Indy 500 Media Day

Will Power is starting second in the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, and he thinks his No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet has a great shot of reaching Victory Lane for the second time in his career. So much so, he’s growing impatient.

“Just hate waiting for the race,” Power said Thursday during the annual Indy 500 Media Day. “This is the worst time, these few days. You just want to get into it.”

SEE: Pit Stop Challenge Bracket

Power has finished runner-up in three of the four NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season but has intense competition from his two Team Penske teammates for Sunday’s 200-lap race (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Universo, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). Team Penske swept the front row for just the second time in event history, with Scott McLaughlin on the pole and reigning race winner Josef Newgarden starting third.

“Car is fantastic,” Newgarden said of his No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet. “This has been a really pleasurable month for the whole team. You can see every individual on this team has been really proud of the effort, as they should be. What they achieved on the weekend is not easy to do, to make the cars as quick as they are. This didn't appear overnight.

“Everybody that has been here the last four years knows we've not had speed in the cars. We've been chipping away. Last year was a big step. Got pretty close, but we were still off. I think this year we really turned the page.”

The other 30 drivers in the field of 33 feel Team Penske’s presence, too. No one would deny the Penske trio are the favorites. But most caution this is a 500-mile race, and anything can happen.

Only twice in the last 13 Indianapolis 500’s has the winning driver led the most laps. The last three winners combined to lead 39 laps. That’s as many as last year’s lap leader, Pato O’Ward, was out front. He crashed and finished 24th in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

O’Ward’s teammate and fourth-place starter Alexander Rossi thinks his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet has the speed and setup to win. He is confident in his chances for a second victory in “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” despite the strength of the Penske drivers.

Colton Herta was listed by many drivers as the top sleeper who could break up the Penske party. The Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian driver is cautiously optimistic.

“It definitely feels good,” said Herta, who is making his sixth Indianapolis 500 start Sunday. “But overtaking in practice is so different to overtaking in a race. Guys give you a lot more in practice and make it a lot easier on you. I don't expect it to look like that during the race. I expect it to be a lot tougher.

“But I do feel competitive, and I feel good. It still is very hard to pass kind of in the midfield and back of the field, and starting 13th, obviously we don't need to make that many passes to get to the front, but it is going to be difficult.”

The final practice before the race is from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. ET Friday, Miller Lite Carb Day.

Grosjean-Ferrucci Feud Not Over

Santino Ferrucci and Romain Grosjean had three on-track spats at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since May 11, including the 30-minute warmup session that preceded the 85-lap Sonsio Grand Prix when Ferrucci dove his No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet under Grosjean’s No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet in a compromising position of the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

On Lap 2 of the race, Grosjean climbed from the 23rd starting spot to catch Ferrucci for 17th. The pair jostled side-by-side in the same portion of the track as their warmup incident, with Ferrucci eventually pushing Grosjean off track in Turn 12.

During opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice, Grosjean slowed exiting pit lane. Ferrucci was behind. Ferrucci maneuvered his No. 14 Homes For Our Troops AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet past in the warmup lane, keeping the rivalry on the front burner.

Ferrucci tried to cool the rivalry earlier this month, saying he didn’t take issue with the incident. He thought the drama was done. Grosjean begged to differ a day later, saying the two never talked.

Grosjean admitted Thursday the two finally shared a chat in Gasoline Alley earlier this week.

“He asked me if we were good, and my answer was no because he put me three times in the wall or the grass for no reason,” Grosjean said. “I don't think we can be good. As long as he doesn't apologize and explain why, I don't think we're good.

“Does that mean I'm going to do anything on track? Not really. That's really the type of driver I am. I'm going to drive and race everyone the same way. The rest is the rest. I don't care. We have bigger fish to fry.”

Grosjean, who starts 26th Sunday, doesn’t think he’s in the “same field” as Ferrucci for Sunday’s race. Ferrucci qualified sixth.

“I just focus on racing everyone the same way,” Grosjean said. “Doing the best I can. Don’t care if it’s car No. 14, 28 or 3, I’m here to do a good job for Juncos Hollinger Racing.”

Pagenaud To Drive De Ferran’s Car Sunday

2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud will drive the car that carried Gil de Ferran to victory in the 2003 Indianapolis 500 during pre-race ceremonies Sunday at IMS.

De Ferran died suddenly last December. He and Pagenaud were sports car teammates before Pagenaud moved to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Pagenaud continues to recover from injuries suffered last year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Pagenaud and de Ferran were close for almost two decades. Pagenaud said when he got the call from de Ferran’s wife, Angela, and children Luke and Anna asking him to drive the car, he could not hold back tears.

