Expect a familiar Indy 500 scene, say the veteran drivers

Josef Newgarden, Alex Ballou and Tony Kanaan believe the battle at the front of the field for this year’s 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 will look similar to the one we witnessed in 2022.

While it seems relatively easy for cars to bunch up and converge, drivers suggest that four or five cars in one pack, completing a traffic maneuver is as difficult as ever.

“If you’re not in the top five at the end of the race, I don’t think you have a chance,” said 2013 winner Kanaan, looking forward to his 390th and final IndyCar start. “Last year I was third and couldn’t do anything. Especially with the new slalom racing model we’ve set up for the last two laps recently, it’s tough.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be any different than last year, off the front,” said Newgarden, who is still looking for his first three top five hundred since switching from Ed Carpenter Racing to Team Penske in 2017.

“The first two cars, it’s easier to follow. We have more downforce. But the impact behind the first two cars is a bit like where we were, so I don’t think it’s going to be dramatically different.”

Polisitre Ballou, who finished runner-up to Hélio Castroneves in 2021, said he expects to trade back and forth with other drivers to lead the race, in order to save fuel. But having previously cited Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay as his possible drafting partner, given he started second, Ballou suggested that might not be the case.

He commented, “I really don’t know because he didn’t want the day to pass.” “He just wanted to save fuel on a carb day and I didn’t really understand what he was doing on the track.

“But if he was driving normally, yeah, we’d swap a lot. I don’t know if it would be me or someone else. But yeah, I think when you’re in second it’s easy to pass, and when you’re in first you can’t did a lot (about it).

“I just hope they don’t get crazy about the guy driving, trying to save fuel while driving, because that doesn’t work and then it gets crazy. If I’m in charge, if I’m driving, I’ll try to play with someone, and if they don’t want to, like Rinos didn’t want that day… We’ll see what happens.”

It will be a very different story from the middle of the backpack, Ballou said – as he found out last year after his pit stop strategy was ruined by an untimely yellow.

He said: “I think in the front it wouldn’t be so aggressive, but when you’re in the back, if you have a chance you have to go ahead and then everybody dives in too late. But I don’t think it’s very different from the past. .

“Like last year, I remember when I stepped back… I was like, ‘Oh, wow, these guys work really hard. “

Newgarden will have plenty of passing to get where he wants to be, but he’s confident he’ll have the car and time to do so. Michael Levitt / Lumen

Still, Newgarden insists that on the climb from the 17th grid hole, “there’s no rush for 500 miles.”

He continued, “When there’s an opportunity to make passes on the start or restart, that’s your best chance, so you’ll try to maximize that. But there’s no rush, I think, in starting 17th. I don’t think there’s going to be a rush if you’re starting In the twenty-fifth position.

“You just have to have a really good, consistent day and work your way up. We started a lot last year and had the same track that I think you should do. Then we had a bad pitstop in the middle of the race and the race completely derailed for us. So, I don’t think there is an urgency.

“I’d rather start attacking alongside my pickleball teammate Paul (Baloo), but we’re where we’re at, and we’ve got to make the most of it. I think we’ve got plenty of time to get up there.”

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