INDIANAPOLIS – We now have 28 cars already lined up for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. There’s a strong possibility of that number pushing 30 just past the New Year. But, out of those 28 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. 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 just 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.
You can’t count out Juan Pablo Montoya landing a one-off ride either. While he won’t be with Penske, who’s to say someone else won’t pick him up? Penske has told the two-time ‘500 champion that he could drive for anyone else and free to seek an Indy only ride. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Ed Carpenter Racing are logical fits. Really, anywhere is. If Montoya could land a ‘500 ride, why not put him in the list of possible winners? He just did that this past year and finished sixth. In five Indy 500 tries, he has five top six finishes. He’s arguably one of the best 500-mile racers and could win next May in any equipment.
Danica Patrick is also wanting to end her career next May at Indy. Like Montoya, she doesn’t have anything signed just yet, but we know anyone would take her. In seven Indy 500 starts, she 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.
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 still five months away from the actual race itself and look at this one off list. Has there even been a better one?