Scott Dixon will start in pole position for Sunday's Indy 500, as the New Zealander seeks to secure his first triumph at this showpiece event since 2008.
Dixon was supreme in qualifying last weekend, laying down a marker as the man to beat with a blistering time. But there's competition further back in the field, with plenty expecting two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso to make a big impression; the Spaniard will begin in fifth position.
Here's a look at the favourites for Sunday's race, the key viewing details for the Indianapolis event and a preview of what's to come from one of the world's greatest motor racing spectacles.
|Indy 500 2017: Odds|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||12-1|
Odds are courtesy of books monitored by OddsShark and are accurate as of 10 a.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 27.
Date: Sunday, May 28
Time: 12:19 p.m. (ET)
Although qualifying in pole position hasn't been decisive in the Indy 500 in recent years, it was tough to ignore the quality of Dixon's display as he secured pole position.
The average speed he posted of 232.164mph was the fastest recorded by any driver in qualifying for 21 years. Provided he can set similar standards on Sunday, the 2008 champion is going to be a difficult man to keep pace with.
Sports journalist Nick Bromberg was full of praise for Dixon's qualifying performance, suggesting he doesn't get the credit he deserves:
Dixon's buildup has been far from straightforward, though, as he, his wife Emma and former IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint in the hours after qualifying. The pole-sitter admitted it was something of a shock.
"Yeah, it was a bit of an odd situation," Dixon said, per Autoweek. "More importantly, it was such an emotional swing, from sitting on the pole, and then having the incident at Taco Bell. I don't know. It gives you a bit of a reality check. It can make you feel small again."
If Dixon isn't at his best, there is quality further down the field, and plenty will be intrigued to see how well Alonso fares.
The Spaniard acquitted himself well to finish in fifth place and evidently has the natural flair to succeed in Indianapolis. Former Formula One driver Alex Rossi also shocked plenty last year in this event, as he won the race from 15th position on the grid.
You sense Alonso will enjoy this outing, too, as his 2017 Formula One season has been one to forget, with McLaren struggling for both speed and reliability. There'll be many more eyes on the 35-year-old at this event than the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, too, as noted by the Honda Racing Twitter feed:
It would be a staggering achievement for Alonso to take the chequered flag first, although 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran feels he's capable.
"Absolutely," he responded when asked if Alonso could do it, per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport. "He has been competitive throughout the practices, he is in good shape, he is being supported by a great team but that's as far as I'm going to go."
Starting in second and third place, Ed Carpenter and Rossi will be competitive, although further down in the field, Will Power is another to watch out for. He beat Dixon at the 2017 IndyCar Grand Prix, too, and will hope a strong start puts him right in contention.
Per the Team Penske Twitter feed, Power has an exceptional team backing him as well:
Based on his form, his grid position and his experience, Dixon is going to be tough to reel in. Although history dictates that the driver on pole is typically pulled back in the Indy 500, the last man to convert the best spot on the grid into a win was Dixon.
Alonso has adapted with ease to Indycar, and if he gets off the line quickly, he can be a major threat to Dixon. Nevertheless, over the course of 500 pulsating laps, the Spaniard's inexperience in this format will surely prove to his detriment.