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Which of 9 Indy 500 winners can conquer the Speedway once more?

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The 1992 Indianapolis 500 noticed 10 former winners begin the race – however none of them gained it. The best-placed former winner that day was four-time Indy victor Al Unser Sr of Group Menard, who managed to coax the notoriously fast-but-fickle Buick engine previous the chequered flag. He was 10 seconds behind the winner, his son Al Unser Jr, who gained for Group Galles by holding off Scott Goodyear’s Walker Racing entry by simply 0.043 seconds – the race’s closest ever end.

Current information that Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will unite for this 12 months’s 500 brings the tally of former winners entered for the Memorial Day Weekend traditional to 9. And maybe extra so than in 1992, all earlier victors collaborating in 2023 have the potential to star. However of those that have already sipped, slurped and splashed the milk on the Speedway, who’s most definitely to repeat on 28 Could this 12 months? Let’s take them in reverse order.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Group: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
2014 winner

2021 was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s twelfth and closing season with Andretti Autosport. Now he is making his IndyCar return.

Picture by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

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It’s virtually a self-generated cliché by this author to explain Dennis Reinbold’s group as the perfect of the Indy 500 one-off squads, and it’s change into more and more meaningless as so many have dropped away over the previous few years. However DRR additionally often outperforms the ‘Indy-only’ entrants run by full-time IndyCar groups… and even the full-time drivers within the full-time groups!

For instance, in 2021, Sage Karam struggled for pace in his DRR automobile throughout qualifying, but rose from the again row to complete the race in seventh after a flawless efficiency from group and driver. Final 12 months, Santino Ferrucci certified fifteenth and completed 10th, which means he began forward of your complete Andretti Autosport group, each Meyer Shank vehicles, and a Penske. He then completed forward of all of the Penske vehicles and all however one of many Andretti vehicles.

Over the previous few years, the thought has occurred to many – possibly to Reinbold himself – that DRR is just a confirmed winner away from scoring a prime three. And that driver may properly be Hunter-Reay.

“I used to be extremely drawn to the truth that DRR is a streamlined program that places all of its power into the month of Could,” mentioned Hunter-Reay, placing a Positive spin on the truth that the group will at all times face an uphill battle in opposition to those that are within the IndyCar Sequence race in, race out. However his logic isn’t flawed, and neither is Reinbold’s in hiring the 2014 500 winner. If the automobile is sweet sufficient, a few acclimatisation runs ought to see him again on tempo, and it might be no shock to see the #23 DRR machine qualify within the first 4 rows. Thereafter? Each group and driver have confirmed over time that they will make robust progress on race day.

Group: Meyer Shank Racing
Engine: Honda
2019 winner

The Pagenaud-Meyer Shank face a tall order to fight for Indy 500 glory this year

The Pagenaud-Meyer Shank face a tall order to battle for Indy 500 glory this 12 months

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

Simon Pagenaud has change into famend for profiting from what he’s received on the Speedway, and whereas there should be instances when he misses the nurturing of former race engineer Ben Bretzman at Team Penske, Pagenaud can really feel assured in Garrett Mothersead, one other engineer who has conquered the five hundred.

Pagenaud is meticulous in observe. He is aware of precisely how his automobile ought to really feel for it to work in soiled air or operating by itself, on quite a lot of traces, and in several climate and observe situations. That’s what allowed him to climb via the pack from twenty sixth to 3rd in 2021, and had the race been the Indy 505 on that event, he may properly have claimed his second Indy win in three years.

Alternatives to drag off these back-to-front performances are uncommon lately, so it’s change into more and more essential for a driver to qualify properly – and Pagenaud has confirmed he can try this, too, when the automobile is correct: except for his pole in 2019, he has certified within the first three rows on 4 different events.

The query marks over his skill to win in 2023 encompass whether or not the Meyer Shank crew can beat the likes of Ganassi, Penske and Arrow McLaren underneath the duress of a yellow-flag pitstop, and whether or not the MSR group and its technical associate Andretti Autosport have caught up with Ganassi by way of generic set-up.

