2023 Indianapolis 500: The Big Preview

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

2023 Indianapolis 500: The Big Preview


2023 Indianapolis 500: The Big Preview


Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means one thing, and one thing only. The Indianapolis 500 is here. Race six of the 2023 NTT IndyCar season, the Indy 500, is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. And after an enthralling month, the 107th edition could be the most spectacular race. Here is the big preview before Sunday’s mammoth race. 


Palou Powers to Pole

The qualifying weekend honors belonged to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou. The 2021 IndyCar champion delivered a blistering four-lap average of 234.217mph. Palou is the first Spanish driver to take the pole for the ‘500. He will lead the field of 33 to green on Sunday afternoon. Palou was ecstatic after his record-breaking pole run. Palou said, “That was my first pole on an oval, especially if it’s Indy 500… it’s not the same if you do it in Iowa or Texas. Those are great races, but they are not the 500. So, it means so much.” He is the man to beat on Sunday, but there are many cars capable of taking the victory. 


Is McLaren vs. Chip Ganassi The Battle to Watch?

In the last decade, the pole sitter has only won once. That was Simon Pagenaud in 2019. Pole position is not the deciding factor for this race, and chasing Palou is a pack of ultra-quick racing cars. All four Arrow McLaren Chevrolet’s are on the front three rows. The Papaya-clad squad has demonstrated tremendous speed all month. Their four-car team features two former Indy 500 winners and last year’s runner-up. In its 60th anniversary year, McLaren would love to return to Victory Lane in the biggest race in the world. 

With former Team Penske and Red Bull Racing ace Gavin Ward leading the team from the pit wall, this is undoubtedly the strongest McLaren has looked at Indy since they joined the series in 2020. 

However, McLaren was not the only team to get all its cars into the top ten. Chip Ganassi Racing, with their Honda power, has looked rapid all month long. Behind Palou, six-time series champion Scott Dixon will start fifth, two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato will start on row three, and 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson will start from 10th. 

Across the eight drivers, there are five Indy 500 winners, and all eight have won IndyCar races. Monday’s penultimate practice session saw both teams feature in the top 10. The fight between these two teams could get tactical, tense, and aggressive. And it could go a long way to deciding the outcome. 


Rahal’s Rollercoaster

The build-up to this Indy 500 has only generated headlines at the front. The travails of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have been on show for all to see. On qualifying Sunday, three RLL cars fought in the last-row shootout. With minutes to spare, Jack Harvey went out on a Hail Mary run. It was his last shot, and his four-lap average was good enough to bump teammate Graham Rahal. 30 years after his father got bumped, Rahal endured the same anguish. 

It seemed as if fate had decided Rahal’s 2023 Indy campaign. But fate is a mysterious mistress. A day later, Stefan Wilson experienced a horrifying crash that left him in the hospital. Wilson required surgery on his back and would miss the race. Dreyer Reinbold required a replacement driver, and Rahal was available. 

After legal wrangling between teams and manufacturers, Rahal was free to race. It was an extraordinary turnaround for Rahal. Even Rahal was shocked; “We sat together at 10:30 last (Tuesday) night and said to ourselves, ‘I can’t believe this happened – that Honda and Chevy both allowed this to happen. I know [Reinbold] is a high-class individual, and he and Dad worked things out immediately. I’m surprised, but it was undoubtedly exciting when I discovered late Tuesday night that we could make this happen.” 

It is a remarkable story. Rahal will have a shakedown in his new car on Thursday before final practice on Carb Day. In a wild twist of fate, the Ohio native will race from the back against his RLL teammates. 


The Dark Horses

Considering it is horse racing season, it feels right to talk about dark horses. Like the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the Indy 500 will have some dangerous dark horses lurking in the shadows. 

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay is a Brickyard specialist. With Chevrolet powering his efforts, VeeKay is in a solid position to challenge. 

Likewise, for AJ Foyt Racing star Santino Ferrucci, the former F2 driver has finished in the top 10 in every Indy 500 he has contested. This year, the Connecticut driver will start from row two, and like VeeKay, Ferruci’s Chevrolet-powered car is a rocket. This Indianapolis specialist is capable of springing a huge surprise. 

Lastly, no one can ever dismiss Team Penske. Their three drivers have work to do, but Penske’s cars looked quick in race-trim and rock solid stable during qualifying. 2018 winner Will Power is the highest-placed Penske car, and he topped Monday’s practice session. 

The reigning series champion is confident ahead of race day; “I think we got somewhat on top of that, ran at the front, ran in the middle, ran in the back. I think the car is pretty good. Yeah, I think we’re in a good spot, really good spot.” Power also echoed the pit lane’s sentiment that Chevrolet may hold the power advantage; “I think Chevy has a bit of an advantage on the power, as well.” 


Aero Changes Promise More Action

IndyCar made more aerodynamic changes to ensure the cars could race closer. The series added an inner bargeboard, road course strikes, and infill wicker. The goal was to add more downforce to the race cars to help drivers when trailing in the wake of another car. Will Power gave his opinion on the changes; “It’s a really good package,” Power said. The Australian continued, “That’s why no one has crashed, which means it’ll be a fierce race. I think it’ll be very tight. Maybe there will be more accidents in the race. It’s going to be a good battle.” If IndyCar’s changes work as well as they did at the PPG 375, this race could turn into an epic. 


The Indy 500 Is Sport’s Ultimate Spectacle

Last week on the Pat McAfee Show, veteran broadcaster Al Michaels labeled the Indianapolis 500 as the most exhilarating event in sports. He is right; forget Super Bowls, World Series, Soccer finals, and Bowl Games. There is nothing like 33 cars screaming toward turn one at 230mph. There is nothing like seeing 33 daredevil drivers dance between the walls at maximum speed. They do it in the name of glory and to follow in the footsteps of legends. 

IMS President Doug Boles said on Thursday that only 5000 tickets remained on sale. That means that over 300,000 fans will pile into the speedway on Sunday. It will be one of the best-attended Indy 500s in recent years. 

The infield snake pit will be alive with fans, beer, and loud music, including a DJ set from NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. And the pre-race pomp and ceremony will be in full effect. 

Every Sunday on Memorial Day weekend, Indianapolis, Indiana, becomes the racing capital of the world. On 106 previous occasions, the Indy 500 has provided high drama and made legends out of mortals. The 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 is here. 


Similar IndyCar content:

IndyCar, Not Formula 1, is the Best Racing Series in the World

The Indianapolis 500 is the Greatest Event in ALL of Sports

Graham Rahal to Replace Stefan Wilson in the Indianapolis 500


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