Today’s question: Who has the best chance to sweep the GMR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a feat achieved only by Will Power in 2018 and Simon Pagenaud in 2019?
Curt Cavin: This challenge requires as much experience and team as it does speed, and I think the driver with the best mix of those is Josef Newgarden. He has already shown the ability to win on the IMS road course – he won one of the fall races in 2020 -- and his day on this oval is coming. That Newgarden drives for Team Penske, which keyed the Indy doubles of Power and Pagenaud, shouldn’t be discounted. If there’s a sleeper, Rinus VeeKay comes to mind. He won last year’s GMR Grand Prix and has started in the top four of both of his “500s” with Ed Carpenter Racing.
Zach Horrall: Curt nudged at mine, so I’ll take it from here – I think Rinus VeeKay can do it. Yes, his lone NTT INDYCAR SERIES win came in the GMR Grand Prix last year, but this is also the racetrack where he scored his first career pole and first podium finish. He’s good on this road course. On the oval, he has used the fast Ed Carpenter Racing cars to his advantage and qualified extremely well – he was the youngest front row starter in Indy 500 history last year. And he proved strong in last year’s Indy 500, leading 32 laps before falling off near the end to finish eighth. Plus, VeeKay has something to prove after leaving Barber visibly mad at a third-place finish, believing he threw away a win by not racing Pato O’Ward as aggressive as he should have.
Paul Kelly: Scott Dixon is due in more ways than one, isn’t he? First, Dixon’s last victory in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was more than a year ago, in early May 2021 at Texas Motor Speedway. This is the longest drought in The Iceman’s career since he went more than two years without driving into Victory Lane between mid-2003 and late 2005, but Chip Ganassi Racing also was hampered by an uncompetitive Toyota engine during that time. The IMS road course has been a strong circuit for Dixon, who has won or finished second in four of the last five GMR Grands Prix. He won this race in 2020, when it took place in July due to the global pandemic. It’s also safe to say Dixon is due to win his second Indianapolis 500. When he earned his spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy in 2008, many figured it was the first of many victories in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But that hasn’t happened. Still, Dixon has been no slouch in the “500” since then, with six top-five finishes since 2009, including second place in 2012 and 2020. Dixon is facing stiff competition from within Chip Ganassi Racing from reigning series champion Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson, but something tells me the old dog still has a few tricks and the vital experience needed to win in May at Indy on the road course and oval.