2023 Indianapolis 500 - Previewing the 107th Running

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indy 500 Pagoda.png
Few racing events can look back on the amount of rich tradition that the Indianapolis 500 possesses: First run in 1911, the race has become the biggest single-day sporting event in the world and forms one third of motorsport's Triple Crown. This weekend, the 107th running of the legendary race is set to fascinate racing fans around the world once again – here is what you need to know ahead of the 2023 edition.

Image credit: Zach Catanzareti Photo on Wikimedia Commons, available for free distribution under the CC BY 2.0 License

The Sesason So Far​

As usual, the IndyCar season has been extremely competitive thus far: All five races leading up to the Indy 500 have seen different winners, with ex-F1 star Romain Grosjean missing out on his first series win in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida (won by Marcus Ericsson) after clashing with Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin, then again at the third round at Barber Motorsports Park, taking second place behind McLaughlin. At Long Beach, Grosjean yet again came second, this time behind Andretti Autosport's Kyle Kirkwood. The Indy GP on the Indianapolis road course saw 2021 series champion Alex Palou take to the top step.

IndyCar Romain Grosjean Firestone P1 Award 2023.jpg

Romain Grosjean has been on pole twice in 2023, but the Frenchman is still waiting for his first IndyCar win heading into the 107th Indy 500. Image credit: Honda Racing

The only oval race so far this season took place in round 2 at Texas Motor Speedway. Pato O'Ward looked like the certain winner for early on, running rings around the rest of the field, but Penske's two-time series champion Josef Newgarden charged back to the front and bet the Arrow McLaren driver by just over a second.

After his Indy GP victory, Palou leads the overall standings just six points clear of O'Ward ahead of the Indy 500. Ericsson, the 2022 winner at the Brickyard, is not far off behind the duo, followed by Grosjean and McLaughling – who are separated by just one point after the Indy 500 qualifying, where points are handed out as well. For the first time since 2013, the race itself will not award double points.

Practice & Qualifying​



As is tradition, practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an essential part of the month of May. Average speeds climbed slowly, peaking on Fast Friday, with Takuma Sato turning the fastest practice lap at 234.753 mph. Qualifying took place the weekend before the race, and with 34 cars competing for one of the 33 spots on the grid, drama was almost guaranteed.

It would involve Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the one-off entry of Stefan Wilson by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports: The main qualifying session saw three of the four RLL cars at the bottom of the order, with Dale Coyne Racing's Sting Ray Robb joining them. While the one-off entry for Katherine Legge had already qualified, her teammates had to try and make the show in the Last Chance Qualifiers session – and it was Graham Rahal, son of RLL team owner and two-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal who could not find enough speed to get a spot on the grid.

Meanwhile, Palou continued his strong form at Indy and took Pole Position with a four lap average of 234.217 mph ahead of Ed Carpenter Racing's Rinus Veekay and Arrow McLaren's Felix Rosenqvist. The 2023 field set the record for the fastest-ever average qualifying speed across all 33 cars, averaging 232.184 mph while also having the closest front row in history.


The month of May was not over yet for Rahal, however: In post-qualifying practice on Monday before the race, Legge and Wilson tangled and hit the wall in turn 1, with Wilson suffering back injuries while Legge was uninjured. This left the #24 car without a driver – as it is the cars that are qualified at the Indy 500 instead of the drivers, Dreyer & Reinbold asked Rahal to substitute for Wilson. The American will start the race from 33rd position as a result of the driver change. You can find the full starting grid here.

What to Expect​

Naming favorites is always difficult at the Indy 500, as the dynamic of the race can change in an instant from a caution period – even the front runners are not immune from crashing out or getting caught up in the battles of lapped cars. Usually, the action picks up in the final quarter of the race, with the first 150 laps being a game of survival and staying on the lead lap until the gloves come off in the final stint.

2008 winner Scott Dixon looked all set to add another Indy victory to his resume in 2022, but the New Zealander received a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road during his final stop, leading to him finshing down in 21st position.

O'Ward was the runner-up behind Ericsson in 2022 and has looked very strong in the only oval race of 2023 thus far, making the spectacular Mexican driver one to look out for on race day. The same goes for Grosjean, who will finally want to capture his first IndyCar win since joining the series in 2021 – there could not be a better place than Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, Ericsson knows how to win at Indy and has seen consistent strong finishes with the exception of Long Beach so far. The Swede will be starting in 10th, right next to a cluster of former winners in Dixon (6th), Alexander Rossi (7th), Sato (8th), Tony Kanaan (9th), and Will Power (12th).

For Kanaan, it is going to be the final chapter of a long and successful IndyCar career. The Brazilian made his debut in CART in 1998, then transitioned to the Indy Racing League full-time in 2003, winning the championship the following year and the Indianapolis 500 in 2013. The popular 48-year old has announced that he would retire from IndyCar racing after this year's Indy 500 in February.


Your Thoughts​

The green flag for the 107th Indianapolis 500 flies this Sunday at 12.30 pm ET/4.30 pm GMT/6.30 pm CEST. Are you going to watch the race? Who are your favorites to win the 2023 edition? Let us know in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

we are pretty hyped down here, would you imagine why no? **insert Arg flag here**
 
This was a great race until they NASCAR-ized it with the multiple red flags. That 3rd red flag is an obvious attempt at finishing under green.

Edit: Newgarden is a worthy winner, but that last red flag was bogus.
 
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Premium
I thought NBC's broadcast was horrid. 500 commercials, scenes from the 'infamous snake pit,' oh and by the way, let's show a few laps of racing every once in a while . . . maybe.
 
I thought NBC's broadcast was horrid. 500 commercials, scenes from the 'infamous snake pit,' oh and by the way, let's show a few laps of racing every once in a while . . . maybe.
Agreed. And NBC has to get rid of Leigh Diffey. He’s so annoying! Always screaming for no good reason. I miss Paul Page so much!

I would also like to know why they have two former NASCAR guys, Steve Letarte and Dale Earnhardt Jr., to comment on an Indycar race.
 
Premium
I thought the race was great and the red flags were also much more entertaining than a wa, wa, wa yellow flag finish. I'm really happy IndyCar learned something from F1. People want to see a show and by the reaction at my IndyCar party, people loved it.
 
I watched 150 laps before calling it.

Randomly choose one lap of low-displacement "motoGP"/ Superbikes racing from the 2000's and you'll see more action. Watch a full race for more impossible overtakes, respect, maiden winners, BoP, different driving techniques/ lines and cheating death than whole F1 seasons.

The older I get the more I get convinced that not all famous/ popular things are (always) best.
 

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