SPEEDWAY — Which team led the first Indianapolis 500 practice session? Chip Ganassi Racing.
Which team led Fast Friday? Chip Ganassi Racing.
Which team led the Top 12 after the first day of qualifying? Not Chip Ganassi Racing.
It was Felix Rosenqvist from Arrow McLaren, but it didn’t matter for the Swede because guess which team won the pole position the following day? Chip Ganassi Racing.
And then on Carb Day? Chip Ganassi Racing was atop the speed chart yet again. The team even won the pit competition.
The most dominant team of the month of May has been Chip Ganassi Racing. Arrow McLaren has come close, but Ganassi has consistently put all four of its drivers at the top of the speed chart.
It’s done so with a Honda engine, the only team to be at the front with that power plant.
The near bullet-proof Ganassi cars have generated understandable confidence from the drivers – pole-sitter Alex Palou, two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato, 2008 Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon and defending Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson.
“That would be ideal. I would love that,” Palou said when asked if he could lead all 200 laps of Sunday’s race, a question other drivers on other teams aren’t being asked.
It’s not as if Ganassi’s excellence at IMS is new. The team has won five times, all from 2000 onward, and fields the defending champion.
Ganassi hasn’t always lived up to its promise, witness the 10-year drought between Ericsson’s 2022 win and the 2012 victory for Dario Franchitti, but the team expects to win and doesn’t shy away from being the team to beat.
“I don’t think it’s a pressure. I think it’s a privilege to know that you drive for an organization that can provide us with four cars that’s super fast and that we expect to be up front and fight for the win,” Ericsson said. “I think that’s something to be proud of, and I think all four of us are super excited about this opportunity.”
The Ganassi cars anticipate being up front and working together for the majority of the race. Palou, who started on the front row in 2022, feels he learned a lesson as he came on too strong with an aggressive start to the race.
“Knowing we have a very fast car, we need to try to control the race as much as possible. What I mean is to not be out of the race too early by being too aggressive. Hopefully, we can have a more controlled race,” Palou said.
The winning experience of the Ganassi cars helps the drivers feed off one another.
“My teammates are some of the strongest in the lineup. It’s either an Indy 500 winner or a championship winner,” Sato said. “We can talk the same language. Not English or Japanese, but the level, the quality, the engineering. It’s extremely important to share together.”
Who can challenge the Ganassi contingent? Arrow McLaren is the logical next option. The newest and fastest Chevrolet team has Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan and Pato O’Ward all among the race contenders.
A.J. Foyt Enterprises has been more competitive than it has been in several decades. Santino Ferrucci starts fourth. Rookie Benjamin Pedersen starts 11th.
“It’s a great story for us. We’re definitely underdogs. The Fast 12 was all of Ganassi, all of McLaren and then all of A.J. Foyt. Those are four-car teams spending triple if not quadruple the budget we have. To make them worry is definitely a good feeling,” Ferrucci said.
Team Penske and Andretti Autosport drivers didn’t qualify well, but over 200 laps they’re a threat. Penske drivers Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Scott McLaughlin have won this season or won the 500 before. Andretti’s Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean and Kyle Kirkwood have all been fast.
Ed Carpenter Racing should never be overlooked on the oval. Rinus VeeKay starts second and has been near the top of the speed chart all month. Carpenter himself is also stout.
As for feel-good stories? Graham Rahal getting a second-chance in the Dreyer & Reinbold No. 24 is an obvious one as he has relieved injured Stefan Wilson after Wilson fractured a vertabrae in a Monday practice accident.
R.C. Enerson made the field for one-off team Abel Motorsports. Along with Dreyer & Reinbold, they are one of the few non-full-season IndyCar teams in the field.
The race begins at 12:45 p.m. Sunday with cars to the grid at 10:30 a.m. and race-day ceremonies beginning at 11:47 a.m. There is no precipitation in the race-day forecast.
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