that, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014. But they haven’t been close since Alexander Rossi finished second in 2019. Kyle Kirkwood was the team’s lone driver to make it into the Fast 12 in 11th and Colton Herta — who’s becoming a proper oval racer — secured 13th. Newcomer Marcus Ericsson, who was expected to lead the team at Indy, has been on a bad rollercoaster ride with the crash and relegation to the last row in 32nd, and Marco Andretti’s 19th.

Can “sneaky good” Kirkwood turn the tables on the qualifying front-runners for Andretti Global and Honda? Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

This team needs a strong Indy 500 result; it spends far too much to be turning in second-tier performances. Kirkwood is sneaky-good, and if it wasn’t for being taken out last year, he was on his way to a stellar finish. Ericsson’s got too much work to do to be a pre-race favorite, so it should come down to Herta and Kirkwood to give Andretti a fighting chance.


A turbulent year, a turbulent month, and all of the pressure. Take all of the notes on Andretti about spending a ton and not having the big Indy 500 rewards, and that’s Arrow McLaren’s situation. The good news is they’ve been the No. 2 team at Indy so far with Alexander Rossi (fourth) and Kyle Larson (fifth) and Pato O’Ward (eighth) being right behind Team Penske. And now, after hard runs in 2022 and 2023 to build upon, it’s time for the team to be more than bridesmaids.

It’s a lot to ask, and it’s also carrying the hopes of short track and stock car fans to make history with a Larson win. But Arrow Electronics and the team’s many sponsors have been waiting for a breakthrough. In racing, patience for such things is far from infinite.


So much for pre-event predictions. The team that all but owned the last three Indy 500s was expected to maintain its form, but that didn’t happen at any point through practice and qualifying. Alex Palou, last year’s polesitter, is Ganassi’s best starter (14th) and Scott Dixon rolls off in a career-worst spot at Indy (21st).

All of that would normally lead to dire forecasts for their races, but in low-boost race settings, Honda was far more competitive on Carb Day and Dixon was quickest while in the draft. Does that mean we’re in store for a Ganassi-Honda win, or a victory from Andretti or other Honda runners? No. There’s always Honda’s renowned fuel mileage, which is a wild card, but it will take some extraordinary driving and good fortune for Palou and Dixon to knock down a bunch of Penskes and McLarens and others to play for the win.

Rookies Marcus Armstrong and Kyffin Simpson are solid midfield contenders and the third rookie, Linus Lundqvist, has been playing from behind — he starts 27th — after his crash in practice. Of the three, keep an eye on Simpson who, so far, had been adept at flying under the radar and being rewarded for it.

Separate from Honda, Ganassi hasn’t been its usual Indy 500 self. How strange it is to go into the race without one or more Ganassi drivers as one of two or three unquestioned favorites? With all of that said, count out the mercurial Kiwi and Spaniard at your own peril.


It’s been an important month for Katherine Legge and the introduction of a new major sponsor to the series in e.l.f. Cosmetics. It’s also been Dale Coyne Racing’s roughest and least competitive Indy 500 in forever, which is everything Legge didn’t need.

She’s been fast in years past when her car was capable and reminded us of that in 2023 when she was quickest of the four Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing drivers, but her talent won’t overcome the absence of performance in the sole Coyne entry that made it into the race.

Staying out of trouble is the only realistic plan to try and move forward by lap 200.


It’s been a tale of two different events for DRR with all of the elation found with Ryan Hunter-Reay and his run to the Fast 12 and consistent disappointment for Conor Daly, whose month has not gone according to expectations.

Hunter-Reay and DRR look to build on their impressive showing in qualifying. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

Hunter-Reay rolls off 12th, Daly’s buried in 29th, and while the 2014 Indy winner had a solid Carb Day and ran around where he’ll start, Daly had a glimmer of slight hope as he posted the 22nd-fastest lap. It’s quite a separation, though, from his teammate, and barring a miracle, there’s little chance his car will acquire front-running speed. RHR is a scrappy racer; he’s where DRR will make its presence felt.


If it weren’t for a Hail Mary to get Rinus VeeKay into the Fast 12 in the last hour of qualifying on the opening day of time trials, all three of ECR’s cars would have been found outside the place where VeeKay and team owner/driver Ed Carpenter normally live.

