INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race of the NTT IndyCar Series season. The added attention to the annual Memorial Day weekend event always leads to one big question asked of me throughout the month – who’s going to win?
Well, lets take a deeper dive on who we think will win. It’s easy just to pick a driver, but lets look at the numbers behind this race.
We’ve seen five different race winners in as many races this season. If you go back to last year, that’s six straight different race winners and eight in the last nine races overall. In the ‘500, we’ve also seen eight straight years with a different winner too.
So, if parity continues, don’t expect Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Colton Herta or Josef Newgarden to win on Sunday.
Will Starting Position Matter?
In the aero kit era, starting position didn’t matter at Indy. But, with this universal car that debuted last year, it now does. Plus, starting in the top 2 Rows have been key for Indy Car success lately. Four of the five race winners in 2019 have come from the top four starting spots. Three of the last six Indy Car races overall have been won by the pole winner. Furthermore, nine of the last 11 and 10 of the last 12 overall have come from a top four starting spot.
While a pole winner hasn’t won the ‘500 since 2009, this favors Ed Carpenter Racing since they have all three of their cars starting in the top four but none of which on the pole itself.
History Repeating Itself?
The last French born driver to win the Indy 500 pole? Rene Thomas in 1919. That’s exactly 100 years ago. Simon Pagenaud is from France and he’s the pole winner for this year’s race. But, take a look at this. Thomas, didn’t win the race in 1919. The second place starter did. The driver that year was Howdy Wilcox who was from Indiana, Crawfordsville to be exact. The second place starter this year? Hoosier native Ed Carpenter…
Honda vs. Chevy
Chevrolet had the preferred power in last year’s race. They swept the front row and led nearly 150 of the 200 Laps run. It was also their fourth win in the first six races of last year. In the 16 races since? They’ve won just four times.
Honda has won 12 of the last 16 Indy Car races and three of the last five Indy 500’s. While Chevy has five of the top six starters for this weekend’s race, Honda may have something up their sleeves in race conditions.
Watch Out For The “Big 3”
Penske, Andretti and Ganassi are the top three organizations in Indy Car. While we’ve seen parity in terms of the driver front lately, we haven’t seen the same for the teams. Combined, Penske and Andretti have won each of the last five Indy 500’s. Throw Ganassi in there, and these three organizations have won 12 of the last 14 ‘500’s overall and 16 of the last 19 (since 2000).
With the points above, whom does this favor? See down low for more. Plus, the last non Penske Chevrolet driver to win at Indy was Al Unser Jr. with Galles in 1992.
Ganassi, won three Indy 500’s in a five year span between 2008 and 2012 but have been shut out ever since. Felix Rosenqvist doesn’t look the part to win this year while Scott Dixon has his worst starting spot in the big race in his storied career. While he has four podium finishes in five tries this season to go along with three top eight finishes including a third place run last year in his last four Indy 500 starts, it doesn’t appear it will be in the cars for a Ganassi driver sipping the milk on Sunday.
That leaves Andretti who has plenty of big storylines if they can win. Again, like the Penske point, more on this later.
Rookie Winner? Not Likely
In the past 102 years of this race, only nine times has a rookie driver won. It’s happened three times in the last 52 years and only four times in the last 91 years. Plus, with Herta being eliminated from the point above as a winner this year, I don’t think this rookie class to can this race without some luck.
Repeat Winner? Not Likely
Power has the odds stacked against him this weekend. The last repeat winner was his teammate Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002. Helio, is the last repeat winner since Al Unser Sr. in 1970 and 1971. That’s two times this has happened in 64 years. Do you think it happens for the third time in 65 years?
So Who Does All This Favor?
3 Castroneves – He’s a Penske driver. He’s a Chevy driver. He fits the bill above and the previous four times he’s started outside the top 10 at Indy, he’s won two of them and finished runner-up in another.
9 Dixon – He hasn’t won since last July in the series. He hasn’t won an Indy 500 since 2008. So, he qualifies for the prerequisites. He’s run strong at Indy lately and has finished in the top three in four of five races in 2019. But, his car hasn’t been real quick this month. Does that change on race day?
98 Andretti – He hasn’t won a 500 before. He hasn’t won a race since 2011. He’s an Andretti driver. The only thing he doesn’t have is he’s not starting in the top four. But, his grandfather won 50 years ago this year. Storybook ending?
25 Daly – Exact same thing as above minus his grandfather winning in 1969 and him winning in 2011. This could be Daly’s first career win which would be HUGE.
26 Veach – Exact same thing as Daly. He was in the top seven in three of five practice sessions run so far this month.
20 Carpenter – He fits the bill as a Chevy driver. He fits the bill as a top four starter. He fits the bill with history from 1919. He has a fast race car. The only thing he isn’t is a Penske, Andretti or Ganassi driver.
21 Pigot – Just like his boss minus the 1919 history. He starts third and has a fast car with a shot to win.
63 Jones – Same as above.