SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Fans will be in the stands for the first time since 2019 to bear witness to the running of the Indianapolis 500.
Much less than during a normal race weekend, but nonetheless people will be seats to the tune of 135,000 fans, which is 40-percent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s whopping 257,000 seat capacity (not including the number of people that watch the race from the infield).
Scott Dixon, who won the race in 2008, is your pole sitter with a top speed of 231.685 mph. He will lead the fastest qualifying field in Indy 500 history to the green flag on Sunday. The average speed of the field is 230.294, breaking the previous record set in 2014 of 229.382.
“It’s pretty impressive that the field is this tight,” Dixon said. But, I’m excited to get to the race. For me, second place is the worst place you can finish in this race. The fire is strong, but the fire is strong for 32 others which makes this the toughest race in the world.”
Dixon lines up next to 21-year-old Colton Herta and 20-year-old Rinus Veekay. The trio makes up the youngest field in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Both Herta and Veekay have a chance to become the youngest Indy 500 winner ever. Troy Ruttman holds the current record, winning the race in 1952 at the age of 22.
Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren is 22 and starts 12th. Other young drivers include rookie Pietro Fittipaldi (24), Santino Ferrucci (22), and Alex Palou (24).
Helio Castroneves is the most experienced driver in the field, with 20 previous Indianapolis 500 starts. He has won the race three times in 2001, 2002, and 2009. He starts 8th.
Veekay and his team owner and fellow driver Ed Carpenter in their Chevy-powered cars broke up a near-sweep of the top nine positions by the Hondas. Carpenter starts 4th.
“We’re in a really good spot,” Carpenter said. “I’m happy for Rinus, but also pleased with the starting position(s) we have. You know, having a teammate in front of me and being able to follow Scott (Dixon) into turn one is a pretty good place to start the race. I’m not worried about leading the first lap.”
Carpenter’s third driver in Conor Daly qualified 19th.
All four Ganassi Hondas occupy four of the top nine starting positions. Andretti Autosport has three cars starting in the top ten.
Team Penske, on the other hand, had a poor showing in qualifying with their top starting position being Scott McLaughlin, a rookie, in 17th. Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden rolls off 21st, 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud 26th, and 2018 winner Will Power is on the last row in 32nd.
“We have high expectations, without a doubt,” said Newgarden. “We didn’t perform to the level we’d expect or hope in qualifying. But, qualifying is one piece of it. The race is another. We’re all very excited to be a part of this field and make the most out of the day.”
Pagenaud said he expects to be competing for the win late in the race. The Penske-affiliated team of Paretta Autosport, a team made up of 70-percent women, starts 33rd with driver Simona de Silvestro returning to the race for the first time since 2015.
The forecast calls for a picture-perfect day with highs in the low 70’s with partly cloudy skies. Fuel mileage strategy will certainly be a factor in making it to the end of the race.
Green flag drops at 12:45 p.m. EDT on Sunday. You can listen to the call of the race from the IMS Radio Network on 93 WIBC and 93.5 and 107.5 The Fan.