Arrow McLaren Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist was the midway point leader in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and Katherine Legge, the only woman in the field, was the first driver eliminated from “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
But on lap 184, a massive crash involving Rosenqvist and Kyle Kirkwood in Turn 2 sent a tire over the fence, narrowly missing a grandstand, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Race favorite Alex Palou started from pole and led 36 of the first 100 laps. The Spaniard easily had one of the best cars in the race, but was rammed by Rinus VeeKay as the cars tried to leave pit road.
The Chip Ganassi Racing team from Palou had to race to get their car back in the pits and they needed a new front wing. Palou fell to 26th halfway through the race and VeeKay was penalized for avoidable contact.
The crash on lap 95 happened during full pit stops under the first warning, caused three laps earlier by rookie Sting Ray Robb, who had a tough month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He crashed with his Dale Coyne Racing teammate on the first lap of the road race at Indy, then struggled to qualify even for the field of 33 for the 500.
Robb was livid with Graham Rahal after the crash for what Robb called “far too aggressive” driving.
“I just got caught running with someone I thought was not resisting the stereotype, but I guess that’s it,” said Robb, who declined to mention Rahal by name. “I’ve had too many learning experiences this year. I’m sick of it. Not much else to say. Really upset and just want to move on.”
Robb’s caution created a frenzy on pit road, from VeeKay crashing into Palou, Christian Lundgaard nearly hitting a crew member and a speeding penalty on Argentine rookie Agustin Canapino.
During the green flag stops later in the race, there was more drama on pit road when Colta Herta was released from his pit and hit his Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean, who entered his stand right in front of him. Herta was penalized for a dangerous exit, but no car was damaged.
Legge was the first driver eliminated due to an electrical problem in a terrible month for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. The team failed to qualify Graham Rahal for the race and had the three slowest cars in the field.
Rahal entered the race anyway as an injured replacement for Stefan Wilson, who broke his back when Legge crashed into his back during a training session. Wilson, meanwhile, was discharged from hospital and was on the track Sunday for the start of the race’s 107th race.
It started with the usual pageantry in front of a crowd of over 300,000 inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and immediately Rahal had a problem. He was stuck on the starting grid when his car failed to start after Roger Penske’s order to start the engines. By the time the car started, the green flag had flown and Rahal was already one lap down.
“Anyone can win this race,” Josef Newgarden, who started 17th, told CBS Sports. “The strategy can flip with 50 laps to go, and all of a sudden the leaders are at the back. You just don’t know how it’s going to play out. … You have a plan, but you have to be able to pass from this plan.”
2023 Indianapolis 500 odds, field
See all the 2023 Indy 500 picks, predictions and best bets here.
Pato O’Ward +500
Alex Palou +575
Scott Dixon +700
Alexandre Rossi +900
Rinus VeeKay +1000
Takuma Sato +1100
Felix Rosenqvist +1200
Santino Ferruci +1500
Scott McLaughlin +1500
Tony Kanaan +1700
Colton Herta +2000
Kyle Kirkwood +2500
Conor Daly +3000
David Malukas +4000
Romain Grosjean +4500
Ed Charpentier +5000
Simon Pagenaud +5000
Graham Rahal +5000
Helio Castroneves +5500
Marco Andretti +6000
Ryan Hunter-Reay +6000
Benjamin Pedersen +7500
Christian Lundgaard +10000
Jack Harvey +20000
Augustin Canapino +25000
Callum Ilott +25000
Devlin DeFrancesco +30000
RC Enerson +30000
Katherine Leggé +30000
Sting Ray Robb +30000
However, things rarely go according to the script of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. The mayhem of 33 cars flying down the front stretch and into that infamous first corner at over 230 mph, and the 200 laps that followed, often produces unexpected results.
Before the race, when asked about a surprise competitor, Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport replied: “Canapino”.
That would be Agustín Canapino, one of Argentina’s most popular athletes, making his Indy 500 debut. He was fast in practice and, despite qualifying on the ninth row, showed plenty of speed in the final shakedown of Friday.
“I think he still has a bit to learn from following him and so on about his shortcomings and his timing,” Herta said, “but it looks like he has a fast car. I think if he can make some adjustments to the ride, that could be really good for him.”
Josef Newgarden, the Team Penske driver still looking for his first Indy 500 win, also said Canapino stood out for him.
“You put Canapino in position at the end and, oh, he would go,” Newgarden said. “He’s been very, very impressive this year, and people wrote him off before he even started. He’s done a tremendous amount of good with no experience. I can’t speak highly enough.”
Santino Ferrucci is another pilot that came out of nowhere in May. He joined AJ Foyt Racing, which struggled for years but underwent an operational overhaul in the offseason, and with rookie Benjamin Pedersen turned heads all month.
Ferrucci, who will start fourth, has never finished worse than 10th in four previous starts.
“Yeah, I think Santino can be quick if they all do well in the pits and stuff,” Kanaan said. “He’s finished ahead here in the past, he’s raced out front and he’s got a really good car, so I think he’s going to be tough.”
Two of the hottest teams had quiet preparations at the Indianapolis 500 before making a statement in final practice.
Andretti Autosport flew under the radar but sent a warning shot on Friday when Kyle Kirkwood was fifth in the speed chart, with Herta two places behind him and Romain Grosjean giving the team a third car in the top eight.
Meanwhile, the Penske team appeared to regain speed – and confidence – in final practice after placing just one driver in the top four rows of qualifying. Will Power set the third fastest lap in practice while Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin were also in the top 10.
Practice is one thing, however. One of motorsport’s most iconic races is something else entirely.
“It’s really hard to single out anyone these days,” Newgarden said. “Anyone can win this race, really. The strategy can flip with 50 to go and all of a sudden the front is at the back and vice versa. You just don’t know how it’s going to play out. It could be a normal day, it could be a crazy day It’s always a guess when you get into these things.