“I feel so thankful to have the chance to remind everyone on this amazing day of racing of the great racer, father and man he was,” Pagenaud said. “Gil de Ferran has been my role mode, not only as a racer but also as a father.”

Veteran Row Confident

The second-most experienced row in Indianapolis 500 history, combining 62 starts, is confident of success leading into Sunday’s race. Row 7 features Marco Andretti (No. 98 MAPEI/Curb Honda) making his 19th “500” start, Helio Castroneves (No. 06 Cliffs Honda) his 24th and Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) his 22nd.

“Hopefully we don’t take each other out,” Dixon said with a smile.

Andretti said he is as happy leading into Miller Lite Carb Day practice as he’s been the last five to eight years. Andretti won the pole in 2020, a race won by Takuma Sato.

“I really struggled here in the races, just drove so uncomfortable for 500 miles the last few years,” Andretti said. “Monday (practice) felt very, very comfortable. It was the most productive two hours I've had in a decade here. I definitely am more happy than I've been in a long time here at the Speedway. Coming from the back, but the car feels good.”

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves thinks the competition is getting stronger than ever and while his Meyer Shank Racing team did a good job of improving over the winter, he said the other cars must have done a better job.

“That doesn't intimidate me at all,” he said. “The good news, we have good, experienced guys in the row. Always have ups and downs. It's a long race. I feel very, very good. I understand what I need to do. Yeah, hopefully all three of us will go to the front.”

Fittipaldi Experiencing Real Indy

Pietro Fittipaldi’s rookie Indianapolis 500 start came in 2021. The race was still under COVID measures with limited fan attendance. Much of the off-track pageantry was canceled due to health-and-safety restrictions.

Fittipaldi didn’t return the next two years before coming back to a full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES seat in 2024. He starts 30th in his No. 30 5-hour Energy Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry Sunday.

“This is the first time I'm experiencing the full Indy 500 because there's a lot of activities that are new to me this week,” he said. “I thought it was like, ‘Oh, maybe it's only team Rahal that does this.’ It's not. I’m actually now feeling like I experienced the full Indy 500 spectacle.

“Yesterday we went to an elementary school. I went with Graham (Rahal) and Christian (Lundgaard). We did a bunch of activities with the kids. It was a blast. A lot of the other things that we do, when you're on track and you have to do a lot of media activities the same day that you're driving the car, it's a little bit mentally tiring, but it's part of the game.

“I remember the other days when we were off track in 2021, like the days were just very slow and boring. Now it's filled up with media and different activities that we do for the community. I think it's very important.”

Newgarden Releases Book

Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, 2023 Indianapolis 500 winner…author? Newgarden unveiled a new book Thursday named “Josef’s BIG Dream.”

Newgarden, his wife, Ashley, and author Andy Amendola spearheaded the book.

“We've been working on this one for a while,” Newgarden said.

Newgarden said the book took inspiration from his dream 12 years before he earned his first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2023.

Odds And Ends

  • Conor Daly said he has had only limited interaction with 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson: “He asked me if I stole his scooter,” Daly said. Larson thought it was one of Indy’s famous driver pranks, but he found the scooter in the Arrow McLaren garage stall.
  • Larson confirmed his 6-year-old daughter, Audrey, favors Rossi to win the “500.” Seems she has a Rossi jersey from his Andretti Global days, and she thinks he and her mother went to the same Northern California school. (They did not.)
  • Daly said Marcus Armstrong’s reaction to his first “500” has been priceless. “Seeing his face (saying), ‘This is crazy what we’re doing,’” Daly said. “(I said), ‘Yeah, doing it every year; it’s kind of wild.’ … I remember having the same (reaction) with Marco Andretti (in 2013) and this is nuts. (He said), ‘Welcome to the game; this is what we do here.’”
  • Kyle Kirkwood caught a largemouth bass in the pond at the No. 11 tee box of Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, and Ryan Hunter-Reay is another who has been fishing this week. Daly said Hunter-Reay is quite the expert fisherman. “He looks like he lives on a boat,” he said. 2014 “500” winner Hunter-Reay lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and owns a boat.
  • What impresses Tom Blomqvist the most about being Meyer Shank Racing teammates with four-time “500” winner Castroneves: “This guy has won it so many times, and he's going about it the same way as a rookie would,” he said. “I think that's been encouraging.”
  • Double “500” winner Sato is one of the drivers who needs Friday’s two-hour practice as he has spent most of his time this month focused on qualifying. He said Monday’s post-qualifying practice was his first long run. “I was kind of shocked (how much) needed to get done,” he said.
  • Felix Rosenqvist said SiriusXM Radio has a billboard in New York’s Times Square with “our pretty faces.” That’s the Meyer Shank Racing drivers, Rosenqvist, Castroneves and Blomqvist. “That was pretty cool,” Rosenqvist said.