Indy 500: What to watch out for in the 200-lap race

The 2020 Indianapolis 500, the 104th running of the great race, as always will be an emotional rollercoaster for all 33 drivers their families, teams and fans and if there is one race where a win is a career-changer then this is it.

The 33-car starting grid – which includes drivers from 11 countries – will compete for 200 laps on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. The field averaged 229.339 mph in qualifying.

For viewers of the spectacle its worth noting an array of intriguing sideshows and sub-plots that make this edition of the race so special.

For Formula 1 fans, readers of this site in particular, it is refreshing to have the Indy 500 on a weekend that does not clash with the Monaco Grand Prix weekend which typically takes up our headlines.

But amid a much-needed pause in F1’s hectic revised schedule, the bonus is having the space available to do this event the justice it deserves because, like Le Mans 24 Hours, the Daytona 500 and indeed the race in Monte Carlo all transcend their own cocoon’s and go global when they happen each year.

Here are more nuts and bolts about the field for the race today:

Indy 500 engines

  • Chevrolet and Honda are the IndyCar Series’ engine manufacturers. Here’s how each qualified.
  • Honda-powered cars took 11 of the top 12 spots, led by pole-sitter Marco Andretti with a 231.068 mph speed average over four laps. The top Chevy-powered qualifier was driven by rookie Rinus VeeKay at 230.704.
  • The average starting spot for Honda-powered cars is 10.6, while Chevy is 22.9.

Indy 500 winners

  • Eight former race winners are on the 2020 Indy 500 starting grid: Scott Dixon (2008, starting 2nd); Takuma Sato (2017, starting 3rd); Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014, starting 5th); Alexander Rossi (2016, starting 9th); Will Power (2018, starting 22nd); Tony Kanaan (2013, starting 23rd); Simon Pagenaud (25th, 2019); and Helio Castroneves (2001, ’02, ’09, starting 28th). The average starting spot for race winners is 14.6.
  • Castroneves is the last driver to win consecutive Indy 500s. Five drivers have accomplished that feat.

Indy 500 rookies

  • Five drivers are making their first Indy 500 start: Rinus VeeKay (starting 4th), Alex Palou (7th), Pato O’Ward (15th), Oliver Askew (21st) and Dalton Kellett (24th). The average starting spot for rookies in the 2020 Indy 500 is 14.2.
  • Ten rookies have won the Indy 500, the most recent being Alexander Rossi in 2016.

Youngest Indy 500 winner

  • Troy Ruttman was 22 years, 80 days old when he won in 1952. Three drivers have a chance to eclipse that mark: Rinus VeeKay is 19 years old, Colton Herta 20 and Pato O’Ward 21. The pandemic-delayed race hurt Santino Ferrucci’s opportunity. He will be 22 years, 83 days old on Aug. 23.

Oldest Indy 500 winner

  • A.J. Foyt and Al Unser were each 47 years old when they earned their fourth Indy 500 victory. There are two 45-year-olds in the 2020 Indy 500: Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.

Most Indy 500 victories

  • Helio Castroneves, who won the race in 2001, ’02 and ’09, is seeking a record-tying fourth Indy 500 title.
  • These drivers share the record: A.J. Foyt (won in 1961, ’64, ’67 and ’77), Al Unser (1970, ’71, ’78 and ’87) and Rick Mears (1979, ’84, ’88 and ’91).

These nations are represented in the 2020 Indy 500 field:

  • England (3: Jack Harvey, Max Chilton, Ben Hanley), Australia (2: Will Power, James Davison), Brazil (2: Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves), Canada (2: James Hinchcliffe, Dalton Kellett), Spain (2: Alex Palou, Fernando Alonso), Sweden (2: Marcus Ericsson, Felix Rosenqvist), France (Simon Pagenaud), Japan (Takuma Sato), Mexico (Pato O’Ward), Netherlands (Rinus VeeKay) and New Zealand (Scott Dixon).

Winning Indy 500 teams (in the 2020 field)

  • Team Penske — owned by Speedway and IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske — has won 18 Indy 500s: Mark Donohue (1972), Rick Mears (’79, ’84, ’88, ’91), Bobby Unser (’81), Danny Sullivan (’85), Al Unser (’87), Emerson Fittipaldi (’93), Al Unser Jr. (’94), Helio Castroneves (2001, ’02, ’09), Gil de Ferran (’03), Sam Hornish Jr. (’06), Juan Pablo Montoya (’15), Will Power (’18) and Simon Pagenaud (’19).
  • Andretti Autosport (and its earlier iteration, Andretti Green Racing) has won 5 times: Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (’07), Ryan Hunter-Reay (’14), Alexander Rossi (’16) and Takuma Sato (’17).
  • Chip Ganassi Racing has won 4 times: Montoya (2000), Scott Dixon (’08), Franchitti (’10, ’12).
  • A.J. Foyt Racing won in 1977 (Foyt) and 1999 with Kenny Brack.
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won in 2004 with Buddy Rice.

2020 IndyCar Series standings

The 2020 Indy 500 counts double points, with the winner earning 100.

  • Scott Dixon won the first three races of the season (Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Elkhart Lake Race 1), 244 points
  • Simon Pagenaud (won Iowa Race 1), 195
  • Josef Newgarden (won Iowa Race 2), 191
  • Pato O’Ward, 162
  • Will Power, 142
  • Graham Rahal, 142
  • Colton Herta, 140
  • Marcus Ericsson, 137
  • Felix Rosenqvist (won Elkhart Lake Race 2), 120
  • Alexander Rossi, 118

Fernando Alonso chases the Triple Crown of Motorsport

  • The Spaniard is in the Indy 500 for the second time, starting 26th. He has twice won the other jewels in this crown — the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix. (Some believe a Formula 1 season championship counts as a jewel in racing’s Triple Crown over Monaco. He has won that title twice, as well.)