Indy 500 2021: Complete Starting Grid, Lineup, Race Schedule and Predictions
Track position has been crucially important to winning the Indianapolis 500 in recent years. That's why the past four winners of the race have started fourth or better. And it wouldn't be surprising to see this year's winner come from one of the first two starting rows.
The 2021 Indy 500 is set to take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, and Scott Dixon will lead the 33-car field to the green flag. Dixon, who is starting on pole in the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time, is looking to finally get back to Victory Lane at the race, as his only Indy 500 win came back in 2008, when he started first.
Dixon will be joined on the front row by youngsters Colton Herta (21 years old) and Rinus VeeKay (20). Meanwhile, the second row will feature Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan, a pair of experienced drivers, and Alex Palou, who is making his second Indy 500 start.
Here's a look at the full starting grid for Sunday's race, followed by some key predictions for this year's event.
Row 1: Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay
Row 2: Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Alex Palou
Row 3: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Marcus Ericsson
Row 4: Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones, Pato O'Ward
Row 5: Pietro Fittipaldi, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato
Row 6: James Hinchcliffe, Scott McLaughlin, Graham Rahal
Row 7: Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden
Row 8: JR Hildebrand, Santino Ferrucci, Juan Pablo Montoya
Row 9: Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais
Row 10: Stefan Wilson, Max Chilton, Dalton Kellett
Row 11: Sage Karam, Will Power, Simona De Silvestro
Montoya Will End Up in Top 6 Again by the End
Juan Pablo Montoya doesn't have a great starting position for Sunday's race, as he'll begin in 24th. But that may not stop the 45-year-old from making his way toward the front of the field by the time the checkered flag waves.
Although Montoya doesn't race the Indy 500 often, he almost always posts a strong finish when he does. In six appearances in the race, Montoya has won it twice (2000 and 2015) and finished in the top six all but once (he ended up 33rd in 2016).
This will be Montoya's first Indy 500 appearance since 2017, when he started 18th and finished sixth. Could he once again work his way through the field and end up at least in the top six?
"It's a long race, though, and a lot of things need to go your way. You need to be patient and see how the race develops," Montoya said, per McLaren.com. "If you've got a shot at the end, then you give it hell."
Montoya won't win the Indianapolis 500 for a third time, but he could post a top-five finish, as he has the experience and aggressiveness needed. Don't be surprised if his No. 86 Chevrolet is up there at the conclusion of the race.
Dixon Will Come Up Just Short of Victory
Dixon is a popular pick to win this year's Indy 500, and for good reason. The 40-year-old is a former winner of the race, is starting on pole and has come agonizingly close to getting back to Victory Lane in recent years. There's a decent chance that his time could finally come again on Sunday.
Since his lone Indianapolis 500 win in 2008, Dixon has finished eighth or better eight times. That includes a third-place finish in 2018 and a second-place showing last year, when he also started second and led a race-high 111 laps but ended up finishing behind Takuma Sato.
Dixon has a fast car this year, which is how he ended up earning the pole. His average speed of 231.685 mph during his four-lap qualifying session in the Fast Nine Shootout was the fifth-fastest in the event's history. He also had the fastest lap time (39.4178 seconds) during Friday's final practice session.
With how well Dixon is running, he'll surely be among the top few drivers in the final laps of Sunday's race. And he has enough Indianapolis experience to end up in first.
However, one of the other challengers will edge Dixon, who will again come up just short of a second Indy 500 victory. It's still possible that he'll get it in future, it just won't be this year.
Carpenter Finally Wins the Indy 500
Ed Carpenter has raced the Indianapolis 500 every year since 2004, but he's never won the race.
The 40-year-old has had mixed results, coming closest to victory in 2018, when he started on the pole and finished second. He'll start fourth this year and could quickly factor into the mix for the lead.
This could be one of Carpenter's best chances to win the race, and it would make for a great story as he grew up in Indianapolis.
"I'm proud of what our team's done this month so far, more so than in years past," Carpenter said, per Marshall Pruett of Road & Track. "I think we have put ourselves in a position after qualifying that helps, because it is hard to get through the field here without something happening."
Expect Carpenter to maintain that strong track position, and this time he'll use it to race to victory. After 17 unsuccessful tries, he'll win the Indy 500 by getting to the front and holding off Dixon late.