Event Coverage: 2017 Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Oil, Part 1


In 2016, Alexander Rossi was a kid with no defined path.  He had just barely scored a deal to run with Bryan Herta Autosport (in conjunction with Andretti Autosport) and was still figuring out these heavy IndyCars and tough circuits.  That all changed when he won the Indy 500 in spectacular fashion.  Now, he is an instantly recognizable face, with the press always at hand.  It’s been great to see Rossi become comfortable as an Indy 500 winner and starting 3rd was a great way to tell the people it wouldn’t be a one-off win either.  From zero to hero in a single afternoon…it only happens at Indy.
The last time we looked at the Juncos garages, they were still being set up.  Two weeks later, both cars had practiced and qualified into the field.  The odds of a win were near impossible, but team owner Riccardo Juncos would be happy if both his cars simply finished the race.  Running Indy had been an 8-year dream for the Argentinian ex-racer and he was finally living it out.
From rookie to veteran, mechanics toil away before the race, making final adjustments, tweaks, and preparations.  With a cold front rolling in, most teams changed final drive ratios to compensate for the cooler, denser air.  Will Power’s team is one such team that made a last minute gear change before putting the bodywork on and rolling to grid.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s DHL Honda goes through final pre-race tech inspection to ensure the car meets its minimum weight.  
Despite his low 18th place starting position, Helio Castroneves is all smiles, all the time.  He knows that the 500 is a long race and a good car can work its way from last to first and be a contender.  It was perplexing enough that in qualifying trim, no Penskes were in the hunt for the pole.  However Helio was quickest on Carb day, a good sign for the Brazilian veteran.  He would love to add a 4th Indy 500 title to his own name and a 17th to Team Penske’s resume.
The men and women inside these offices were the most worried of any on the grid.  Honda had seen no fewer than 8 engine failures during the month of May.  It was bad enough when Bourdais and Charlie Kimball lost engines in the IndyCar Grand Prix, but it was near disastrous when Alonso had a turbo failure on Pole Day, and James Hinchcliffe had an engine failure during Carb day.  Hinch’s engine was a fresh one too, making for an even more nerve wracking experience in the Honda camp.  

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