Group: Meyer Shank Racing
Engine: Honda
2001, ’02, ’09, ’21 winner

Castroneves proved it is capable to take down the big names in IndyCar in 2021

Castroneves proved it’s succesful to take down the large names in IndyCar in 2021

Picture by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Helio Castroneves’ bubbly and fluorescent persona outdoors the cockpit belies the cool and rational man who analyses his method across the Speedway every Could, taking the excessive line he discovered from former mentor Rick Mears and utilizing it routinely throughout observe, qualifying and the race. Certainly, Castroneves spends a lot time crossing from excessive line to low line and again once more, throughout the wake of the vehicles in entrance, it’s little surprise that by race time, he’s totally conscious of how his automobile will react with clear air on the appropriate aspect, clear air on the left aspect, or zero clear air on both aspect. He made his climb from twenty seventh to seventh final 12 months look comparatively straightforward.

Famously, Castroneves has gained the race 4 instances – and completed an in depth runner-up on three different events. However much less appreciated is the truth that in 22 makes an attempt on the 500, he has crashed out of simply two. In order for you your automobile to finish 200 laps, he’s a rattling good wager.

Reservations over his final potential this 12 months are just like these surrounding his team-mate Pagenaud. However then, Castroneves was certainly not favorite to attain his fourth win a dozen years after his third. But when it mattered, there he was, in a position to out-drive and out-think an immensely proficient driver, Alex Palou, in a superior automobile.

Group: Group Penske
Engine: Chevrolet
2018 winner

Penske made great gains last year, but can it do the same to reach the frontrunners?

Penske made nice positive aspects final 12 months, however can it do the identical to achieve the frontrunners?

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

In his first 11 Indianapolis 500s for Penske, between 2009 and 2019, Will Energy by no means began outdoors the primary three rows and had a qualifying common of 5.1. Since then, issues have taken a tumble: in qualifying trim, the Penske vehicles have been mediocre in 2020, dreadful in ’21 and nothing particular final 12 months. So his qualifying common over these three years has been 21.7.

Regardless of his record-setting tally of 68 pole positions, Energy has but so as to add an Indy 500 P1 to his resume. But when he have been to lastly obtain it this 12 months, nearly all of the thrill he felt could be based in his aid that Penske – and Chevrolet – have been again on the tempo at Roger Penske’s holy floor. Then he and the group would really feel the stress of needing to maximise the chance.

That has been the #12 group’s speciality over the previous 12 months or so, with strategist Ron Ruzewski, race engineer Dave Faustino and Energy himself all proving to be very shrewd operators throughout the entire IndyCar season. However on the Speedway particularly, is that this 18-time profitable group again at a stage the place it may well beat all-comers for outright tempo? Unimaginable to inform at this stage. Penske made larger positive aspects in pace at Indy between 2021 and 2022 than some other group, however the apparent caveat is that it was coming from a spot it ought to by no means have inhabited – its most woeful nadir for the reason that group didn’t qualify for the 1995 version.

Penske’s drivers have acknowledged the group’s major focus over the winter was on reaching the entrance of the pack for Indy, however until Chevrolet has a very superior product to Honda at Speedway speeds, it’s exhausting to think about Penske making up its deficit to Ganassi over the previous three years.

Group: Arrow McLaren
Engine: Chevrolet
2013 winner

This year's Indy 500 will be Kanaan's final race in US single-seaters

This 12 months’s Indy 500 shall be Kanaan’s closing race in US single-seaters

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

There shall be many pretending to have one thing of their eye when Tony Kanaan is launched to a deafening bellow from the gang on 28 Could. For the Brazilian veteran has determined that that is the top of the street for him in US open-wheel racing.

It’s acceptable it ought to come at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In a type of quirks of destiny that now we have come to affiliate with the observe, a driver who grew to become well-known for misfortune whereas in a front-running (Andretti Inexperienced Racing /Andretti Autosport) automobile lastly captured the race of his goals in a KV Racing entry in 2013, after a manic race. Through the years, that consequence has come to be thought to be much less of an oddity – Kanaan is a type of drivers who can rise to the event at Indy, made evident by his third-place end final 12 months for Ganassi.

