Indy 500 2021: Starting Grid, TV Schedule, Lineup, Odds and Pre-Race Storylines
On Sunday afternoon, 33 drivers will take the green flag for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. But only one will emerge from the illustrious event as this year's Indy 500 champion.
Scott Dixon is starting on the pole for the race for the fourth time in his career. However, he's only won the Indy 500 once (when he started on the pole in 2008), so he will be looking to end his drought at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a win Sunday.
But there are plenty of other strong competitors in the field who could overtake Dixon and take the victory. Anything can happen during the 200-lap race, which is one of the marquee events in motorsports.
Coverage of this year's Indy 500 will begin at 11 a.m. ET on NBC, with the green flag set for 12:45 p.m. ET.
Here's everything else you need to know heading into Sunday's race.
Starting Grid, Odds to Win
Row 1: Scott Dixon +325 (bet $100 to win $325), Colton Herta +750, Rinus VeeKay +1400
Row 2: Ed Carpenter +2200, Tony Kanaan +1500, Alex Palou +1500
Row 3: Ryan Hunter-Reay +3000, Helio Castroneves +2800, Marcus Ericsson +2500
Row 4: Alexander Rossi +1300, Ed Jones +6600, Pato O'Ward +1200
Row 5: Pietro Fittipaldi +15000, Felix Rosenqvist +5000, Takuma Sato +1800
Row 6: James Hinchcliffe +6600, Scott McLaughlin +2800, Graham Rahal +1800
Row 7: Conor Daly +5000, Jack Harvey +6600, Josef Newgarden +1500
Row 8: JR Hildebrand +15000, Santino Ferrucci +5000, Juan Pablo Montoya +3500
Row 9: Marco Andretti +4000, Simon Pagenaud +2000, Sebastien Bourdais +10000
Row 10: Stefan Wilson +15000, Max Chilton +50000, Dalton Kellett +50000
Row 11: Sage Karam +10000, Will Power +2200, Simona De Silvestro +50000
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Dixon Looks to Get Back to Indy Victory Lane from Pole
While it's been 13 years since Dixon went to Victory Lane at the Indy 500 for the only time in his career, he's still had other strong showings in the race. That includes in 2020, when he started second, led a race-high 111 laps and ended up second, finishing behind only Takuma Sato.
Dixon is likely to have another strong performance this year, and it could lead to him finally notching his second career Indianapolis 500 victory. He dominated qualifying, posting the fastest times in both the initial session and the Fast Nine Shootout, and his No. 9 Honda again had the top speed during Friday's final practice session.
"Hopefully it runs this good in the race," Dixon said, per Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press.
If it does, Dixon may be at the front of the field for much of the day. And in recent years, track position has been crucial to success, as the past four Indy 500 winners have started fourth or better, including 2019 champion Simon Pagenaud, who was the most recent polesitter to race to victory.
Whether or not the 40-year-old wins the race, he will likely factor into the finish one way or another.
Could One of the Youngsters Win from Front Row?
When Dixon leads the field to the green flag, it will mark the 19th consecutive year he will compete in the race. The two drivers starting alongside him on the front row aren't much older than 19.
Colton Herta (21 years old) and Rinus VeeKay (20) may be young, but either could win the Indianapolis 500 for the first time on Sunday. The youngest driver to win the Indy 500 was Troy Ruttman, who was 22 when he raced to victory in 1952, so Herta and VeeKay will both be looking to break that record.
Herta has raced in the Indy 500 twice, and he had a solid showing last year, starting in 10th and finishing eighth. He already has four IndyCar Series wins in his fledgling career (including a victory at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg earlier this year), so he has a solid chance to contend for the win at Indianapolis.
VeeKay made his Indianapolis 500 debut last year, when he started fourth and ended up 20th. He enters this year's race with more momentum, as he's coming off his first career IndyCar Series victory at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 15 and will be looking to carry over that success on to the oval at Indy.
At some point in the future, Herta and VeeKay are likely to win at least one Indianapolis 500. Perhaps one of them ends up in Victory Lane as soon as Sunday.
Can Any Team Penske Driver Make His Way to the Front?
Team Penske fared surprisingly poor during qualifying for this year's race. Of the team's four drivers, Scott McLaughlin (17th) has the best starting position Sunday, and the 27-year-old is competing in the Indy 500 for the first time.
Josef Newgarden is starting 19th, while Pagenaud will begin the race in 26th. But one of the most surprising showings during qualifying came from 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power, who nearly missed out on this year's race. He was one of the five drivers who competed in Last Chance Qualifying, and despite hitting the wall near the end of his four-lap session, he fared well enough to earn the 32nd starting position.
Although Team Penske didn't perform well in qualifying, its cars have gotten faster throughout the week. During Friday's final practice session, all four drivers were among the seven fastest, with Pagenaud ranking second and Newgarden third.
That's a positive sign heading into Sunday's race, and it could mean these drivers work their way to the front of the field despite starting near the back. And if one of them ends up winning, it would be the third time in four years that Team Penske heads to Victory Lane at the Indy 500.
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