The 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 is this Sunday! The biggest story of the year coming
into this year’s race is the “Penske-gate” push-to-pass fiasco where Josef Newgarden won and
then was later disqualified when he and his teammate Scott McLaughlin were found to have had
that system enabled and used it when it wasn’t supposed to be. Their teammate Will Power also
had it available but didn’t use it and was docked points. The Penske team suspended four crew
members including team president Tim Cindric. However, if you look at finishing positions on
track so far this year, it’s been another Penske and Ganassi show. Penske won the first and third
points races – St. Pete and Barber (McLaughlin), while Ganassi won the non-points Thermal
event, Long Beach and Indy road course with Alex Palou winning two of those and Scott Dixon
grabbing his second career Long Beach win.

The cars are a wee bit lighter this year (with a modified aeroscreen) in anticipation of the hybrid
power units that are set to make their debut at Mid-Ohio in the middle of the season. Without
that extra weight, speeds on track were quick on Day One of practice with Dixon setting a lap of
over 229 mph in just nine laps before the rains came. Although weather played a part during the
week of practice, there was plenty of time on-track to find speed. Unfortunately, there was a bit
of carnage going on with Linus Lundqvist, Nolan Siegel, Marcus Ericsson, Rinus VeeKay and
Katherine Legge all tagging the wall at one point or another. These are impressive drivers
nonetheless as Veekay came back from his shunt to plant his Ed Carpenter Racing car into the
Firestone Fast 12. Legge smacked the Turn 4 wall on the final lap of her Saturday qualifying run
but kept her foot buried to the floor and qualified 30th. Unfortunately for 19 year-old rookie
Siegel, after he landed upside down, he was having a hard time getting back up to speed in the
back-up car. In the waning minutes of bump day, he kept the throttle floored in his trimmed-out
car, but alas, there wasn’t enough grip and he ended up in the wall again and out of his first Indy

The fight for pole was an all Team Penske affair and after Power set the quickest time on
Saturday, he ultimately lost out to teammate McLaughlin for pole in the Firestone Fast Six on
Sunday. Newgarden completes the Penske front row sweep. Alexander Rossi is fourth, his
McLaren teammate “rookie” sensation (and NASCAR Cup champion) Kyle Larson is fifth and
Santino Ferrucci will complete row two for AJ Foyt Racing with Chevy taking the top six spots.
There was a curious lack of speed during qualifying from the Ganassi team and an overall lack of
pace for Honda compared to the Chevy powered teams. However, qualifying is one thing and
with typically seven pit stops or more on race day, fuel economy will definitely play a role. Is
that what Honda has? Did Chevy figure out how to make big power and get great fuel economy?
We’ll have to wait for race day to find out. There is one more practice session on “Carb Day”
which is this Friday where teams will have installed their race engines and will want to get a read
on their fuel economy numbers, see how the car handles in traffic and make any last minute
changes to be ready to roll on Sunday. Right now rain and thunderstorms are predicted for early
in the day. Hopefully that will clear and the race goes off as planned. There will be six rookies
and eight former winners vying for the Borg-Warner trophy and Helio Castroneves is the only
driver with a shot to win his fifth 500. Who’s your pick to win?

NOTE: The race on Sunday will be broadcast live on NBC at 8am PDT. It will also be on
Peacock and SiriusXM radio. You can also listen live on the NTT IndyCar Series app. I highly
recommend the app as you can see live telemetry, timing and scoring, live in-car camera, listen
to driver radios, and much more.

By Larry Mason

Copyright © 2024 Larry Mason

105321 Scott McLaughlin Pole Day, INDYCAR Photo: Chris Jones

Scott McLaughlin earned the biggest and most important pole position of his career so far earning the number one spot at Indianapolis. Here he’s presented with the $100,000 check for accomplishing that feat which is also the fastest four-lap average pole speed in Indianapolis history at 234.220 mph!

105663 Front Row, INDYCAR Photo: Chris Owens

Team Penske sweeps the front row for the first time since 1988 with (from L-R) last year’s winner, Josef Newgarden, 2018 winner – Will Power, and this year’s pole sitter – Scott McLaughlin with some of their team members who helped make this happen. FYI, the guy sitting on McLaughlin’s car in the white shirt and black vest is four-time winner, Rick Mears.

105707 McLaughlin, Rahal and Ferrucci, INDYCAR Photo: Amber Pietz

Graham Rahal (M) has plenty to smile about this year as he didn’t get bumped out of the starting field of 33 cars like last year (he’ll line up 33rd on Sunday). He shares a lighthearted moment with pole-sitter McLaughlin (L) and last year’s third place finisher, Santino Ferrucci (R)