The 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 is this coming Sunday! Who will win? After five races to start the season, there have been five different winners associated with the Ganassi, Penske and Andretti teams sweeping them all. As exciting as that’s been, it had none of the speed, drama, heartbreak, elation, injury and redemption that pole/bump day and the Monday following served up. The fastest front row in Indy 500 history with Alex Palou (Ganassi) beating Rinus Veekay (Ed Carpenter Racing) to the pole by 0.0040 seconds over the course of four laps (10 miles)! Veekay in turn was only 0.0636 seconds in front of outside front row starter Felix Rosenqvist! It was Palou’s monster 235+ mph first lap of qualifying that helped him win his first-ever pole at Indy.
There were 34 drivers entered and that meant that one team would get bumped out. Unfortunately for Graham Rahal, his teammate Jack Harvey was the guy who bumped him out with no time left on the clock for Rahal to make another attempt. Exactly 30 years after his dad Bobby got bumped out, the younger Rahal experienced the same heartbreak.
As devastating as that was to the team, things would only get worse during practice on Monday as the team’s fourth driver Katherine Legge could not get her car slowed down in time as the traffic in front of her stacked up. She ended up rear-ending Stefan Wilson which put both cars into the SAFER barrier wall. To make matters worse, Wilson’s impact ended up causing a fracture to his T12 vertebra in which he would have to have surgery for at IU Health Methodist Hospital. On Tuesday, Wilson’s team (Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports) announced that they would put Rahal in the car to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday. During the press conference, Rahal replied in response to the questions about his emotions about this, “That’s Indy. It can put you through a vicious cycle.” Keep in mind that Rahal was Justin (Stefan’s older brother) Wilson’s teammate in the past and helped raise money for Justin’s wife and children after his passing due to an impact at Pocono Raceway. One glitch in this deal is that Rahal has been with Honda for many years and DRR runs a Chevy. Both manufacturers were extremely accommodating to make this deal a reality. It really accentuates how special this entire racing community is.
Rounding out row two will be Santino Ferrucci (AJ Foyt Racing), Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren) and Scott Dixon (Ganassi). All three of these guys run strong at Indy. You can never count out Team Penske at the Brickyard, and nearly a third of the field (nine drivers), are former winners here. Who is your pick to win?
Note: The race will be broadcast live on NBC at 8am PDT. It will also be on radio which can be listened to live on the NTT IndyCar Series app.
By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2023 Larry Mason
Polesitter Alex Palou is looking to add his face to a different trophy than the one he hoisted after winning the championship in 2021. He wants the likeness of his face on the Borg-Warner trophy and a huge swig of ice cold milk come Sunday afternoon.
The one driver who experienced the full emotional roller coaster at Indy before the race even starts is Graham Rahal. Shown here at Long Beach, he will be in a different car and team for the 500.
Will Marcus Ericsson (#8) win his second Indy 500 in a row or will Helio Castroneves (#06) recapture his Indy mojo and become the one and only five-time winner?
Interview and photos Copyright © by Larry Mason (unless otherwise noted)