Scott McLaughlin

Today’s question: Who will win the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday?

Curt Cavin: I have been touting Alex Palou to finally reach Victory Lane since the end of last year’s race, but I just don’t think the reigning series champion and current points leader has the horse to win this derby. Alexander Rossi is clearly fired up to beat the Penskes, and maybe he gives McLaren a victory on the 50th anniversary of its first Indy win. But I just can’t get away from the mojo Scott McLaughlin has this month. He looks the part of an Indy winner, and I think it’s time for just the second pole winner in the past 15 years. Ironically, that other pole winner also was driving a yellow Penske car (Simon Pagenaud in 2019). McLaughlin becomes a household name with a dominating performance.

Eric Smith: It’s hard to pick against any of the three Team Penske drivers. Not only do they have the fastest cars, six of the last seven years, the “500” winner came from the top-eight of the starting lineup. Scott McLaughlin, Will Power and Josef Newgarden share the front row. So, I’ll start there. Since 2011, only Takuma Sato (2017, 2020) has won this race more than once. That could eliminate both 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Power and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Newgarden. Five of the last eight years, the Indianapolis 500 winner has never been an NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion. Last year, Newgarden’s No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet was the first time in the last 11 years a car number has won more than once, as Juan Pablo Montoya also triumphed in a No. 2 Team Penske car in 2015. Among the last seven Indy winners, five of them finished outside the top 10 the year before their victory. See where this is going? McLaughlin has never won a championship in this series, drives the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, finished outside the top 10 last year (14th) and has the No. 1 pit stall with race engineer Ben Bretzman calling the shots. The last time Bretzman had the No. 1 pit stall? 2019 calling Simon Pagenaud’s Indianapolis 500 victory from … the pole, where McLaughlin starts.

Paul Kelly: The pressure is on: Can I pull off the sweep after predicting Scott McLaughlin to win the NTT P1 Award last Sunday? There’s no doubt Scotty Mac has been so stout all month, especially during his mammoth, event-record pole run Sunday in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. But the fastest car has won only one once in the last 15 years, as Curt pinpointed, and McLaughlin was 21st on the speed chart during the two-hour post-qualifying practice Monday, when the heavy traffic was a much closer simulation of race traffic. I think that session will end up being racier than the two-hour final practice on Miller Lite Carb Day because no one wants to risk damaging their race car two days before “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” So, I’m using Monday’s session as tea leaves for my prediction. As much as I think it wouldn’t be extraordinary if Honda-powered Scott Dixon, Alex Palou or Takuma Sato won, facts are facts: Chevy propels the top eight starters in the race, and horsepower matters here arguably more than anywhere. The last time Penske swept the front row, in 1988, Rick Mears won from the pole. I don’t see a repeat of that with McLaughlin. But I do see Will Power breaking through and earning his second “500” victory from the No. 2 starting spot in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet, finally scaling the speed bump of three consecutive runner-up race finishes this season entering this event. Power ended up third in the Monday practice, so we know his car is fast alone and in traffic.