All Chevrolet Front Row at Start of 103rd Indianapolis 500

Simon Pagenaud took the pole for the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

Simon Pagenaud driving for Penske – who has 17 Indy 500 wins – took the pole for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 at 2:36.5271 seconds for a 229.992 mph average speed. With positions 10-33 already set for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the drivers comprising the Firestone Fast Nine took to the track on last Sunday afternoon to see who would win the pole position.

Team Penske placed Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud in the grouping, with Pagenaud besting them all to win his first career Indianapolis 500 pole position and the 18th for team owner Roger Penske. He’s the odds-on favorite to win, continuing a strong month of May that has also seen the Frenchman win the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 

Fans will see a lot of Chevrolets at the May classic. 

The 2019 Corvette Grand Sport will serve as the Official Pace Car for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 with 33 drivers  at the green flag on May 26 for the 103rd running of the race. This is the 16th time a Corvette has served as the Pace Car, starting in 1978, and the 30th time a Chevrolet has led the field dating back to 1948, when a 1948 Fleetmaster Six convertible paced the race.

No other brand or vehicle has served as the 500 Pace Car more than Chevrolet and the Corvette, respectively. However, Roger Penske  (Aussie Will Power Wins the 102nd Indianapolis 500 for Penske) has done far better than Chevrolet with 17 victories in the run for the Hoosier milk, which in 2018 Power spilled all over himself, the parade Queen and others in the winner’s circle. Alongside him his wife, Elizabeth Cannon Power, was lovingly hysterical and elated. When she started breathing again and could speak – she was as entertaining as the race.

Indianapolis 500 fans also will see 33 2019 Corvette Stingrays on the roads of Central Indiana this spring and in the IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 25 in downtown Indianapolis. The popular cars are provided to central Indiana business leaders and dignitaries and serve as a promotional role for the race, Chevrolet and Corvette. This is the first time since 2007 that matching Corvettes are serving as the 500 Pace Car and festival cars.

Sentimental Long Shot?

AutoInformed.com on Marco Andretti in a Honda for the 2019 Indy 500 - 50th anniversary of Grandpa Mario's only Indiananpolis Win

A long, long shot…

A possible sentimental hero to Andretti fans sees Marco’s No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda sporting the same Day-Glo red livery that Mario had in 1969. The Andretti Herta entry has been fast, qualifying 10th for Sunday’s race on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

“This is not out of the question,” Mario said of his grandson’s chances of victory. “Marco is capable of winning this race. He’s shown that before. Can we realistically hope? Yes. Will we pray? Yes. All the above. Could this be one of the greatest joys of our careers? Yes.”

Marco, 32, came within a couple hundred yards of winning in his memorable 2006 debut when Sam Hornish Jr. sling-shotted around the rookie at the very end of the final lap.

Marco has admittedly been obsessed with winning this race. “Tell me about it,” Marco said, when told of Mario’s comments. “It would be incredible. It would be incredible. I’ll take any Indy 500, but if this could be the one, incredible.”

Marco’s father Michael Andretti never won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver having led the most laps, 431, of any non-winner. But Michael, as a team owner, has celebrated five Indy 500 wins. And Marco has been there watching teammates celebrate for the last four of those victories.

This will be Marco’s 14th Indy 500 start. In addition to finishing second in his debut, he’s been third three times, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth. However, Marco hasn’t won an NTT IndyCar Series race since Iowa Speedway in 2011.

“It would take the 2,000-pound gorilla off my back, and I’d be able to just drive race cars,” Marco said. “It has nothing to do with the last name. It’s just the win drought, right? That part is really tough.”

Mario is confident Marco can live up to the challenge. In a month where Mario has had a street renamed after him and an Indy 500 program cover honoring his 1969 win, the 79-year-old Andretti won’t apologize for wishing for more.

“Marco loves that pressure,” Mario said. “I know how much it would mean to him. He’s tasted it, almost.” Some of this is a rerun for older CART fans. Mario was haunted by AJ Foyt and All Unser Sr., and his hard luck in being unable to win another Indy 500.

“I led more laps here than all but one of the four-time winners,” Mario said of his 556 laps led, third on the all-time list behind Al Unser (644) and Ralph DePalma (612). “I was there. From a driver standpoint, I’m OK with that. I look at that positive. I had more positives than negatives.

“There was no such thing as a curse. Don’t talk to me about a curse. Just the opposite. Look at what I got away with in 2003 with a flip up in the air and I walked away. Was that a curse? No, that was a blessing.”

Mario miraculously escaped serious injury after that Indy 500 testing crash in which his car flipped into the air in the chute between Turns 1 and 2.

These days, when he’s not driving a two-seater car to provide thrills for fans, Mario is still a visible presence in the Andretti Autosport pits.

The 103rd Indianapolis 500 airs live at 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBC

Expensive Footnote

McLaren continued its stunning lack of racing competence as two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso will not compete in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 in a McLaren Racing entry powered by Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V6 engine. The car lacked enough speed to make the show. Its Formula One entries have also been disastrously slow Formula One this year.

Long ago, Chevrolet and McLaren had a formidable racing history dating back to the mid-1960s. In 1966, Chevrolet and McLaren appeared in the Can-Am Series – one that makes the current Indy spec cars and their limited aero packages laughable given what was then an all-out racing series – ‘run what you brung.’ Their teams won more than 70% of the races during the next seven years, including 23 in a row from 1968-1970. Given the open spec nature of the series, development was as quick as the cars, and the best Can Am cars were faster than the Formula One cars of the time. The so-called “Bruce <McLaren> and Denny <Hume >show” was brought to you by a big-block Chevy V8.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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