Now he’s getting the chance to log out in one other one of the crucial fascinating seats on the market, the additional entry from Arrow McLaren. And if he’s a tad rusty from not participating in different IndyCar races … properly, it didn’t present final 12 months and is unlikely to point out this 12 months. Kanaan’s sheer willpower and the standard of the Arrow McLaren group ought to make the #66 entry one of the crucial formidable. If Chevy has regained the bottom it has misplaced over the previous three years on the one true superspeedway left on the IndyCar schedule, and offering he makes it to the closing phases, anticipate TK to be within the shootout within the closing stint.

Group: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
2022 winner

The defending Indy 500 winner faces a big challenge from within Ganassi to keep his crown

The defending Indy 500 winner faces a giant problem from inside Ganassi to maintain his crown

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

Marcus Ericsson’s zapping of compatriot Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward within the closing stint of final 12 months’s Indianapolis 500 displayed the expertise of a person totally in tune along with his automobile, who had been saving his finest for final. When he then additionally saved his composure throughout the crimson flag interval and knew precisely the place to put his automobile to fend off O’Ward within the closing shootout, we noticed a person in tune with the race, and possessing the self-confidence to comply with via. The astuteness that makes Ericsson a powerful racer on street and road programs was put to full use on the biggest race of all of them.

His race engineer Brad Goldberg believes that the data he can get the job achieved on racing’s largest stage will make Ericsson nonetheless extra assured in ’23, and it’s exhausting to dispute that line of considering. Goldberg additionally says that Ericsson is a powerful contributor to the group debriefs, his analytical thoughts loving the truth that the quantity of observe time for the five hundred permits him to delve into the actually nice particulars, weigh up choices, and evaluate and distinction set-ups along with his team-mates.

Profitable the opening race of this IndyCar season can have bolstered the ex-Formulation 1 driver’s self-belief nonetheless additional, no matter the truth that it got here on a road course. With 4 wins for Chip Ganassi, together with one at Indy, Ericsson has earned his place with one of many biggest IndyCar groups of all time. The one cause he’s positioned fourth on this rating is a query mark over how aggressive he could be if the five hundred got here all the way down to a three- or four-way scrap along with his team-mates within the closing phases of the race. It’s one factor to make incisive and exhausting passes in opposition to drivers from a rival group, fairly one other to take those self same dangers if duelling with Scott Dixon, Palou or Takuma Sato. And given Ganassi’s superiority on the Brickyard over the previous three years, an all-CGR scrap for honours within the closing stint is just not an outlandish idea.

Group: Arrow McLaren
Engine: Chevrolet
2016 winner

Rossi, Indy 500 winner as a rookie, will make his first start at the race without Andretti

Rossi, Indy 500 winner as a rookie, will make his first begin on the race with out Andretti

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

Alexander Rossi has not less than twice delivered extra convincing Indy 500 performances than the one which netted him victory, as a rookie, in 2016. That mentioned, his shock first win in IndyCar was an awesome instance of a driver accepting he didn’t know all of it and didn’t have all of the details at hand, and due to this fact listening to his strategist, Bryan Herta. Rossi saved gas like he was an {old} hand at oval racing, eliminating the necessity for a splash-and-dash within the closing moments. He got here dwelling the victor, rolling throughout the yard of bricks at 137mph on his 200th and closing lap.

Nevertheless, once you consider Rossi on the 500, bear in mind additionally the courageous restarts on chilly tyres in 2018 when he scorched his method from the again row (resulting from a sluggish puncture on his qualifying run) to complete fourth. Or the resolve to drive wherever and in every single place on the observe to make up for his Honda’s deficit to the Chevy of chief Pagenaud in 2019. And his medical drive to fifth in 2022, outclassing all his Andretti Autosport team-mates.

This shall be Rossi’s first 500 outdoors of the Andretti ‘household’, and whereas he’ll miss sure components of being with a confirmed Indy-winning group he known as dwelling for seven years, having a race engineer like Craig Hampson and the ever-improving Arrow McLaren outfit in his nook greater than compensates. Certain, a lot of Rossi’s competitiveness will depend upon the Ilmor-developed Chevrolet engines being those to beat by way of horsepower and gas consumption. If that’s the case, then whereas we anticipate Ed Carpenter Racing to be the strongest of the Chevrolet groups in qualifying, Arrow McLaren is more likely to be main the Bowtie brigade come race day. And sure, that even consists of Penske. That’s how good this group has change into, and that’s why Rossi’s transfer there shall be justified in the end.

