The greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500, is just a few weeks away, and what is typically a nerve-racking, nail-biting, and fist-clenching race promises to be even more so thanks to returning winners, talented rookies, and a brand-new 2018 IndyCar.
The headlines may be adorned with the eye-searing green of Danica Patrick's GoDaddy-sponsored Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar, but there's much more to this year's edition of the 500-mile race than Patrick's retirement party. For starters, 2018 marks the first year since 2011 that more drivers (35 total) will attempt to make the 500 starting grid than the regulations allow (33). This means that two drivers will be forced to pack their bags and go home before the race even starts.
Much like blood-thirsty sharks, returning champions who have previously gotten a taste of the winner's milk will do everything they can to go for seconds, or in the case of one elite driver—fourths. That man is three-time (2001, 2002, 2009) winner Helio Castroneves, who came oh-so-close in 2014 when he crossed the line practically touching the rear of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car, just 0.0600 seconds behind the American. The Brazilian was denied a fourth victory once more in 2017 when he finished second, only 0.211 seconds behind Takuma Sato.
Another IndyCar superstar who's month of May won't be complete without a gulp of milk is Chip Ganassi Racing's prodigious son—Scott Dixon. The New Zealand native is a four-time IndyCar champion, and he conquered the Indy 500 in 2008, exactly 10 years ago. Unfortunately, Dixon was involved in a spectacular crash in 2017 that took him out of contention early in the race.
The remaining four previous winners include one of the most loved and charismatic drivers in the paddock, Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who emerged victorious in the 2013 edition of the 500. Americans Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Alexander Rossi (2016) will surely push hard this year to join the two-time winners' club, although the clever, cool, and calculated Takuma Sato (2017) might have something different to say about that.
The 2018 Indy 500 will take place on Sunday, May 27 following almost three weeks of practice and qualifying action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.