She Will Choose (2021 Indy 500 Preview)

This past week I’ve been asked by no less than five people I work with (in the “real” job) who I think will win the Indianapolis 500. Every time the answer is the same “it’s extremely hard to tell this time.” It’s not dodging an answer, because if you asked who I *wanted* to win – I’d have my answer. But tomorrow’s race features a field that is incredibly close in time. Less than three and a half seconds separated Pole Sitter Scott Dixon to Thirty-Third place Simona De Silvestro.

This year’s race will truly be a battle of generations. In the first three rows you have some elder statesmen of INDYCAR (Dixon  – 40 years; Ed Carpenter – 40 years; Tony Kanaan – 46 years; Ryan Hunter-Reay – 40 years; and Helio Castroneves – 46 years) and two of the youngest INDYCAR drivers (Colton Herta – 21 years and Rinus VeeKay – 20 years). Gen Xers, Millenials, and Gen Zers all have drivers in this fight. As we know, in Indy age and experience mean nothing, The track has chosen seasoned veterans to win, or crash out spectacularly. It has also allowed rookies to claim the title of Indy 500 winner. Within the first three rows, things will be exciting. I’ve got a season long bet that Alex Palou finishes the series higher than his teammate Scott Dixon…so if Palou wins that will go a long way to securing my $20. 

Of course don’t leave out the mid-pack of the field. Alexander Rossi starts 10th, and he’s shown he can win from anywhere in the field. Will this finally be the day the padlock of the past few years leave…I hope so! I’d also watch Conor Daly, his Ed Carpenter Racing teammates start in the first two rows. Daly starts in Row 7, but he’s found himself in the top ten, or even top five, of most practice day speed charts. Last year’s winner Takuma Sato starts in Row 5 and his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal starts immediately behind him in Row 6. I don’t know if Rahal will come away a winner at this race, but he’s going to most certainly finish higher than he started. 

We’ve been spoiled by having drivers in the last row who are fighters and cut through the field. The footage of Alexander Rossi passing five cars on the outside from the 2018 Indianapolis 500 will stand the test of time. This year, Will Power finds himself in the middle of row eleven, having survived another emotional bump day. Look for Power to make aggressive moves. But Power can become too aggressive at times, and in a packed field: that can end badly. Of course Simona De Silvestro starts in the thirty-third position after surviving Bump Day last week, she has a lot of young women on her pit crew, and a lot of ladies watching all over cheering for her. If collective thoughts worked – she’d win. 

Ultimately though, the track chooses the winner. We’ve had wild weather changes between practice days. We survived another emotional] Bump Day (Charlie Kimball is a class act, we will see him next year but it’s not the same). Now it’s time for the big show. If you’re in Indiana and don’t have a ticket: fear not it’ll be on NBC without a black out! Of course I recommend experiencing the race in person, or listening to INDYCAR radio with the two-page grid from the newspaper spread out before you.