Indy 500: Chevrolet missing its biggest threat?

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Chevrolet, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star)
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Chevrolet, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star) /

For this year’s Indy 500, Chevrolet is without its only driver to score any top three finishes in the last three years. But there are others who can carry the torch.

Indy 500 qualifying produced a fairly even split between engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda last weekend.

While Chevrolet swept the top three spots in Saturday’s session (full results here), both manufacturers got six of their drivers into Sunday’s Top 12 Qualifying session. In the ensuing Firestone Fast Six, Honda then took the top two spots.

All in all, the top four, top eight, top 10, top 12, top 14, and top 16 are all evenly split between Chevrolet and Honda.

Aside from qualifying and race pace, however, could Honda have an advantage over Chevrolet simply based on the strength of driver lineup?

In the last three years, Chevrolet has only produced two top three finishes in the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in Speedway, Indiana, compared to Honda’s seven.

Both times, that top three finish came with Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel of the #22 Team Penske Chevrolet.

Pagenaud won the race in 2019 ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi in second place behind the wheel of his #27 Honda and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato in third behind the wheel of his #30 Honda.

In 2020, it was a Honda sweep of not only the top three but the top four, with Sato winning ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in second place behind the wheel of his #9 Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in third behind the wheel of his #15 Honda, and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Santino Ferrucci in fourth behind the wheel of his #18 Honda.

Last year, Helio Castroneves, after 20 years with Team Penske, earned a record-tying fourth Indy 500 victory in his first year with Meyer Shank Racing behind the wheel of his #06 Honda. He held off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou in second place behind the wheel of his #10 Honda, with Pagenaud finishing in third after starting all the way back in 26th.

But Pagenaud left Team Penske after the 2021 season, joining fellow ex-Penske driver Castroneves at Meyer Shank Racing. So not only did he leave Team Penske; he also left Chevrolet. He is now the full-time driver of the #60 Honda.

Team Penske also notably did not replace him behind the wheel of the #22 Chevrolet for 2022, downsizing from four cars to three.

However, despite missing its biggest threat from recent years, Chevrolet still has a plethora of strong drivers capable of winning this year’s race. Josef Newgarden, who finished in fourth place in 2019 and led Chevrolet with a fifth place effort in 2020, is still competing for Team Penske.

Pato O’Ward is also back with Arrow McLaren SP. He finished in sixth place in 2020, and he is Chevrolet’s highest returning driver from 2021 after his fourth place effort.

Let’s also not forget Chevrolet’s most recent top three finisher not from Team Penske: Ed Carpenter.

Yet again, Ed Carpenter Racing have brought incredible speed to Indy, with the boss qualifying in fourth place after an impressive rally to fifth last year. Believe it or not, that fourth place qualifying effort actually ties his worst in the last five years.

Carpenter’s career-high Indy 500 finish came in 2018, when he finished in second place behind Team Penske’s Will Power, another strong Chevrolet driver back for another attempt to get win number two.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who has qualified no lower than fourth place in three Indy 500 starts, qualified on the front row again in 2022. While teammate Conor Daly only qualified in 18th, he led the field with 40 laps led in 2021 after starting in 19th.

So even without Pagenaud and the #22 Chevrolet, there is no shortage of contenders for Chevrolet in this year’s Indy 500.

In fact, four Chevrolet drivers have odds listed inside the top six on WynnBET. With that being said, Honda drivers do own the top two spots by a decent gap over third.

Have a look at the odds ahead of today’s Carb Day practice session. Starting positions are listed in parenthesis.

  • Scott Dixon (P1): +500
  • Alex Palou (P2): +600
  • Pato O’Ward (P7): +800
  • Josef Newgarden (P14): +900
  • Rinus VeeKay (P7): +900
  • Will Power (P11): +1200

Of note, Carpenter is listed at +1400, with Pagenaud and Castroneves at +2250 and Daly at +4000.

As a whole, Honda is listed as the favorite at -180, with Chevrolet listed as the underdog at +130.

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