Throughout the history of the Indianapolis 500, there have been pivotal years in which a new crop of young drivers took control of the sport and began securing their place in the annals of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 28, could be one of those defining years.
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon remains near the top of his game at age 42. He would have likely won last year’s 500 after he started from the pole and dominated the race, but a pit-road speeding penalty derailed his effort.
Dixon will once again be a threat to win the pole and the race. With five poles, he could tie Rick Mears’ all-time Indy 500 pole record with a sixth this year.
Another veteran driver who remains highly competitive is two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power of Team Penske. The 42-year-old Australian recently signed a contract extension to remain with Roger Penske’s team for the next few seasons.
At 32, Josef Newgarden of Team Penske is entering the prime of his career. Already a two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, Newgarden entered the month of May with 26 IndyCar victories.
The only thing missing from Newgarden’s impressive list of accomplishments is an Indianapolis 500 victory. This could be the year.
One year younger than Newgarden is Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren. He won the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and enjoyed some tremendous seasons for Andretti Autosport before joining McLaren this offseason.
In addition to those veterans, there is a collection of drivers who either realize their best days are behind them, or they are hoping to recapture the glory days of the past.
This will be Tony Kanaan’s final Indianapolis 500. The 48-year-old Brazilian has long been one of the most popular drivers in the Indianapolis 500 because of his tenacious racing style and fan-friendly personality. Kanaan won the 500 in his 12th attempt in 2013.
Two years ago, Helio Castroneves created one of the most emotional and memorable moments in Indianapolis 500 history when he became the event’s fourth four-time winner.
The Brazilian proved he could still excel at Indy, taking Meyer Shank Racing to its first IndyCar victory in the biggest race on the schedule.
Castroneves scored his first three Indy 500 wins with Team Penske, a team he was involved with from 2000 to 2020. Castroneves joined team owners Michael Shank and Jim Meyer in 2021 and proved he was still an Indy 500 great. He ran in the top three for most of the race and his fourth victory provided one of the most memorable celebrations in history.
Castroneves turned 48 on May 10 but continues to have the boyish enthusiasm of a driver who wants to keep racing.
Time will tell if he is able to get his wish.
Castroneves’ teammate is 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, who remains competitive but hasn’t been able to reproduce the glory days he experienced in winning the 2016 series title with Team Penske. At age 38, Pagenaud still has time to recapture success.
Takuma Sato is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who is in the final laps of his racing career. He competes in the oval races for Chip Ganassi Racing. The 46-year-old has a knack for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, however, and could be competitive in May.
Also racing only on the ovals, Ed Carpenter will attempt to qualify for his 20th Indianapolis 500. A two-time Indy 500 pole winner, the 42-year-old Indiana native may know his way around Indianapolis Motor Speedway better than any other driver.
Graham Rahal isn’t old, but at 34 he realizes now is the time to start putting numbers on the board before it’s too late.
Romain Grosjean is 37 but is relatively new to IndyCar, beginning his third season after a 10-year career in Formula 1. He’s had an impressive start to the season and could be a threat to win the500 for Andretti Autosport in the No. 28 DHL Honda.