Milk bottle

The countdown to the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is officially underway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In less than two weeks, the green flag will drop for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Two-hundred laps later, a new champion will be crowned.

SEE: Indy 500 Event Details

Who will it be? Josef Newgarden, the first repeat winner since Helio Castroneves in 2002? Could Castroneves become the first five-time winner or maybe Takuma Sato becomes only the 11th driver in history with three or more wins. What about Marcus Ericsson notching his third consecutive top-two finish? Or Scott Dixon finally scoring that elusive second victory?

There’s a good chance Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi or Will Power wins the race again? Or perhaps Alex Palou, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader who has been oh-so-close the past three years. Maybe there’s a shining moment for Santino Ferrucci, who is 5-for-5 in delivering top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish last year. And all eyes will be on former NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, who will be taking his first shot at the “500.”

Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Pato O’Ward and Palou are the drivers in this field who have finished second without yet earning a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Andretti and Carpenter can become the sixth and seventh drivers in event history to complete 9,000 miles. Can any of these finally score a win? Can Team Penske win for a record-extending 20th time?

What type of milk will the winner choose to drink in celebration?

Before any of those questions are answered, we must determine how the drivers will line up on Sunday, May 26 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, INDYCAR Radio Network). PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying begins Saturday (11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET), with a run for the NTT P1 Award on Sunday (5:25 p.m. ET). There will be 34 car-and-driver combinations vying for 33 starting spots, and no one wants to be left out.

Ideally, a driver and team earn one of the first 30 positions Saturday, which means they don’t have to return Sunday and fight through the Last Chance Qualifying. Meanwhile, at the top of the order, 12 cars will get one chance to win the prestigious pole. Could someone threaten Arie Luyendyk’s four-lap track record, an average speed of 236.986 mph? Could Dixon win his record-tying sixth pole, which would be his third in four years?

Preparations begin Tuesday. Day 1 practice includes two sessions: 9-11 a.m. and 1-6 p.m. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the practices are from noon to 6 p.m., with Peacock live throughout each.

Honda has 18 entries, Chevrolet 16. Five of Honda’s drivers are rookies, two of Chevrolet’s are.

Larson headlines the rookie class, but it’s a strong group. Linus Lundqvist and Christian Rasmussen have won the past two INDY NXT by Firestone championships, and Nolan Siegel is second in this year’s standings. A victory by Siegel or Kyffin Simpson would break one of the event’s oldest records: Troy Ruttman was 22 years, 80 days when he won the “500” in 1952.

Fourteen countries are represented in this field, and it’s possible the event has its first winner hailing from Mexico, Denmark, Argentina, Spain or the Cayman Islands. No woman has ever won the “500,” but Katherine Legge could become the first.

It’s nearly time to start engines.