108th Indianapolis 500 field

The roar of the engines at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is silent for a few days. Next up: A three-day weekend sprint to the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

The schedule (all times Eastern):

Friday: Miller Lite Carb Day, with a full-field practice from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge at 2:30 p.m.; and the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert featuring George Thorogood and the Destroyers with the Gin Blossoms and Kid Quill at 4 p.m.

Saturday: Legends Day presented by Firestone, with a full-field autograph session at 9 a.m.; and the public drivers meeting at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday: Live coverage beginning at 11 a.m. (NBC, Universo, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

On the track, Team Penske will start in the driver’s seat. Roger Penske’s three drivers swept the front row in last weekend’s qualifying, with Scott McLaughlin speeding past Will Power and Josef Newgarden for the prestigious pole position. It’s only the second time in event history that a single team has qualified 1-2-3 – Penske’s team also did it 1988 with Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser. The other similarity between the two Penske dominations: The pole car is again sponsored by Pennzoil, the No. 2 starter is a one-time “500” winner, and the driver on the outside is the reigning “500” winner.

SEE: Indy 500 Event Details

The rest of this field won’t want a repeat of history. In 1988, Penske drivers led 192 of the 200 laps, with Mears capturing his third “500” victory. That was win No. 7 of what has become 19 at Indy for Team Penske.

Winning drivers have started on the front row 45 times, an occurrence of 42 percent that bodes well for Team Penske. But the past three “500s” have been won by drivers who started in the eighth, fifth and 17th position, respectively. Over the past 13 years, 10 winners have come from a row other than the first. Six of the winners were double-digit qualifiers. Newgarden won from the 17th starting position last year.

McLaughlin will bring the field to green Sunday, but recent history suggests he won’t be the first one to see the checkers. Only once in the past 14 years has the pole winner won the race – that was in 2019 when Simon Pagenaud gave Team Penske its 18th Indy win. But McLaughlin does carry No. 3 on the nose of his car, the number that has gone to Victory Lane most often in event history (11 times). The second-most victorious number is 2, which Newgarden uses.

Arrow McLaren has been hot on Team Penske’s tail this month, with 2016 race winner Alexander Rossi, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson and Pato O’Ward earning the fourth, fifth and eighth starting positions, respectively. Rossi has finished fifth each of the past two years while O’Ward was in contention each of the three years, leading 82 laps.

McLaren also is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first “500” victory, which had Johnny Rutherford winning the 1974 race by more than 22 seconds.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s highest starter is Alex Palou in 14th, and it would be foolish to discount him or 2008 race winner Scott Dixon as contenders. No team has led more laps over the past four “500s” than Chip Ganassi’s. The total: 392 of 800 laps. Over the same period, Team Penske has led 25 laps, with Newgarden leading only five last year.

Dixon will hope to lead the “500” for the 16th time in his career. If that happens, he will break a tie with Tony Kanaan for the most in event history.

There are eight former “500” winners in the field, including two starting on the front row (Power and Newgarden) and one on the last row (Andretti Global’s Marcus Ericsson). Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (DRR-Cusick Motorsports) will start are together on Row 4 while Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian) and Dixon will line up side-by-side on Row 7.

Joining Castroneves and Dixon on Row 7 is Marco Andretti (Andretti Herta w/Marco & Curb-Agajanian), and those three drivers have combined for 62 previous career Indy starts, making it the second-most experienced row in event history. Only the 1991 front row of Mears, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti had more combined starts.

There are six rookies in the field, led by Larson, the highest first-time qualifier. There are two rows with a pair of Indy newcomers. Row 6 has the Chip Ganassi Racing pair of Marcus Armstrong and Kyffin Simpson; Row 9 has Tom Blomqvist (Meyer Shank Racing) and Linus Lundqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing).

Santino Ferrucci (AJ Foyt Racing) will start sixth, a prime spot to score his sixth consecutive top-10 finish in the event. Last year he finished third. He was fourth in 2020.

Chevrolet drivers dominated qualifying, earning the first eight starting positions. But Honda has won three of the past four “500s” and figures to come strong Sunday with Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (ninth), Sato (10th), Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood (11th), Andretti Global w/Curb-Agajanian’s Colton Herta (13th) and the Ganassi drivers.

But first things first: The Carb Day practice is one to get through without incident. Then it’s time to race.

“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is coming fast.