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What to Watch out For: The 102nd Indy 500 Preview

The 102nd Indianapolis 500 (more popularly known as the Indy 500) presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be held on May 27th, 2018, during Memorial Day weekend.

It is a 500-mile, 200-lap race around the 2 ½ mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Traditionally, the 500 has had a 33-driver line-up since 1934, although there were only 30 starters in 1947 and 35 starters in 1979 and 1997.


The image of the winner will be etched into the Borg-Warner Trophy, commissioned in 1935 and first handed out in 1936 to Louis Meyer. As a permanent tradition since 1956, a bottle of milk is handed out to the race winner, and it is often poured on the winner’s head. The tradition began in 1936 when Meyer was parched after his victory, and he asked for buttermilk in victory lane.

The entire race track is made up of asphalt, except for the three-foot-wide strip of bricks that marks the start/finish line. These bricks are part of the 3.2M bricks that made up the original surface of the race track. Since Dale Jarrett did it after winning the Brickyard 400 in 1996, winning drivers and crew at the Indy 500 have made it a tradition to kiss the bricks.

Music and Concerts

A pre-race favorite is the song “Back Home Again in Indiana” popularized by the late Jim Nabors who sang it most years through 2014. For the second consecutive year, the song will be sung by Jim Cornelison.

The final practice session is called the Carb Day because it used to allow crews to adjust the carburetors. But even if carburetors haven’t been used for decades, the term “Carb Day” has stuck. These days, it kicks off Memorial Day weekend with race action and concerts.

This year, Carb Day is on May 25th, and the concert for the day is a pop/rock show that will feature Blues Traveler and Train. Saturday, May 26th, is Legends Day, and the concert for that day will be top billed by country music’s Sam Hunt. On race day (May 27th), an electronic music concert will be held at the Snake Pit.

Past Winners and History of Drivers

The most wins in the Indy 500 by a driver is four, and this feat was accomplished by A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears. In the current field, the winningest driver is Helio Castroneves with three victories, the last of which was in 2009.

The fastest average speed to win the race was 187.433 in 2013 by Tony Kanaan. The 2013 Indy 500 also featured 68 lead changes, the most in race history. In 2016, Alexander Rossi won the race as a rookie. Takuma Sato won the race last year to become the first Japanese to win the race.

Nine women have made starts at the Indy 500. These are Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, and Katherine Legge. The best finish by a woman was 3rd in 2009 by Danica Patrick. Patrick is the only woman to lead the race. This year, Patrick and Pippa Mann are the only female participants.

Here Is the Complete Indy 500 Lineup

  • Andretti Autosport: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach, Stefan Wilson
  • Team Penske: Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Sebastien Bourdais, Conor Daly (with Thomas Burns Racing), Pietro Fittipaldi, Pippa Mann
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter, Danica Patrick, Spencer Pigot
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia
  • A.J. Foyt Racing: James Davison (with Byrd, Hollinger, Belardi), Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist
  • Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
  • Carlin Motorsports: Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball
  • Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: J.R. Hildebrand, Sage Karam
  • Harding Racing: Gabby Chaves
  • Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser
  • Michael Shank Racing: Jack Harvey (with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports)

Who Are the Favorites?

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook odds as of 5/7/18, 2015 winner Alexander Rossi is the favorite at 5-1.

Since his win at the 100th Indy 500, Rossi has come a long way. The former Amazing Race star has two race wins and four podiums two years into his IndyCar career and could be headed to a breakout season.

Next to Rossi on the list is 2017 IndyCar Series winner Josef Newgarden at 8-1. The current IndyCar champion finished 2017 with three wins and two second-place finishes in his last six races. And while it’s hard to keep up that winning pace, his nine podiums prove that he is a threat everywhere he races.

Four-time winner Scott Dixon and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud are pegged at 10-1. Dixon is coming off his first season since 2005 without multiple wins, but his nine podiums in 2017 were his most in six years. Meanwhile, Pagenaud had one of the best seasons in recent history last year. His 5.3 average finishing position was better than Newgarden’s 6.1 and the best since Franchitti’s 4.8 in 2011.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves, who is the only driver to win more than $3M in one year ($3,048,005 in 2009) and who is also the all-time leader in career earnings at $11,881,205, is at 12-1. On the other hand, 2017 race winner Takuma Sato, who is the first Japanese to win the Indy 500, is at 25-1.

Danica Patrick is a 30-1 odds-on favorite to win the last race of her career. Patrick raced in the 2018 Daytona 500 and will compete one final time at the 2018 Indy 500 after announcing that she would be retiring after the 2017 season.

Our Pick

Current IndyCar series champion Josef Newgarden finished 2017 on a hot streak, and he looks to carry the momentum to the Indy 500. In six starts, his best finish was 3rd in 2016. He was 22nd last year, but this could be the year for the 2017 IndyCar Series champion. We’re picking Josef Newgarden to win the 102nd Indy 500.

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