Today’s question: What’s your biggest curiosity about the Indianapolis 500 Open Test on April 20-21?
Curt Cavin: I think I can speak for everyone in saying it will be interesting to see how Jimmie Johnson stacks up against what amounts to a full field of competitors, especially the most seasoned in the bunch. My assumption is that he will be relatively high on the time sheet given the experience and past performance of Chip Ganassi Racing as well as his own knowledge of Indianapolis Motor Speedway through 18 starts in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400. Obviously, this test won’t have the same level of pressure of official practice, which begins Tuesday, May 17, and therefore it won’t be a true gauge of where he stands, but it will offer a preview. Is he top five? Top 10? Somewhere in the middle? As I’ve said on many occasions over the past year, Jimmie is a fascinating watch in this two-year INDYCAR SERIES endeavor, and that continues this week.
Zach Horrall: I’ve got my sights set on Team Penske, and Josef Newgarden, in particular. The organization has admittedly not been as good on the famed racetrack over the last two years as in years past, and Team Penske’s drivers haven’t been shy to admit this is where a lot of their offseason work was directed. So, will it pay off? If Newgarden, Will Power and Scott McLaughlin rank around the top five or top 10, I’ll lean toward yes even if we won’t have a fuller picture for another month or so. But specifically, I want to see what kind of speed Newgarden shows on the 2.5-mile oval. It’s really the only thing left on his resume that he needs to accomplish. Sometimes is surprises me that he hasn’t won the Indy 500 considering how much he has won. Plus, after back-to-back NTT INDYCAR SERIES wins this year, and the prestigious Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach one of them, I’m starting to get a sense that this could be a special year for Newgarden. Does that special year include finally checking the Indy 500 off his list? I think we’re about to find out.
Paul Kelly: I’m not looking at drivers; I’m looking at engines. Which powerplant will have the upper hand this year at Indy in terms of pure speed, Chevrolet or Honda? For the last two years, Honda has dominated qualifying for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” HPD engines powered seven of the nine spots in the first three rows in 2021 and eight of nine in 2020 and entered Victory Lane both years with Takuma Sato in 2020 and Helio Castroneves in 2021. But the pendulum appears to have swung in the Bowtie’s direction so far in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, as Chevy-powered drivers have won all three races and captured the NTT P1 Award for pole at two of three. Sure, there’s more to success at Indy than pure power. Factors such as setup, strategy and fuel mileage are vital. But plenty of ponies are needed at the series’ fastest track arguably more than anywhere else, and I’m fascinated to see where the engines stack up after two days of testing.