Racing: Indianapolis 500: Larson’s double bid, a whiff of scandal and the fear of rain as race day arrives

Published 7:18 am Sunday, May 26, 2024


By JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer

INDIANAPOLIS   — The Indianapolis 500 is set for midday Sunday, though race day arrived with all eyes on the weather.

The forecast called for a strong chance of rain, raising the prospect that the 108th running of IndyCar’s showcase event might be delayed or even postponed a day.

The defending race winner is Josef Newgarden, whose Team Penske teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin join him on the front row.t McLaughlin won the pole position after breaking the four-lap qualifying record with an average of 234.220 mph.

Newgarden has been trying to rebuild his reputation in the paddock after IndyCar discovered illegal push-to-pass software on the three Team Penske cars and threw out both Newgarden’s win and McLaughlin’s third-place finish in the season opener. President Tim Cindric, Newgarden’s strategist, is one of several team employees suspended for the race.

Newgarden can win a $440,000 bonus from trophy-maker BorgWarner if he becomes the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500s since the award was established in 1995. Only five drivers in 107 runnings have won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in consecutive years.

This year’s race has NASCAR star Kyle Larson in the field as he attempts to become the fifth driver in history to complete “The Double” and race in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. The 2021 Cup Series champion is the first driver to attempt the 1,100 miles of racing since Kurt Busch in 2014.

Larson qualified fifth for his debut Indy 500 and a year’s worth of prep has gone into his joint effort between Arrow McLaren Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. The big question for team owner Rick Hendrick is whether to leave Larson in Indy if the weather is bad or send him to Charlotte and hope the 500 is postponed to Monday, when Larson could take part.

“At this point, just hoping the weather cooperates to get all 1,100-miles in. It’s been something I’ve looked forward to for close to two years,” Larson said during preparations last week.

Chevrolet clearly had the speed benefit in qualifying when the engine maker claimed the first eight spots in qualifying. But Honda showed it can hold its own in race trim, which means there is no obvious favorite for Sunday.