The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 26, and, once again, it should be one of the most thrilling events of the NTT IndyCar Series season. A couple changes to the series you may have already noticed include the following: NTT has replaced Verizon as the entitlement sponsorship for IndyCar’s 2019 season, NBC Sports replaced ABC Sports as the TV network, and Speedway Convenience Stores has replaced Sunoco as the “Official Fuel.” In addition to these high-level series changes, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has also made a big change that will affect the masses – PepsiCo products will now be served at IMS in replace of Coca-Cola. Sorry Coke fans!
The race itself has not changed – I mean, why mess with perfection, right? – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to watch out for that have the potential to make the race even more interesting.
Helio Castroneves’ Drive For 4
Nothing against Michael Schumacher (Formula One) or Jeff Gordon (NASCAR), but their five wins each at IMS will never even compare to AJ Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr’s four Indy 500 wins! While five wins anywhere is impressive, four Indy 500 wins is legendary!
Only three drivers in history have won the famed race four times, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, but for the past nine years, three-time winner Helio Castroneves has been knocking on the door.
Over the past nine years, Castroneves has had six top 10 finishes, two of which were second place finishes. He almost joined the four-time club in both 2014 and 2017, just missing the mark by 0.060 seconds and 0.2011 seconds, respectively. Ouch.
Castroneves will return this year in hopes of winning a fourth Borg Warner Trophy.
Chip Ganassi Racing Eyeing 1st Indy 500 Triumph In Last 7 Years
Chip Ganassi Racing is arguably one of the best Indy Car teams in the series today. They hold 106 wins, 11 series titles and four Indianapolis 500 victories. While the team has enjoyed much success, they would really enjoy another Indy 500 win, as their last one was back in 2012.
This year, Chip Ganassi Racing will have two drivers vying for the top spot in victory lane. The first is veteran Scott Dixon, who has had 10 top 10 finishes over the past 13 years, one of which being his 2008 victory! Scott Dixon’s 2019 teammate is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who will drive the #10 car, which previously belonged to two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and one-time winner Tony Kanaan.
It will be interesting to see if either of these Chip Ganassi Racing drivers can bring home the Borg Warner Trophy for their beloved team.
The Big 3 Are The Ones To Beat
While the number of talented drivers is vast, the number of major Indy Car teams can be narrowed down to “The Big 3:” Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. In fact, 12 of the last 14 Indy 500 winners have been a member of one of these teams.
Will this year’s Borg Warner Trophy go to a driver from “The Big 3,” or will we see a new team triumph?
Helio Castroneves road to four Indy 500 wins will always be a major storyline in May, but there are others that have an interesting and exciting road ahead this month.
Marco Andretti has always had to follow in some pretty big footsteps. While Marco has never won the ‘500, his grandfather, famed driver Mario Andretti, won in 1969. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s ‘500 win, Marco is sporting a tribute paint scheme on his #98 Indycar. Will this bring him the luck he needs to grab an Indy 500 victory of his own?
Fernando Alonso has been the talk of the town leading up to the Month of May. The former F1 driver will team up with McLaren for a second try at winning on the world’s largest stage. With his entry, along with Swedish rookies Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, even more worldwide attention will be on Indy on May 26.
I think every Indy 500 and Indy Car fan would love to see a James Hinchcliffe win, after he was surprisingly bumped from the field during last year’s qualifying. He suffered even more bad luck a few short years prior when he was in a near-fatal accident during a 2015 Indy 500 practice. His attitude and determination throughout both of these incidences have made him a fan favorite, and could be the driving force towards a 2019 victory!
Colton Herta would be a great story. At only 18 years of age, he became the youngest IndyCar winner ever earlier this season at COTA. Could this now 19 year old add “youngest Indy 500 winner” to his resume?
Conor Daly, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter all bring a number of fans to the table and would result in a popular victory.
More Lead Changes?
Prior to the DW12 aerokit being introduced in 2012, the most lead changes in Indy 500 history was 29 in 1960. But, over the past seven years, we’ve seen at least 30 lead changes in each race.
There were 34 lead changes in both the 2012 and 2014 races, with a record 68 lead changes in 2013. In 2015, the manufacturer specific aero kits were introduced, and resulted in 37 lead changes in 2015, 54 in 2016 and 35 in 2017.
Last year, we saw a new car that was supposed to produce even closer racing, but instead, it became further apart. While there were 30 lead changes, the majority of those were a result of pit sequences, not on the track racing. While some blamed the weather’s effect on the car, IndyCar and IMS want to ensure closer racing in 2019 and have made a number of adjustments to make sure the race is an exciting one!