The countdown is on for next Sunday’s 105th edition of the 2021 Indianapolis 500, the greatest automobile racing spectacle on the planet.
The legendary race recovers some degree of normality after the coronavirus pandemic had it delayed from May to August in 2020 when it was finally held without an audience.
This year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open its doors to 135,000 spectators to safely fill its 240.000 permanent grandstand seats.
Among the usual 33 drivers on the grid, there will be nine former winners (Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato), only one less than at the legendary 1992 edition.
As for Spaniard Fernando Alonso, he will not be coming back this year after his three previous participations (2017, 2019, 2020) due to his Formula 1 commitments at Alpine. Spain, however, will have a representative of the highest level, Álex Palou.
It’s almost time for the green flag to drop on the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) May 27, 2021
Dixon: The great favourite
Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda) will start from pole for the fourth time in his career at the Indianapolis 500. The reigning six-time IndyCar champion has exhibited a great pace and consistency during the training sessions leading up to the big battle.
The champion from Brisbane, who currently leads the American single-seater championship, is going through a very strong state of form, all of which makes him the absolute favourite to take this 2021 edition of the Indy 500. Last year, however, he also arrive in Indianapolis as the man to beat… and he did not win.
Dixon has won just once at the ‘brickyard’ in 2008 and has finished second in 2020 behind Takuma Sato. Along with the New Zealander, Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport-Honda) and the Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Carpenter-Chevrolet) will complete the front row. If Herta happens to win, he would become the youngest-ever Indy500 winner, a feat that would consecrate his meteoric career.
Other veterans biding for the gold
Behind the leading trio will be Ed Carpenter (Carpenter-Chevrolet) and Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda teammates Álex Palou and Tony Kanaan at the Indianapolis 500 grid. Some critics are dreaming of a victory for Ed Carpenter and his ‘romantic adventure’ (He is competing with his own vehicle).
The Spaniard is also part of that group of victory hopefuls. After winning his debut race with Ganassi in Alabama and finishing third at the IndyGP, Palou is currently second in the IndyCar standings. As for Kanaan, champion in 2013, he has a lot of experience, very important in the race.
Veteran Helio Castroneves, who is starting from eighth, will also be capturing a great deal of attention. With three victories at ‘The Brickyard’ under his belt (2001, 2002, 2009), the Brazilian is the only participant who could match A.J. Floyd’s (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Al Unser Sr’s (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987) and Rick Mears’ 4-win records (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991).
So far, Castroneves has shown a great level of consistency onboard the Meyer Shank Racing vehicle. In fact, for the first time since 2017, he qualified for the Fast Nine.
As in the case of Kanaan, his experience is his greatest asset. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport-Honda), another previous Indy 500 winner (2014) will take the start along with the Brazilian.
All the way down in the fifteenth position we find another strong candidate to take the glory. Twice winner Takuma Sato (2017, 2020), from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda team, is one of the great connoisseurs of the legendary oval. The Japanese driver is likely to be joining the leading group early on.
Images of Indianapolis 500: Chip Ganassi Racing.