INDIANAPOLIS – We now have 30 cars already lined up for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. There’s a strong possibility of that number pushing up to or even exceeding 35 entries when it’s all said and done. But, out of those 30 current cars, a few of them are known one-offs. There’s also a few drivers that don’t have rides for the ‘500 yet that will certainly get one too. So, at the moment, would you take a “one-off” to win next May’s Indianapolis 500 or a full-time driver?
Logic states that you’d pick a driver that races on a full-time basis right? Just twice in the last four decades has someone made their first start of the season at the Indy 500 and have also won the race too. One of those drivers was Al Unser in 1987 and the other was Dan Wheldon in 2011. Granted, Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000 and Helio Castroneves in 2001 were technically “rookies” at Indy in those years, they also were racing full-time in CART so it wasn’t their first open wheel start of the season.
Numbers say that showing up to Indy for your first INDYCAR race of the season and winning the biggest race in the world in the process are slim to none.
But, when looking at the list of possibilities so far for the 2018 Indy 500, maybe someone off the “one off” list could very well win.
Lets start with Castroneves. He doesn’t have an INDYCAR ride for 2018 as he is racing in IMSA. But, Roger Penske is bringing him back for Indy only. He’s won the ‘500 three times and has 14 top 10 finishes in 17 tries. He just finished second in the big race this past year. He was also second in 2014. The combined margins of defeat in those two years? 0.2611-seconds. (0.2011-seconds in 2017 and 0.0600-seconds in 2014). He has what it takes to win at Indy and like I said earlier, Unser won his fourth coming out of retirement. Maybe Helio can win his fourth in a one-off too.
But, what about Carlos Munoz. He’s signed a deal to race with Andretti in a one-off effort. In five Indy 500 starts Munoz has four top 10 finishes, two of which runner-ups. Plus, Andretti Autosport has won the last two ‘500’s and three of the last four overall.
Also there’s this, since 2013, there’s been five Indy 500’s, Munoz and Castroneves have finished second in four of them.
They have what it takes.
Danica Patrick is also going to end her career next May at Indy. While her “official” announcement hasn’t been made yet, it’s known that she will race for Ed Carpenter Racing. That’s a team that will realistically give her a shot to win too. Plus, in seven Indy 500 starts, Patrick has six top 10 finishes. This is easily her best track and with her wanting to end her career on top, a solid ride could give that to her.
Sage Karam who’s always fast at Indy will return, and will likely be teamed with another quick driver at Indy in JR Hildebrand with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Also, Conor Daly will soon find a ride and he too is hungry to show that he’s got. Those trio of Americans are deserving of a full time opportunity and a solid day in Indy in May could lead them to one.
Stefan Wilson is a one off and he’s with Andretti so that’s a prime opportunity for him. Buddy Lazier is a past champion and likely will be back. Granted Lazier isn’t likely a contender, he’s still a one off that’s a past champion.
We’re nearing May, two months to be exact. This one-off list is a talented on. In fact, has there even been a better one?