Indianapolis 500 Preview

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And so it has come to this. While the Month of May was officially kicked off with the first practice for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis, some could say that the Month of May actually got started over three weeks ago when Fernando Alonso had his private test session on Wednesday May 3. As I sat at work and watched that test session online with over two million other people worldwide, that’s when it felt like May to me. The past two weekends have flown by and we are down to the final weekend of the month. It’s actually a little sad.

Aside from the terrifying crash that sidelined Sébastien Bourdais last Saturday, this has been a fairly uneventful Month of May – but that’s not a bad thing. There have been no real controversies to speak of like there was in 2015 when the Chevys were flying all over the place. The solution then seemed to penalize Honda more than anyone, and they were understandably unhappy.

One unfortunate story may be the weather, which looks iffy at best. The weather forecasts I’ve seen all contain rain in portions of Friday through Sunday. Right now, Sunday looks like it will be rainy in the morning but stopping before noon. Whether that means a late start to the race is anyone’s guess. One thing that troubles me is that the closer we get to Sunday, the worse the forecast looks. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The buzz this month has been the presence of two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso. Some resent the attention he has been getting, but he has said and done all of the right things and has amazed everyone with the talent he has displayed so far. Some expect Alonso to struggle with Sunday’s flying start, but I don’t. I think he will keep pace, be careful and not do anything stupid. I expect him to fall back from his fifth starting spot in the early stages of the race. But anyone thinking he doesn’t have the experience to fight his way back to the front and pull off a win is kidding themselves.

What may be Alonso’s biggest hurdle is what some of the other buzz is about – the questioned reliability of the Honda engine. There is no question that the Hondas have been fast this month, but does that speed come at the expense of reliability? Some say yes.

Bourdais had two engine failures in six days between a failure in the Grand Prix and another in practice last week. Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia and Jack Harvey have also had engine failures in practice. Last Sunday, Alonso had to have a last-minute engine change just before qualifying because his was smoking and showing some signs of a possible failure on Sunday morning. What’s the common denominator? They are all Hondas.

Everyone will have a fresh engine for the race, but reliability remains a major concern for the Honda teams and this could become the story of this race. That’s why I don’t think you can count out the Chevy teams simply because they showed poorly in qualifying. Ed Carpenter barely missed the pole in his Chevy-powered Dallara and already has one 500-mile win under his belt. He is certainly a threat to win. His teammate JR Hildebrand is starting from the outside of Row Two. Don’t forget he came within one turn of winning this race as a rookie in 2011, before a rookie mistake handed the win to Dan Wheldon. Hildebrand would love to redeem himself for that gaffe and a win Sunday would certainly do it.

Anyone who is counting out any of the five Team Penske drivers is making a huge mistake. Will Power starts from the outside of Row Three and like Carpenter – has a 500-mile win on his resume. The rest of the Penske cars are further back, all packed between eighteenth and twenty-third. It may be a bit more difficult from back there, but the minds at Team Penske are as good at race strategy as anyone in the paddock.

That being said, the Hondas of Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing appear to be tough competition so long as the engines hold up. Scott Dixon is on the pole for Ganassi and Michael Andretti has defending champion Alexander Rossi on the front row, along with Takuma Sato and Alonso on Row Two. Aside from Power, Row three has Ganassi’s Tony Kanaan on the inside with Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti in the middle.

A little further back are some very strong cars, all Hondas – Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will roll off on the inside of Row Four. In fact, all of Row Four is faster than the slowest car in the Fast Nine – Will Power. Hunter-Reay’s four-lap average of 231.442 mph was good enough to place him on the inside of Row Two had he been in the Fast Nine. On the outside of Row Four is savvy veteran Oriol Servia. They both flank Dale Coyne’s impressive rookie, Ed Jones – who, with a good performance on Sunday, would normally be a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year if it weren’t for the presence of rookie (in name only) Fernando Alonso. If Alonso performs as most think he will, his performance will unfortunately overshadow whatever Ed Jones does on Sunday.

Further back along with the Penske cars, I think Graham Rahal, Mikhail Aleshin and James Hinchcliffe all have a legitimate shot to win.

But only one driver can win it, so I’m going to only pick one driver who I think will be drinking the milk on Sunday afternoon. My pick is who I think has the strongest chance, not a dark horse who might come out of nowhere to win on Sunday. Therefore, I’m not going out on a limb much at all to say that Scott Dixon’s car will hold up long enough for him to go five-hundred miles the fastest and he will score his second Indianapolis 500 victory.

Susan and I are “hoping” to be at the track this morning before the final IndyCar practice. After that, I’m not too married to any agenda for the weekend. We plan to go to the Burger Bash, but I’m a fair-weather fan. If it’s raining, we’re not going. I hope to get in more karting this weekend at Sarah Fisher’s Speedway Indoor Karting and a couple of meals at Dawson’s. But last weekend, I was very impressed with the 1911 Grille that adjoins the karting track. We may go there one night, also.

Of course, tomorrow is Legend’s Day at the track. We always make a point to be sitting in the stands when the roadsters run at 9:00. We’ll meet up with a lot of old friends that we see all the time or some that we see only once a year in May. Then there’s the annual trip to the IMS Museum with brother and his crew and the Memorabilia show for the afternoon. We usually make an early night of it to rest up for Sunday.

I will be posting throughout the weekend including today after we get to the track. As soon as we get to the track in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I’ll be posting from there. In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter for immediate photos and comments. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog or Susan at @MrsOilpressure.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Indianapolis 500 Preview”

  1. I agree that Dixon will get the win, I have a feeling. Also thinking some of the top 5 will consist of RHR, Rahal and Will Power. Alonso and Montoya will be mid-pack guys, I see them having issues, crashing or blowing up, etc.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Rooting for Rahal, expecting the race to come down to a Ganassi car, a Carpenter car, two Andretti cars, a Penske car, and maybe one dark horse (Rahal, Karam, Jones, Munoz?).

    Fingers crossed for dodging rain all weekend.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    I have been bouncing off the walls here this morning waiting anxiously for race day and looking at the weather report hourly. I am even looking forward to the first Cheever cliche. I find them somehow comforting in a world otherwise filled with uncertainty.
    This situation reminds me of the 1992 race. The night before the race there was so much rain water coming down my uncle’s street in Broadripple we could have canoed to the track. We awoke to a cold gloomy day that foretold of gloomy results for Roberto Guerrero and Michael Andretti. More than anything I hope this race is accident free and that all the fans, bloggers, and bloggerettes arrive and get home safely.

  4. Best scenario for the sport? Marco or Rahal passes Alonso on the final turn of the final lap for the W. I, however, am with Mr. Oilpressure here. Dixon has never been racing better. His racecraft is unmatched. He should win Sunday.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I like your imagined scenario. And with a Dixon win there will be extensive footage of Mrs. Dixon.

  5. Ed Emmitt Says:

    A Chevy will win

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