The most prestigious open-wheel motorsports race in North America takes place Sunday.
Scott Dixon will lead the 33-driver field to the green flag at the Indianapolis 500. He is joined by Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay on the front row.
Although Dixon has been the most dominant driver in the IndyCar Series over the past decade, he has only one Indy 500 victory on his resume.
Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and reigning champion Takuma Sato are the only competitors in the field with multiple trips to Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.
Indy 500 Weekend Schedule
Friday, May 28: Carb Day (11 a.m.-1 p.m., NBCSN)
Sunday, May 30: Indy 500 (TV coverage on NBC starts at 11 a.m. ET; green flag at 12:45 p.m. ET)
Dixon is attempting to win his first Indy 500 since 2008.
The six-time IndyCar Series champion had the fastest car in the two qualifying sessions, but he needs the speed to translate to the 200-lap race.
Dixon mentioned to For the Win's Michelle R. Martinelli that the pole position far from guarantees a position in Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon.
"It's obviously the best starting position," Dixon said. "But unfortunately, it doesn't guarantee you anything. It doesn't even guarantee going into the first corner first."
Dixon started on the front row in the 2020 edition of the race in August, but he could not beat out Sato for the checkered flag.
A high starting position has been a good indicator for success in the past two Indy 500s. Simon Pagenaud won from the pole in 2019, while Sato and Dixon respectively finished first and second after starting in the top three in August.
Herta and VeeKay would love to see that trend continue so they have a chance at earning the highest Indy 500 finishes of their careers. Herta took eighth in 2020, while VeeKay ended up in 20th in his first start in August.
But holding off the rest of the field will be difficult, with four previous Indy 500 winners starting between fifth and 10th. Sato will also be lurking behind the top starters on Row 5. If he makes an early move to the front, the inexperienced drivers may be cycled back into the field.
The reigning champion does not have to lead the bulk of the race. He led just 27 laps on his way to the win in August. In fact, four of the past five Indy 500 champions did not lead the most laps in the race. Pagenaud was the lone exception to that trend.
The final quarter of the race may come down to pit strategy, aggressiveness on the track or a combination of both. Sato did not take first until the 186th lap in August.
Pagenaud, Marco Andretti and Will Power may have to call on different pit strategies to move up the field. The two previous winners and perennial contender will be mired in the back of the field to start.