VeeKay is starting seventh, which is encouraging, but Carpenter has again been a non-factor all month and starts 17th between Ganassi rookies Armstrong and Simpson. Christian Rasmussen has been all over the map this month and starts 24th.

We know VeeKay has a bit of Sato-esque bravery, which makes him a blast to follow throughout the 500. Carpenter’s hoping something clicks in the race so he can get back to where he belongs, and for Rasmussen, who has torn up a ton of equipment during his rookie campaign, he can’t afford to make more mistakes. In a growing theme, it’s incumbent upon the reigning Indy NXT champion to show ECR he can get through a tough race without tearing wings or wheels from his car. The talent is there. The ability to put complete races together that end in a meaningful finishing position, so far, is not.


The team that entered Indy with no primary or significant associate sponsors has signed five companies to adorn the cars of Romain Grosjean (26th) and Agustin Canapino (22nd), which is encouraging after its drivers were more than decent in qualifying. Canapino, in fact, was on the way to cracking the Fast 12 until his Chevy engine experienced the brand’s umpteenth plenum fire and ruined what would have been his biggest achievement in IndyCar.

The Argentinian is capable of running with much bigger teams and more experienced drivers, so if he can execute a smooth afternoon of racing, he has a shot at being one of the big movers and great stories of the 500 in only his second appearance. If you like wild cards, Grosjean never disappoints. He’ll go like hell, try daring passes, and put on a spectacle of some sorts. Will that coincide with finishing the race? It hasn’t happened yet in two tries, so as much as he probably doesn’t want to hear it from his team, focusing on seeing the checkered flag above all else is a worthy approach to take.


The 2021 Indy 500 winners are having their best month of May to date with Felix Rosenqvist leading all Honda runners in qualifying. Helio Castroneves (20th) is doing well as well, and rookie Tom Blomqvist (25th) has been his smart and measured self.

MSR hasn’t really been close to earning a follow-up IndyCar win since their company-defining victory with Castroneves, and it feels like a stretch to suggest it’s going to happen this year. But, and this is a big caveat, Rosenqvist and MSR have defied all odds in their first four races together — the Swede sits fifth in the championship — and if there’s a dark horse in this race, it’s FRO and MSR.


If it weren’t for Takuma Sato starting 10th, RLL would be embarking upon the “Indy Recovery Plan 2.0” due to the poor showing by its other three drivers who start between 28th and 33rd. Everyone within the team maintains that they’ve made progress with their Indy 500 cars since last year’s disastrous outing, and it’s an accurate position to take. The only issue is the first Indy Recovery Plan cut the big gap to the best cars in the field, but the margin was so large, its full-time trio are still buried at the back of the field.

Last shot for “no attack, no chance” Sato?  Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

That could see RLL dive into alternate strategies from the outset in order to get Christian Lundgaard, Pietro Fittipaldi, and Graham Rahal farther forward. Rahal’s among the best race-day performers in the series, so if his car has the capability, he’ll start motoring on his own. Fittipaldi felt positive about his car and chances after Carb Day, and within RLL, he’s the one who really needs to show the team something after a largely forgettable start to the season. Lundgaard’s the intriguing one. He’s the newest to oval racing, needed some time to grasp its intricacies, and could be one to watch as he leads his tail-end group from 28th.

But Sato’s the real ball of fun to follow. This might be his last Indy 500, and we know, without a doubt, the two-time winner will go like hell the entire time. Few drivers in this year’s race fall into the nothing-to-lose category, but Sato’s top of that list. RLL’s hopes rest on his shoulders.


Don’t fumble the football. That’s all Team Penske needs to avoid to win this game. Team Chevy brought almighty horsepower to the high-boost qualifying weekend and its best team dominated with a 1-2-3. Josef Newgarden’s pit crew demolished all comers in the pit stop competition. Polesitter Scott McLaughlin has his own personal Yoda in Simon Pagenaud showing him the way. Will Power is aching to win another Indy 500 and set himself on a course to win his third IndyCar championship. And Newgarden, the defending race winner, could easily go back-to-back.

It’s a tough spot to be in, but if a Penske driver doesn’t emerge victorious later today in IndyCar’s Super Bowl, it will feel a lot like the New England Patriots who mollywhopped everyone in 2007 — went 16-0 — only to lose it all to the New York Giants in the real Super Bowl.

Story originally appeared on Racer