102nd Running Of The Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) Preview and Predictions

INDIANAPOLIS – Slow down Month of May. The time has already come this weekend for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network). It seems like we were just toasting to a great 101st Running that saw Takuma Sato outduel Helio Castroneves for the popular victory.

Now, here we are again for the 102nd time. Will we see a new winner put his or her face on the Borg Warner Trophy or will one of our previous winners take the crown?

Here are my preview and predictions. 

Preview – 

Expect the race to be a war of attrition. The temperatures are supposed to soar at or above the 90 degree mark, making Sunday’s race one of the hottest Indy 500’s ever. That in turn will make things extremely difficult for the 33 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers taking part in the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” on Sunday afternoon.

See, the cars are already more difficult to drive than in recent years. The drivers have told me that they’re more active inside the cockpit than really ever before. While the cars are producing way more drag than the previous car and the cars behind are having an easier time in wake, it’s still very difficult to make passes for position. Several reasons are the culprit of that, but a few drivers have made it clear that in order to pass, you have to dial the tools on their steering wheel to different levels than they were running previously. But, the kicker is, once you make the pass, you have to have the mentality to dial it back to what it was before, or chaos could ensue.

The cars are so sensitive that the slightest bit of wind or the slightest bit of a tow from the car in front, to the weather, etc, you have to constantly change the way you adjust your car. Do that at 220 mph and you have more of a mental war than a physical one. If you forget to make an adjustment, your car could be heading towards the SAFER barriers.

On top of all of this, the 2.5-mile track is going to be hot and slick on Sunday. The tires were already having a big fall off over the course of a run, so much so, some drivers were saying that it could prove difficult to make it on a full fuel run, but add the heat to the mix and you have nightmares. So, do you pit early for new tires and give up fuel mileage or do you slow way down but make it a full fuel stint only in return to give up speed to others that short pitted?

Sunday’s race is going to be a huge strategy event, one that will surely give everyone in the paddock from the drivers, to engineers to the team headaches when 500 miles are over.

Honda vs. Chevy

Chevrolet has had the preferred engine package in qualifying, taking nine of the top 11 starting spots, but Honda has equal race pace. After all, that’s what matters most. Three of the top four speeds on Carb Day were Honda drivers. In fact, most drivers told me that this will be an equal race in terms of race pace between the two engine manufacturers in the field.

While track position is going to be a huge factor, Honda vs. Chevy will be a push though. While Honda has won three of the last four Indy 500’s, their advantage is now virtually gone. It’s an equal race now. Manufacturers aren’t going to play a role in Sunday’s winner.

Prediction

I think Tony Kanaan wins this race. He’s been extremely happy the last two weeks and was either first or second in the last three days of race practice. He has great long run speed as well as speed on his own. He seems to have the balance it takes to win. While Foyt has just three wins since 1999, none since 2013, Kanaan has five top five finishes in his last seven ‘500 starts and makes AJ Foyt smile more now than he has in decades.

This is his year.

  1. 14 Kanaan (6th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st in his last four practice sessions)
  2. 98 Andretti (4th, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 8th, 3rd in race practice sessions)
  3. 12 Power (6th, 7th in last 2 race practices. Won last 2 superspeedway races and 3 of the last 4)
  4.  9 Dixon (7th, 4th, 2nd, 12th, 10th, 2nd in race practice sessions)
  5. 23 Kimball (7th, 5th, 21st, 4th, 5th in last 5 race practice sessions)

Biggest mover: Sage Karam (starts 24th, will finish in the top 10)

Biggest sleeper: Charlie Kimball

Rookie of the Year: Kyle Kaiser

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