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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 18: Indy 500 One-Off Winner

Today’s question: Which driver on the Indianapolis 500 entry list who isn’t full time in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES do you think has the best chance of winning the race this year, and why?

Curt Cavin: This is easy for me: Juan Pablo Montoya. With the strength Arrow McLaren SP has shown in the early part of the season, particularly on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway, and the vast experience of Montoya and engineer Craig Hampson, I think this is a Tier 1 pick to win the “500.”

Zach Horrall: Hear me out: Santino Ferrucci. The 22-year-old (who turns 23 the day after the “500”) has proven to have quite a knack for oval racing, especially at Indianapolis. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 with a seventh-place drive and backed it up with a fourth-place finish last August. Let’s add in the fact that this May he is driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which finished first and third, respectively, last year with Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal. It feels like a winning combination to me. And I’ll leave you with this statistical trend: seven minus three is four, and four minus three is one.

Paul Kelly: Zach’s pick made me pause to think. But again, the old dudes stick together. I agree with Curt: It has to be Montoya. JPM put on the most dominant performance I’ve seen in my 20-plus years of working at IMS and INDYCAR when he obliterated the 2000 field as a rookie, leading 167 laps. That was the most laps led in a single “500” since Mario Andretti was out front for 170 trips in 1987, and no one has led that many since. Plus, The Monster earned his second victory 15 years later in a completely different chassis and engine, showing his incredible versatility. But here’s the main stat why Montoya is the pick: He has two victories in just five starts in the race. That’s a 40 percent strike rate.

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