It is May, and you know what that means! No, I’m not talking about the NBA and NHL playoffs or the upcoming European Soccer Championship. I am talking about the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. That’s correct; as Memorial Day weekend draws ever closer, it is time to go racing in Indianapolis. The 2021 Indy 500 is almost here; therefore, it is the perfect time to preview this weekend’s showcase and recap the month of May as the days slowly tick by towards the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Sophomore Sensation Snatches a Maiden Victory
The month of May began in spectacular style as Dutch sensation Rinus Veekay won his first Indycar race at the Indy Grand Prix. Former F1 racer Romain Grosjean took pole position in qualifying; the race belonged to Veekay. The Indianapolis resident racing for the local Ed Carpenter Racing team displayed fearless speed and confidence to make the alternate strategy work. Veekay shook off a crash in a testing session to come back and win on the road course. The local driver, driving for the local team, got his month off to a perfect start. Frenchman Grosjean converted his pole position into a first Indycar podium; meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou rounded out the top three.
Reigning Champ Dixon Stormed to Pole in Indy 500 Qualifying
The glory on qualifying weekend went to six-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon. The Kiwi piloted his PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Honda car to a stunning pole position. Dixon set an average four-lap speed of 231.6mph; consequently, that speed proved to be more than enough to take pole. Joining Dixon on the front row as the cars go to green is Andretti Autosport youngster Colton Herta and Indy Grand Prix winner Rinus Veekay. These two fearless youngsters starting alongside the veteran champion will be so exciting to watch.
Along with Dixon, the rest of the Chip Ganassi team dominated qualifying as all four cars will start on the first three rows. Indianapolis sophomore Alex Palou bounced back from a massive crash on Saturday to take sixth place. That is one spot behind the returning Tony Kanaan as he fills in for Jimmie Johnson on the oval courses. Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson was the fourth Ganassi car in the top nine; he’ll race from ninth place. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns for the 2021 Indy 500. The Brazilian is desperate to join the four-time winners club.
Indianapolis demon Alexander Rossi and McLaren’s Pato O’Ward will start on row four. Both of those drivers could come through the pack on Sunday afternoon. Last year’s winner Takuma Sato goes from 15th position. While that didn’t surprise anyone, the performance of Team Penske surprised everyone. Two-time Indycar Josef Newgarden is 21st, 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud is 26th, and 2018 winner Will Power is 31st! Penske is the most successful team in ‘500 history, with 18 trips down victory lane. They may need a miracle to make a 19th.
Starting Grid for the 2021 Indy 500
- Front Row – 1st Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, 2nd Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 3rd Rinus Veekay, ECR Racing.
- Row Two – 4th Ed Carpenter, ECR Racing, 5th Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi, 6th Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi.
- Row Three – 7th Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 8th Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing, 9th Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi.
- Fourth Row – 10th Alex Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 11th Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing, 12th Pato O’Ward, McLaren.
- Row Five – 13th Pietro Fittipaldi, Dayle Coyne Racing, 14th Felix Rosenqvist, McLaren, 15th Takuma Sato, RLL Racing.
- Row Six – 16th James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport, 17th Scott Mclaughlin, Team Penske, 18th Graham Rahal, RLL Racing.
- Seventh Row – 19th Conor Daly, ECR Racing, 20th Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing, 21st Josef Newgarden, Team Penske.
- Row Eight – 22nd JR Hildebrand, AJ Foyt Enterprises, 23rd Santino Ferrucci, RLL Racing, 24th Juan Montoya, McLaren.
- Ninth Row – 25th Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport, 26th Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 27th Sebastian Bourdais, AJ Foyt Enterprises.
- Tenth Row – 28th Stefan Wilson, Andretti Autosport, 29th Max Chilton, Carlin, 30th Dalton Kellett, AJ Foyt Enterprises.
- Row Eleven – 31 Sage Karam, D&R Racing, 32nd Will Power, Team Penske, 33rd Simona De Silvestro, Paretta.
The Biggest Single Sporting Event in the World
The Indy 500 is the biggest single sporting event in the world. Typically, over 250k patrons will pour into the speedway to watch the race. Sadly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the attendance will be lower. However, 135,000 thousand race-fans and native Hoosiers will attend the race. That still makes the 2021 Indy 500 the most attended sporting event on Earth for 2021. Add all the fans to the spectacular pre-race ceremonies, and the Indy 500 is a fantastic show. The pre-race rituals drip with tradition and history.
The race is a tribute to America on Memorial Day weekend from the singing of “God Bless America” and “Back Home Again in Indiana”. The flyover, the history of Indianapolis, and the pride of the patrons add to the spectacle. Sports are nothing without the fans; the return of spectators for the 2021 Indy 500 is brilliant. The event made the state of Indiana world-famous; the Indiana people are incredibly proud of their event. It is the Super Bowl, and World Series wrapped into one tarmac package.
The Borg-Warner Trophy
Winning the Indy 500 is a big deal. Thus, the prize is an even bigger deal. The winner will get their face engraved onto the trophy for the rest of eternity. Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, and AJ Foyt are some of the legends etched into history on the famous Borg-Warner trophy. The race makes up one-third of Motorsport’s Triple Crown, and the trophy boasts over 100 years of history.
The Indy 500 is the most exciting, spectacular race in the world. The cars will chase each other bumper to bumper for 500 miles on the asphalt paradise. The racing is intense, high-octane, and incredibly dramatic. To pull off a pass at Indy, a driver must use all of his bravery and skill to pass a car at over 150mph. The race will showcase the highest level of skill, determination, teamwork, and courage. As the cars whizz by on the 2.5-mile track, pounding around endlessly for a shot at racing immortality. To get considered as one of the all-time greats, a driver must win the Indy 500.
Add all that to a grid boasting veteran former race-winners, fearless, hungry young bucks and some of the fastest cars in the world; we’ve got a recipe for an epic afternoon. Can Scott Dixon win his second Indy 500? Will Colton Herta or Rinus Veekay make history? Can Alexander Rossi banish the ghosts of previous races to win again? Or, will Team Penske spring a massive shock to win their 19th ‘500.
The beauty of car racing is this; all the competitors do battle at the same time, at the same place. At supersonic speed, one driver will walk away with all the glory this Sunday. The weather forecast is predicting a beautiful, sunny day on race day. So, tune in to NBC at 11ET, get the grill going, grab a beer (and some milk), and sit down to watch the 200mph rollercoaster ride around the Brickyard. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is almost here. The only thing left to hear is ‘Drrrriverrrrrs, start your engines!’ It’s time for the 2021 Indy 500.
PS: if you want one more reminder as to why this race is so special, check out the video below from ABC that they used as their intro for the 2016 Indy 500.
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