Drivers Expect Patience, Opportunism to Win Indy 500

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

It was late in Carb Day practice on Friday and McLaren’s Tony Kanaan has enough.

“When I saw three wide into Turn 1 with 20 minutes to go [I said], ‘Why do you want to do that? I’m out,'” he said.

Late dives, three-wide slingshots and aero push. Typical final practice factors, right?

On the eve of the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, drivers seem to have their expectations on a level in terms of how competitive the 200-lapper may end up — and what drivers will be willing to do to make gains. Though it’s a prime topic of conversation every Month of May, those expectations alter each year given the changes to the cars, small or large.

For numerous of the field’s 33, there will be more than one race happening at any given point: The race up front and the race for air in the mid pack.

Pole-sitter Alex Palou enters his fourth Indy 500 in 2023, making it four straight straight top-10 qualifying efforts for the Spaniard. With enough experience in precious clean air from the go, the series champion also has felt the chaos of the mid-pack. Here, opportunism will be key.

“At the front is not going to be too aggressive. But, when you’re at the back, if you have a chance, you have to go for it,” Palou said. “Everyone is going to be diving in quite late. I don’t think it’s different from the past.

“Last year, I remember driving from the back [after] being used to being up front. I was like, ‘Oh, these guys are going for it really hard.'”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden will not have the privilege of Palou’s P1, as the two-time series champion will face combat from 17th. Here, is where patience will emerge.

“There is no rush with 500 miles. Certainly not the first stint,” Newgarden said. “When there is opportunity to make passes — starts and restarts — those are your best opportunities. You’re going to try and maximize that.

“There’s not a hurry starting 17th. I don’t think there [would be] a hurry starting 25th. You just have to have a good, consistent day and march your way forward.”

Veteran of 11 Indy 500 starts, Newgarden’s search for win No. 1 will be a tricky one. The last time the winner started outside the top 10 was 2016.

“I don’t think there is urgency,” he said. “I much prefer to start up front but we are where we are and we have to make the most of it. I think we have plenty of time to get up there.”

2013 champion Kanaan was certainly the most blunt in his pre-race predictions, as the Brazilian approaches his 22nd and final Indy 500.

“You can say, ‘Ah this is boring because nobody is passing,'” he said. “Passing is going to be happening late. I think it’s going to be tough, it’s not going to be easy. I think it’s going to be competitive.”

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