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2022 Writers’ Roundtable, Vol. 1: Looking into Indy Crystal Ball

Today’s question: It’s 2022, and the start of preparations for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge are within sight. It’s time to get serious. As it stands today, who is your pick to earn a place on the Borg-Warner Trophy? (We’re holding you to it.)

Curt Cavin: I’m firm in my stance. I’m going to ride Simon Pagenaud in his new ride at Meyer Shank Racing until evidence suggests otherwise. Pagenaud was the driver Helio Castroneves was most worried about in the closing laps of the 2021 race, and this year they will be teammates with the same access to information through the team’s technical alliance with Andretti Autosport, which has won the “500” five times since 2005 with five different drivers (Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato). Pagenaud obviously knows how to win this race, and he will be even more motivated to do so after leaving Team Penske.

Zach Horrall: I’m trying to pick smart, because I don’t want to have to go back on my word come May, but I also want to look smarter than these two. I’m going with Scott Dixon. To me, this is an obvious choice. The No. 9 car has been one of the fastest cars in each of the last two Indy 500s, and you could make a case that he should have won the last two. In 2020, he probably would’ve gotten the better of Takuma Sato had that late-race caution for Spencer Pigot not come out. In 2021, he got caught out by that early race caution for Stefan Wilson on Pit Lane and barely made it back on the lead lap after scoring the pole. 2022 is Dixon’s year. If not, I think he becomes the Mario Andretti of this generation – one of the greatest INDYCAR SERIES drivers of all-time, but a lot of bad luck that results in just one face on the Borg-Warner Trophy alongside many championship and race win trophies.

Paul Kelly: Alex Palou will add to his growing legend with a victory May 29. He won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship against most expectations in 2021 in his first season for Chip Ganassi Racing, and he was one Helio Castroneves pass with less than two laps to go from becoming the first INDYCAR SERIES driver to win the Astor Cup and a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy in the same season since Dario Franchitti in 2010. Palou will finish the job this year for his first Indy win, joining Juna Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Franchitti as drivers who have won the “500” and season title during their CGR career. Palou’s win also will end a 10-year drought for CGR in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” as it’s hard to believe Franchitti’s Indy win in 2012 was the last for the team. Palou has the right combination of smoothness, patience and aggression to win Indy. Honda also has won four of the last six Indy 500’s, so that bodes well for Palou’s chances, too.

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