Simon Pagenaud will lead the 2019 Indy 500 starting grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday as he seeks to become the first European driver in seven years to win the annual 200-lap showcase.
The Greatest Spectacle in Racing has again brought the elite of IndyCar to Speedway, Indiana. Will Power will start sixth on the grid hoping to become the first driver since 2002 to win back-to-back Indy 500 titles:
Pagenaud clinched his first win of the 2019 IndyCar Series at the IndyCar Grand Prix a fortnight ago, and he will have the added advantage of defending from pole position on Sunday.
Fellow Team Penske star Josef Newgarden leads the IndyCar Series standings by eight points, but he hasn't won a race since the first event of the season and was 15th in his most recent outing.
Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer posted a rundown of the outright winner odds as of Friday evening:
Alexander Rossi sits third after winning the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April, and the 2016 Indy 500 winner has never finished outside the top seven in three attempts.
Date: Sunday, May 26
Race Time: 12:45 pm ET/5:45 p.m. ET
U.S. TV Info: NBCSN (9 a.m. ET), NBC (11 a.m. ET)
UK TV Info: Sky Sports (5 p.m. BST)
It's ironic that one of the biggest storylines leading up to this year's Indy 500 regards a driver who won't even be present on the track following Fernando Alonso's shock failure to qualify for the race.
The Associated Press referred to McLaren's "comedy of errors" in the buildup to qualifying, which prevented Alonso from attempting to complete motorsports' Triple Crown in 2019 (h/t ESPN's Nate Saunders).
The Spaniard's team told the AP they wouldn't buy their way into the race, per David Malsher of Motorsport.com.
Alonso explained some of the reasons behind McLaren's failure via Instagram:
As for those still in contention, no one has more Indy 500 winning experience than Helio Castroneves. He has three crowns to his name and can tie level with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Jr. and Rick Mears as an all-time record-holder should he emerge victorious on Sunday.
The 44-year-old's first race of the 2019 IndyCar Series was the IndyCar Grand Prix earlier in May, and he finished 21st.
Castroneves is one of the most decorated drivers in IndyCar racing and spoke of his comfort at being back behind the wheel, as Fryer shared:
At the other end of the age spectrum is Colton Herta, a 19-year-old ace who became the youngest winner in IndyCar history when he won the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of Americas in March.
Herta's father, Bryan, had a successful racing career and competed five times at the Indy 500, finishing fourth and third in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
The younger Herta has a legacy storyline that often arises in motor racing and will look to win where his father couldn't on Sunday.
He starts fifth on the grid after a blazing run in qualifying, with Ed Jones on his inside and reigning champion Power to his right.
Honda previewed the race for one of their best hopes in terms of engine customers:
Honda Racing / HPD @HondaRacing_HPD
Not even halfway through his first @IndyCar season, @ColtonHerta has a win at @COTA & led all @Honda drivers in #Indy500 qualifying. He's been around the paddock much of his life & knows the importance of Sunday's race. #MayMotorsports @FollowHSRacing https://t.co/8ShxLaeWHe
The teenager has two top-10 IndyCar Series finishes this season but is due to undergo his most demanding test yet.
Troy Ruttman was 22 years and 80 days old when he won the Indy 500 in 1952 and still holds the record for youngest champion, but Herta could set alight the sport if he manages to smash that record on Sunday.