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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 13: What Excites You about Open Test?

Today’s question: What are you most looking forward to at the Indy 500 Open Test this Thursday and Friday at IMS?

Curt Cavin: Several good choices here, but I’ll go with the return of Juan Pablo Montoya, who has not participated at Indy since 2017, and the ease at which he adapts to Arrow McLaren SP. I think JPM has a strong chance to win his third “500” with his third different team – he won in 2000 with Chip Ganassi Racing and in 2015 with Team Penske -- and I’ll be surprised if he isn’t in the top half of the speed chart after these two days. Honorable mention: Watching Simona De Silvestro and Paretta Autosport get off the ground, and Sebastien Bourdais’ IMS debut with AJ Foyt Racing.

Zach Horrall: Well, first and foremost, cars on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a beautiful sight. That, in and of itself, is something to look forward to. But I’ll have my eyes on Scott Dixon to see if he and the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing team will continue to show the speed they had on ovals in 2020. Dixon was no doubt the fastest car in last year’s Indy 500, leading a race-high 111 laps. He also scored two oval wins, at Texas Motor Speedway and Gateway-1, and his worst oval finish was fifth at Iowa-2 and Gateway-2. If Dixon is near the top of the speed charts, I think he’s the early favorite to win the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30. Also keep your eyes on Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. He’s seemingly had speed everywhere in various offseason tests, including last week at Texas. Is this O’Ward’s year…?

Paul Kelly: The record for Indianapolis 500 winners entered in one year’s race is 10, in 1992. This Thursday and Friday, there will be nine “500” winners turning laps at 220+ mph during testing, one shy of the all-time race record. That’s nuts, especially just for a test. And the fact that 32 car-driver combinations already are set for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is a harbinger for an insane Month of May. I can remember early during my career at IMS and INDYCAR, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the entry list had confirmed car-driver combinations in the high 20s just a week before the gates opened in early May, with the final seats being filled sometimes on qualifying days. Sure, the ride shopping among “helmet holders” was fun to see in Gasoline Alley, but it’s a much better sign of the health and the competitiveness of the world’s greatest race to see one shy of a full field of cars already crossing the Yard of Bricks nearly six weeks ahead of the first practice day. That gets my petrol-soaked heart beating.

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