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106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge

106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge

A year of waiting is finally over. It’s time for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, presented by Gainbridge.

It’s been a grueling two-week training, qualifying and race preparation for the stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as they all look to etch their names into history as the winner of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.

Firestone supplies nearly 5,000 tires for the Indianapolis 500. Each entry received 34 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires to use during practice, qualifying and the race. These racing tires are specially designed and are not used anywhere else in the world. This year’s allotment is the exact same tires used in last year’s race.

Conditions in Speedway, Indiana, are expected to be close to perfect for today’s race at the historic 4-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Temperatures are expected to be around 75 degrees at the time of the green flag, with a maximum of 84 for the partly cloudy day.

You can follow the action live on NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 11 a.m. (ET). You can listen to the radio broadcast live on network partners, SiriusXM 85 and 160, INDYCAR.com and INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:

Reflection from Wreck

Two drivers start the Indy 500 today after crashes just two days ago: David Malukas and Colton Herta.

Both were involved in separate Turn 1 accidents during the final practice of the Indy 500 on Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday. At 1:44 PM Malukas attempted to pass Santino Ferrucci in his number 18 HMD Honda.

Malukas and Ferrucci touched the wheels and Malukas’ right rear tire burst causing him to have a late spin exiting Turn 1 and up the SAFER barrier. Malukas’ Dale Coyne Racing with the HMD team was able to repair the car and he will not be in a spare car.

Meanwhile, Herta had a massive accident in Turn 1, just minutes after Malukas’ accident. Herta wobbled in the Gainbridge Honda No. 26 and made contact with the SAFER Barrier right back as it exited the corner. The car overturned and skidded down the short slide between Turns 1 and 2, making secondary contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 with the nose of the car.

Herta was re-evaluated on Saturday after his accident and cleared to return to racing. His Andretti Autosport Honda, on the other hand, was not good to go. Herta will have to start today’s Indy 500 in a spare car.

Start at the front, stay at the front

Yes, today’s race is a 500 mile affair. And yes, there are plenty of overtaking opportunities on the track and on the pit road. But often the race winner starts up front.

Seventy-five percent of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Races have been won from the front third of the field. Last year’s winner, Helio Castroneves, started eighth en route to his historic fourth Indy 500 win.

In the past decade, only Ryan Hunter-Reay has won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” after starting in the second half of the field. He started 19th en route to Victory Lane in 2014.

The most successful starting position in Indianapolis 500 history is the first, with 21 drivers winning the race from pole. The last to do so was Simon Pagenaud in 2019. Scott Dixon, who won the NTT P1 Award for pole with fastest average pole speed in four laps in history, should feel good about his chances. He has had fast cars in each of the last two “500s”.

The second most successful starting place is third, with 13 drivers finding Victory Lane after starting third. The last driver to win from third place was Takuma Sato in 2020. Rinus VeeKay starts third today.

No. 2 is the third best starting position in history with 11 drivers using the center of the front row to blast into the racing history books. But it’s been a while since the second has produced a winner – 21 years in fact. The last Indy 500 winner to start second was Juan Pablo Montoya when he won his first Indy 500 in 2000. Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Alex Palou starts second today.

The lowest starting position to produce a winner is the 28th. Two drivers have risen from so far in the field – Ray Harroun in 1911 and Louis Meyer in 1936. Rookie Kyle Kirkwood starts 28th this year.

This is a strategic race

Since passing during this year’s race may be a premium due to the ultra-competitive field, expect pit strategy to play a factor throughout the day, as is often the case.

You could see it up front as drivers deciding who doesn’t lead – that’s how last year’s race started when Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were eager to finish first, while pole sitter Scott Dixon opted for second or third. position to save fuel.

When teams and drivers in the back half of the field see an opportunity to deploy an opposing strategy for the leaders, they are likely to take advantage of it. Usually, these opportunities come when a warning comes at a time that doesn’t fit into an already planned fuel cycle.

This will inevitably lead to multiple drivers taking the lead late in the race, hoping for a warning and the race to end in yellow flag conditions. Takuma Sato took his second Indy 500 win in 2020.

Sato is often an alternative strategy driver, as are Felix Rosenqvist, Santino Ferrucci and Sage Karam – all four of these drivers have landed late in the last two Indy 500s to get some luck and drink the milk on Victory Podium.

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