Indy 500: Could a worrisome trend plague the favorites?

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports /

Indy 500 qualifying established somewhat of a “big three” heading into race day. But a recent trend indicates that we may have to look elsewhere for a winner.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon took the pole position, his fifth overall and fourth in the last eight years, for the 106th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a record-breaking four-lap pole run this past Sunday.

Only two teams were represented in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session, with Chip Ganassi Racing taking four of the six spots and Ed Carpenter Racing taking the other two, and only three teams were represented in the top eight, with Arrow McLaren SP taking positions seven and eight (full starting lineup here).

But while it looks like these three teams have a stranglehold on the rest of the field in terms of speed, things have looked similar in the past, only for it not to work out.

These three teams have now taken eight of the last 10 pole positions for the race, with the only other two going to Team Penske (Simon Pagenaud) and Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti), two usual suspects at the front of the field in the month of May, in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Yet Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, and Arrow McLaren SP have combined for zero wins since Dario Franchitti won for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2012.

In fact, they actually have multiple DNQs during this span, with James Hinchcliffe failing to qualify for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2018 and Fernando Alonso failing to qualify for McLaren in 2019 before the two teams came together to former Arrow McLaren SP.

Can one of these three teams finally get over the hump on race day?

Dixon is the betting favorite to win the race, with +550 odds (bet $100 to win $500) at WynnBET, and the top four drivers on the odds list represent one of these three organizations.

Yet it’s far from a guarantee, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the drought continues, despite yet another pole position and a top eight qualifying sweep.

Would it really be considered an upset if a team like Team Penske or Andretti Autosport, the two teams that combined for all six wins from 2014 to 2019, managed to overcome lackluster qualifying efforts and win?

Just one of the eight drivers representing either one of these organizations qualified inside the top 10. That driver is Andretti Autosport Indy 500 rookie Romain Grosjean, who isn’t exactly the one many would have expected.

There are certainly other teams for which a victory would be considered an upset, however, and there are plenty which are more than capable of pulling it off.

In fact, the last two Indy 500s have been won by teams not generally seen as top contenders, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing winning the race for only a second time — first since 2004 — with Takuma Sato in 2020 and with Meyer Shank Racing winning it for the first time with Helio Castroneves in 2021.

Could we see Sato, now at Dale Coyne Racing in a partnership with Rick Ware Racing, deliver his new team their first Indy 500 win and secure a third win for a third different team?

Could we see Meyer Shank Racing back up their historic win last year with perhaps another historic win for Castroneves, or maybe even a win by newcomer and fellow ex-Team Penske driver Pagenaud?

What about Dreyer & Reinbold Racing? Their race pace is always strong, and this time around, they actually qualified well — and with two cars as opposed to only one. Will A.J. Foyt Enterprises finally have something again on race day after a possible 2018 win escaped with a tire puncture?

As for trends, they’re not all bad as it pertains to the three teams in the top eight on the grid. Interestingly, each of the last five Indy 500s have all been won from the top eight. The lowest starting position of a winner from 2017 to 2021 was Castroneves, who won his record-tying fourth Indy 500 after starting in eighth place last year.

But for five years in a row before that, no driver won from higher than 11th place.

Next. As Helio Castroneves made history, he also witnessed it. dark

NBC is set to broadcast the 106th running of the Indy 500 live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET this Sunday, May 29. Don’t miss your chance to start a free trial of FuboTV now!