Here’s a spotter’s guide for today’s spectatorless running of the 104th Indianapolis 500. Keep your eyes (and your money) on Takumo Sato from the outside of row 1. $100 on your sports bet app will net you $1600 if Sato wins, and the former winner has been fast and consistent in both practice and qualifying. “I see him leading the first lap, but not the last,” said racing science fiction writer Cole Coonce. It is a race that anyone in the front half of the field (at least) can win.
“I think it was a nice Carb Day,” said Sato, whose been remarkably under the radar for a row 1 starter. “We tried a couple of things we wanted to double-check, and we got what we want. I believe we now are ready. The three of us will now debrief and check the data. The guys did a great job. I can’t wait until Sunday.”
Marco Andretti is the sentimental fan favorite, and he is starting on pole. After losing to Sam Hornish by feet in his rookie 500, Marco has mostly been an also-ran—seemingly an under-achiever. But he’s popular not just among the sentimental, but also in the paddock. And his father Michael’s team has been one of Indy’s most successful in recent years, along with race strategist Bryan Herta.
“Today we found a few things we didn’t like in the car, which is good and bad because we found it out before Sunday,” Andretti said after his Carb Day session. “We ticked a lot of boxes on a semi-difficult day, but I think we are still in a good position for the race on Sunday.“
The actual Vegas favorite is former winner Scott Dixon, who starts between Andretti and Sato. Dixon had a spin on Carb Day—a sign of a car out of sorts? Or is t a “we’ve got that out of the way” sort of situation?
“We had to go through our front wings today just to make sure they’re all close in case we need one in the race,” reported Dixon. “We lost some front grip, and we’re trying to see if the teammates had the same situation. Apart from that, the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt really good and really fast. It pulls up wicked fast. Hopefully that’s true when it comes to the race.
“It definitely looks like there are some good cars out there and some not so good cars, so hopefully we’re on the right end of the grid. I think there has always been, especially these last few years, an underlying tone of ‘it’s hard to pass,’ which it was in that camp last year. This year’s been a lot easier for us. I think a lot of credit goes out to HPD and Honda. We’re proud to be powered by them. They have done a lot to help that, but also I think we’ve made a lot of changes on the team and the car and that’s helped that, as well. It’s good to see.”
SCHEDULE: (All times Eastern)
1 p.m.: All Cars on Grid
1 p.m.: NBC Live Coverage Begins
1:20 p.m.: “On the Banks of the Wabash”
1:47 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Driver Introductions
2:08 p.m.: Presentation of Colors, Military Joint Services
2:09 p.m.: Invocation – Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
2:10 p.m.: Rifle Volley
2:11 p.m.: “Taps”
2:12 p.m.: National Anthem – “Singing Surgeons” Dr. Elvis Francois & Dr. William Robinson
2:14 p.m.: First Flyover – U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
2:14 p.m.: “Drivers, To Your Cars.” – Dave Calabro
2:20 p.m.: “Back Home Again in Indiana” – Jim Cornelison
2:22 p.m.: Second Flyover – U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
2:22 p.m.: Command To Start Engines – Roger Penske, Chairman, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
2:30 p.m.: Green Flag, 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (200 laps).
story by Tim Hailey with help from IndyCar, Honda and Chevrolet