Takuma Sato

Group: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
2017 and ’20 winner

2020 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato is presented with the Baby Borg-Warner Trophy

2020 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato is introduced with the Child Borg-Warner Trophy

Picture by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

He’s adept at making clever strikes, however Chip Ganassi could have pulled off a masterstroke by hiring Takuma Sato for 2023. The 46-year-old Japanese is reaching the top of his open-wheel racing profession however he has nonetheless received what it takes to triumph on the Speedway. He has gained the race with two completely different groups – Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan. And in addition two very completely different automobile configurations – producer aerokit, and common aerokit with aeroscreen. In between these two victories, he additionally tore via the sector after a nasty pitstop to clock a third-place end. Whether or not it’s beginning on the entrance and staying there, or clicking off passes from a midfield place, Sato can ship.

His expertise and really feel for ovals shall be helpful to Ganassi at April’s open take a look at on the Speedway and through observe in Could, whereas the drivers try the elevated vary of set-ups allowed by IndyCar’s expanded vary of aero changes for 2023. Sato shall be as methodical because the group in honing the quickest automobile potential. Put that sort of driver within the quickest group at IMS in current instances, and provides him entry to the info that helps make these Ganassi vehicles so ‘snug’ in site visitors and adaptable to fluctuations of wind and temperature, and you’ve got a potent mixture.

Then throw within the huge expertise of race engineer Eric Cowdin: he’s somebody recognized for fine-tuning his vehicles in accordance with driver suggestions relatively than taking an opportunity on an edgy nightmare of a automobile in pursuit of the ultimate ten-thousandth of a second. With Sato proving remarkably open and versatile (by veteran requirements) to making an attempt new concepts, it’s exhausting to think about this pair gained’t give you an absolute weapon of a automobile. At which level there could also be just one driver who can cease Taku from incomes a 3rd visage on the Borg-Warner Trophy…

Scott Dixon

Group: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
2008 winner

Dixon has suffered cruel luck at the Indy 500 since his 2008 triumph

Dixon has suffered merciless luck on the Indy 500 since his 2008 triumph

Picture by: IndyCar Sequence

It may be tougher to recollect now that he’s a six-time champion, however Scott Dixon, together with Energy, was Destiny’s fall man within the IndyCar Sequence championship, his goals typically squashed by a metaphorical boot descending from out of nowhere, as within the opening credit to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It may very well be mechanical points, fumbled pitstops, methods gone incorrect in accordance with when the cautions fell, wipe-outs by overambitious rivals – no matter it was, it might occur to Dixon, leaving him on the again foot within the title race. Within the final decade, he’s made up for that, it’s honest to say, which is why he is just one title away from matching AJ Foyt’s document.

However in terms of the month of Could, the gods have remained resolute of their disregard for Ganassi #9 since its dominant efficiency 15 years in the past. Take simply the final three years for instance. We’ll by no means know if Sato on a ‘full lean’ engine setting to make the requisite gas mileage might have held off Dixon in 2020, had not the full-course warning flown for a late shunt that noticed the race finish underneath yellow. Nor do we all know if Dixon would have gained in ’21, had not a crash on pitlane and subsequent yellow prevented him from making his first cease on schedule. His Honda grew to become starved of gas and proved reluctant to re-fire even as soon as topped up, costing the Kiwi a lap. After which final 12 months, he was 1mph too quick on pitlane and needed to serve a drive-through penalty, on a day when Ganassi’s 5 vehicles amassed 163 laps on the entrance of the sector, of which 95 have been led by Dixon.

However on the premise of ‘carry on knocking on the door of alternative and ultimately it’ll open’, the time has absolutely come for Dixon to achieve that second Indy 500 winner’s ring. He’s taken 5 Indy pole positions, together with the final two, and there’s no cause to anticipate the Ganassi group to be something lower than devastatingly quick once more this Could.

They are saying the Speedway owes nothing to anybody, however Dixon, like Parnelli Jones within the ’60s, absolutely deserves another sip of milk.

Who will come out on top this May?

Who will come out on prime this Could?

Picture by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

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