The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set to play host to the biggest racing event (at least in terms of spectators) once again this year. The Indy 500, a race that dates back to 1911, forms one-third of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and is arguably one of the most exciting racing events on the calendar. The 2021 edition of the race could achieve another landmark. With the venue given the green light to operate at 40 percent capacity the race could see 130,000 spectators present at the venue, which would make it the biggest live event to take place since the coronavirus pandemic started. With the 2020 race seen as a somewhat anticlimactic affair, the return of fans, even at less than half capacity, should add some much-needed excitement. Here are some of the other reasons why the race is a must-see event.
After listening to complaints from both drivers and fans about the lack of overtaking at last year's race, IndyCar conducted an inquiry into how it could improve the spectacle. The addition of the aero screen, while serving its purpose like the halo that is used in F1, added weight to the cars, and as a result the governing body conducted several tests during the off-season to address the issue. Additional wing plates have been added to the front of the car, along with bargeboards located on the seedpods and modifications to the car's flow, with the changes aimed at offsetting the turbulent air coming off the car in front. If successful, there should certainly be more on-track action come raceday.
There are several drivers under the age of 25 who could potentially claim victory on Sunday with 21-year-old Colton Herta, who starts second, the best placed to do so. The Andretti Autosport driver will face tough competition from Holland's Rinus Veekay who will start fifth and Spanish driver Alex Palou, who is racing for the Chip Ganassi squad, lining up seventh. Outside the top 10 Mexican driver Patricio O'Ward and Brazilian Pietro Fittipaldi, who made his F1 debut last year, are also in with a shout, with their 12th and 13th starting positions far from the worst positions to be in.
The aforementioned group will be tested by the nine different winners who have qualified for the race. Scott Dixon leads this group, with the Kiwi one of the names to look out for. Other winners include IndyCar legend Tony Kanaan, who will compete in the event for the last time. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves, 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan-Hunter Reay, rookie winner Alexander Rossi, two-time Japanese winner Takuma Sato, F1 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya, French star Simon Pagenaud and Australian Will Power. The stacked lineup means anything can happen come raceday with the unpredictable nature adding to the mystery.
Drivers like Sebastien Bourdais, who raced for Toro Rosso and is a four-time Champ Car Champion, James Hinchcliffe, and double IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden could also pose a threat with none of the triumvirate ever winning the prestigious race. Third-generation driver Marco Andretti is another who will be looking to break his duck, with the grandson of F1 World Champion Mario Andretti so far failing to add to his illustrious family's history.
The fastest race ever?
With the weather conditions set to be a pleasant 25 degrees celsius, the 105th running of the race could be the fastest on record with the previous record of 186.56 MPH coming under threat based on the qualifying speed of the drivers. When averaged out the mean speed for all 33 drivers worked out to 230 mph over their four-lap qualifying runs. If the conditions stay as predicted, Sunday could mark yet another record-breaking day for the event. All these factors look set to make what could be a very exciting race. The return of the spectators, in particular, could have ramifications not just for motorsport but for the sporting community as a whole!