RC Enerson was the 34th and final driver confirmed to this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – he will drive the No. 50 Chevrolet of Abel Motorsports – but there is reason to be optimistic about his level of competitiveness next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For starters, Enerson experienced the Month of May in 2021 when he and Top Gun Racing failed to earn a starting position. More significantly, the 26-year-old Floridian said this year’s program is far more prepared than it was two years ago.
“It has been in the works since January, I believe, and we got the cars over to (Abel Motorsports) by mid-February,” he said. “The car’s been prepped for a long time, and we didn’t miss (qualifying) by too much in ’21, and that was with building the car in 38 days.
“So, taking that same car and massaging it into the state it is right now … I’m just super excited.”
Enerson said the car will be engineered by Erik Petersen and Mike Colliver, and they have considerable experience with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, in general, and the “500,” specifically. Enerson called them “insanely experienced engineers.”
Abel Motorsports is led by John Brunner, another longtime veteran of the sport. The driver said seasoned mechanics are regularly inquiring about joining the program.
“We’re going to be pretty stacked (personnel-wise),” Enerson said. “We’re giving ourselves every advantage we can to have the best showing we can.”
Enerson added that Brunner and team owner Bill Abel “don’t do anything unless they’re fully prepped for it.”
Enerson and his father, Neil, own the car the team will use next month, and they spent last week’s Open Test at IMS watching as much as they could before returning the team’s nearby shop for staff and sponsor meetings. Enerson said he will be at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ fourth race of the season to continue dialogue with Chevrolet officials and those in the paddock with which he has strong relationships.
“Whatever (Chevrolet) gets information that’s privy to everybody that’s on the Chevy side, they’re going to give you that info,” Enerson said. “It’s not like we’re going to be out there with no help at all, and there are friends out in the paddock, so you’re getting all the information you can.
“When it comes to Bump Day, Chevy’s going to want was many Chevys in the race as possible.”
Enerson and the No. 50 car will get its first laps of the year when the refresher period begins on the first official day of “500” practice, which is Tuesday, May 16.
While Enerson is trying to earn his first starting spot in the “500,” it’s not like he has limited experience. In fact, he has been on the path to this level longer than many will remember.
Enerson said he first met Brunner in 2012 in their days in USF2000, and Enerson had a successful run through the sport’s development series, with a race win and four other podium finishes in INDY NXT by Firestone in 2015 when he finished fourth in series points driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. In 2016, he landed a ride with Dale Coyne Racing for three INDYCAR SERIES races, finishing ninth in the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the site of his INDY NXT race win.
Enerson appeared to be set for a full-season INDYCAR SERIES ride in 2017, but that opportunity fell through in the late going. It took him three years to get another chance in the series, a ride with Carlin at Mid-Ohio. Two years later he partnered with Top Gun Racing in its first and still only “500” run.
Enerson still will be classified as an Indy rookie, although he is older than 12 other drivers who will be aiming for a berth in the 107th Running. While his first INDYCAR SERIES laps in two years won’t come until May 16 – all other competitors ran in the Open Test – he expects a smooth transition. After all, he has competed in two INDY NXT races at IMS and in recent years has made starts in NASCAR’s Cup and Xfinity Series, plus the Rolex 24 At Daytona in IMSA.
“The biggest thing is getting back in the car,” said Enerson, who stays active by serving as the chief driving instructor for the Lucas Oil School of Racing. “Everybody knows – even some of the drivers have said in the offseason when you get out of the car for months – that when you get back in things feel alien the first couple of laps. It’s getting that feel back but once (you do) it comes back really, really quick.”
“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” grids on Sunday, May 28, Enerson’s goal is to be on it.
Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix will air live on NBC, Peacock and INDYCAR LIVE at 3 p.m. ET. The INDYCAR Radio Network also will have coverage of the 90-lap race beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.