INDIANAPOLIS – The 46th annual Last Row Party welcomed a unique group, with Conor Daly, Jack Harvey and Alexander Rossi “honored” by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation for being the three drivers who will start Sunday’s 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil from the back row of the field.
The 11th Row Society was built on the foundation of qualifying – or lack thereof – for Indy 500 grid positions 31-33. This year saw Harvey (31st), Rossi (32nd) and Daly (33rd) as the latest honorees. As such, they were presented with lucrative checks valued at 31, 32 and 33 cents, respectively, during the light-hearted event held Thursday evening on the sixth and seventh floors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda.
“Your boy’s got to pay the mortgage,” said Daly, driver of the No. 17 United States Air Force Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Thom Burns Racing, as he accepted his check. “Let’s go!”
Daly added that Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion and his teammate on the CBS reality adventure show, “The Amazing Race,” is not used to coming from far back in the field. But perhaps in fitting fashion, they may be able to deliver another amazing race of their own and move up through the field on Sunday.
“I’m sure he hates this, but he’s just got to realize that this happens to a lot of people,” Daly said of Rossi, his friend and former housemate. “He’s gone from last to first before. He didn’t start there, but he certainly got shuffled back to last after all his fuel problems in ’16 and stuff like that. I know he’s going to be really strong going forward.
“It could be a cool story if we both start making up positions together, could be kind of funny to watch.”
Rossi took a more serious view as he and Daly bantered about how they ended up at the back end of the grid. The Andretti Autosport driver is already focused on the task ahead and he sets his sights on becoming the Indy 500 winner from the lowest starting position. The current record is from 28th, held by Ray Harroun in 1911 and Louis Meyer in 1936.
“This is a really cool opportunity and I think it’ll make for one hell of a story if we can pull it off,” said Rossi, driver of the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda. “We’re just excited to show what we’re capable of and we’re going to be working very hard to get forward very quickly on Sunday.”
Harvey is starting his second consecutive Indy 500. As such, the driver of the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM MSR with SPM Honda driver maintains a measured level of confidence as the race draws near. The 25-year-old felt fortunate to attend the Last Row Party, considering two drivers – his teammate James Hinchcliffe and Daly’s teammate Pippa Mann – missed the show entirely.
“This is one of those parties that, when there is bump day you still don’t really want to be here, but there’s two people that would trade you to be here to make the race,” the Meyer Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver said. “So, you try to be a little humble because of that. I’m happy to be here. It would have been nice to not had to have been here, but I’m going to embrace it.”
The last row and the rest of the 33 drivers have a final 60-minute practice on Friday, Miller Lite Carb Day, that airs live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN. The 102nd Indianapolis 500 will be carried live at 11 a.m. Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets for the race are available at IMS.com.