There has been a 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the last 110 years, with a few canceled because of two world wars, but the venerable track is set up for the 105th running of the race on Sunday.
Last year’s affair wasn’t run until August, so the sight of the traditional 33-car field lined up three per row the day before Memorial Day will be a welcome one.
And the fact that it’s the fastest field overall in the race’s history only adds to the excitement.
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon starts from the pole, with American Colton Herta, 21, and the Netherlands’ Rinus Veekay, at 20, the youngest in the field, on the front row in second and third, respectively.
“Winning a pole at the Indianapolis 500 is one of the toughest things to do,” Dixon said. “From a team standpoint, just how much work and effort goes into building these cars specifically for that pole run, it’s a lot of money and a lot of effort that it takes.”
It’s the fourth pole for Dixon at the Indy 500.
“We’ve been on the other side of it. We’ve had them before, but we’ve started well in the pack, too, where you can’t figure out why you’re in that position,” Dixon said.
But as always, the biggest race in the world has stories up and down the paddock.
Among the more interesting ones is Paretta Autosport, a team owned, run, engineered, driven and mostly crewed by women.
Owner Beth Paretta is a veteran in motorsports and she’s been putting together this team for six years, the idea being that before long a co-ed race team — as she terms it — will be a routine occurrence.
Veteran Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland is the driver and she has now qualified for the race every time she has attempted to — six. She was the race’s rookie of the year in 2010 with a 14th-place finish (her best), but this year was close as she sat on the “bubble” before hanging on to the 33rd and final spot on Sunday.
“For Beth, I just wish it wouldn’t have been as crazy for the first time we were racing together,” de Silvestro said. “At least we got that one out of the way and now we can really focus on this going forward.”
And while anything can happen at Indy, more likely winners include Dixon, looking for his second 500 win, and Japan’s Takuma Sato, the defending champion, looking for his third.
Legends Tony Kanaan (one win), Helio Castroneves (three) and Juan Pablo Montoya (two) are also in the field.
The last three races have been won by a driver starting in one of the first four positions, and that makes Ed Carpenter one to watch.
Starting fourth, the stepson of Tony George, the man whose family owned the track for generations, and indeed the series for many years, will not only be a sentimental favorite, but a driver who saves his best for Indy every year, with a high finish of second in 2018.
–K. Lee Davis, Field Level Media