Pre Indy 500 News and Notes

Action during the Indianapolis 500 Practice on Monday. [Media Credit - Penske Entertainment: James Black]

Action during the Indianapolis 500 Practice on Monday. [Media Credit – Penske Entertainment: James Black]

by Paul Gohde

Speeds are at near record proportions for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, Romain Grosjean has not made friends with several drivers leading up to the 500, and the field is a bit upside down as some of the usual challengers for a win might possibly have trouble seeing the green flag wave at the start from their somewhat distant starting spots. Yes, it may be a little different 500 come Sunday. Let’s take a look.

• The 33-car starting field averages 231.023 mph, but that might be deceiving. With four past winners (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato and Will Power) lining up in the top half of the grid, and four other past winners (Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya) starting in the back half, the chase to defend positions or attack to improve them should make the first 20 laps or so very interesting…Thirty-third starter and late entry Stefan Wilson did not make a qualifying run over the weekend and was added to the field Monday to allow the traditional number of starters (33) to continue… There is approximately a seven-mph speed spread from front to back in the field, not counting Wilson…Chip Ganassi has all five of his entered cars in the first twelve starting spots including former NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson who will start 12th, outside Row Four, in his first Indy 500 attempt.

• Possibly the most surprising team that will line up on Sunday is that of long-time owner Dale Coyne. Coyne annually aligns his team with several other entrants, often spreading his crew thin at times. For the 2022 running, Coyne has just two cars entered, one for two-time 500 winner Takuma Sato and another for rookie David Malukas. Both Coyne cars will start ahead of many Penske, Andretti, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Foyt and Meyer Shank qualifiers; quite an improvement over past races that could pay-off come checkered flag time.

• The only incident during Monday’s post-qualifying practice was a spin with heavy wall contact in Turn 1 for Dalton Kellett in AJ Foyt’s #4 Chevy while attempting to pass stubborn Andretti Autosport driver Romain Grosjean. Kellett crawled out uninjured and will be ready come race day. Grosjean also drew the ire of Graham Rahal after twice banging wheels with the former F1 pilot earlier in the season’s fourth race at Barber Motorsports Park (contact that Rahal didn’t forget coming to Indy soon after). “That guy’s a punk,” pit-siders heard him describe Grosjean. ‘He hit me on purpose.” Grosjean also touched wheels with Jack Harvey during the GMR Grand Prix contested in the rain on the IMS road course early in May. The French-Swiss driver blamed Harvey for the contact. It might be interesting to pay attention to Grosjean as he moves through the field from his ninth-place starting spot.

• In an off-track promotion, the annual Racing Memorabilia show will be held for the second year at the roomy Embassy Suites Hotel Event Center in Plainfield, IN on Friday, May 27 (3-8 pm) and Saturday, May 28 (9am-4pm). The hotel is located just west of the Indy Airport, at the first exit west of the airport, on I-70. It is billed as the largest racing memorabilia show in the world with over 170 booths. Admission is $5.

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