After a long, long wait — 365 days to be exact — we are now on the precipice of the 2019 Indianapolis 500. To paraphrase Steve McQueen, we’re almost done waiting.
It’s really been an incredible month so far, and weather permitting, I think tomorrow’s race will just be a continuation of what we have seen through practice, qualifying, and Carb Day. But when the checkered flag falls after 200 laps and 500 miles, who will be the one drinking the milk?
Here are five drivers and one team I’m thinking about (Note I’m including current odds, which are of course for entertainment purposes only):
Ed Carpenter Racing. Team owner Ed Carpenter goes off at 8/1 odds, Spencer Pigot is at 12/1 and Ed Jones is at 20/1. If ECR is going to win the Indianapolis 500, this might be the year it happens. All three cars in the stable have been consistently fast all month, Carpenter just missed taking the pole, and they start P2, P3 and P4, respectively. Carpenter and Jones both have podium finishes at the 500, so among all three, I’ll put them as a team the favorites at 7/1 odds.
Simon Pagenaud (7/1). Ever since Barber, I’ve just felt like Pagenaud has been building something special. He caught my eye back at Barber and where he went P9 but seemed to show a much more aggressive attitude, both on and off the track. He kept that going with a P6 at Long Beach where he reminded everyone that he hadn’t gone anywhere, then won the Indy GP with a very impressive drive in the rain. He will bring the field to the green flag tomorrow as the polesitter, and I think he is the second-best best choice to finish the race P1 as well.
Alexander Rossi (8/1). Rossi won in 2016, started third and finished seventh in 2017, and started 32nd and raced his way to third in an incredible, breathtaking effort that involved lots of ballsy passes in lots of tight spaces. Three years ago, the guy was an F1 snob who seemed to be killing time in IndyCar before the next effort came along (not my opinion, but the opinion of others), and now he is one of the faces of the series who has shown himself to be fearless to when it matters most. I’m saying this on my 50th birthday after a few margaritas, but I think Rossi is our next four-time winner. There, I said it.
Colton Herta (12/1). Since winning at COTA, he has gone P24, P23, P23 in the last three races, but that doesn’t really show what’s been going on with the 19-year-old Californian. He’s been fast in every session since his win and has just been a victim of some seriously bad luck. But in Indy 500 mode, he’s been consistently fast in testing, in practice, and in qualifying. Will his luck change on race day? If he does, don’t be surprised to see him in the running for the win with 10 laps to go.
Marco Andretti (20/1). Can Marco make some magic 50 years after his grandpa Mario did? He’s been solid all month, so why not? We tend to focus on lap times in practice and four-lap times in qualifying, but how good can someone be over 200 laps? That’s really what matters, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Marco so far this month. Fate has a way of picking winners here, so let’s put the day-glow No. 98 on our favorites list.
Sage Karam (66/1). Do I think Sage can win from the 31st starting position? I don’t think so, but I am so excited to see how he races on Sunday. Keep an eye on the No. 24 car, because I don’t think he’s going to sit in his starting position for all that long. If he can run the entire 500 miles, which is his stated goal, I think a Top 5 is a possibility. Regardless of his finishing position, he is going to be a fun guy to watch.
Who is your pick to drink the milk tomorrow? It’s a wide-open race and a wide-open field, and if the weather holds off we are sure to see a memorable race!
Pit Lane Parley. Have you kept up with the blanket coverage PLP has provided from Indy this month? Check out this week’s episode, which you can find on iTunes and other podcast platforms.
Photo credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar Media