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Final Indy 500 Grid-a-tology: Roles Reversed

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After a surprisingly dry Fast Friday session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the storylines are now in focus.

The first centers around an unexpected power shift that saw Chevrolet-powered Dallaras take four of the fastest five laps run without the aid of a draft. Another is the bounce back of Team Penske, a group that featured two Indianapolis 500 entries all the way back on the eighth row just 12 months ago.  Fast forward to this year where Will Power was quickest on his own at 229.7 MPH, with reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and multi-time IndyCar Grand Prix titlist Simon Pagenaud in positions two and three. Although slightly behind his teammates, Helio Castroneves is well within striking distance likewise. It has been 30 years since the standard bearers of North American open-wheel racing swept the front line at the Brickyard, yet this weekend provides an excellent opportunity to repeat history.

GM’s assault also involves a three-machine attack from Ed Carpenter Racing, which might be led by one Danica Patrick who is making her first Indy 500 appearance in seven years. Two-time pole winner Ed Carpenter looms large as best of the rest behind the Penske rabbits, and even Spencer Pigot has soared up the Big Board despite limited impact in his full circuit tour of IndyCar. Toss-in another trio of dark horses in A.J. Foyt’s Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist, plus Carlin’s Charlie Kimball, and it would seem Honda is in over its head for time trial mode.

Despite the projected chasm, the Japanese manufacturer still could have a winning hand. For the second straight year, Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was best among the Honda V-6s, with a beehive full of Andretti Autosport pilots to choose between. Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti through the eye test seem to possess the most top end grunt, but don’t forget about Ryan Hunter-Reay as a possible P1 challenger.

One unknown in the Honda puzzle is Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who made limited miles on Friday due to suffering from migraines. The Kiwi should be 100 percent by Saturday, but the inability to try different strategies could bite him in the final outcome.

The Verizon P1 Award scramble will be pressure-filled with many contenders and an unpredictable weather forecast which calls for possible rain on both days. Equal concerns also center on the duels to take the final starting spots.

James Davison’s case was hampered by a turn two crash Friday, while pace has been missing from the resumes of Kyle Kaiser, Pippa Mann, and Jack Harvey. The biggest shocker, however, draws concerns from the Graham Rahal camp. After showing a solid output on Thursday, the No. 15 Honda chauffeur was an unexplainable 34th on the non-tow chart, placing extra peril on the second-generation Ohioan.

With no other words required, here’s the final Grid-a-tology list for 2018.

ROW 1

Will Power, Team Penske

Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

ROW 2

Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing

Simon Pagenuad, Team Penske

Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport

ROW 3

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske

ROW 4

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport

Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter Racing

Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

ROW 5

Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing

Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Racing

Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport

ROW 6

Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Racing

Charlie Kimball, Carlin Motorsport

Stefan Wilson, Andretti Autosport

ROW 7

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport

Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing

ROW 8

Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing

Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Zachary Claman De Melo, Dale Coyne Racing

ROW 9

Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

ROW 10

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

JR Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing

ROW 11

Max Chilton, Carlin Motorsport

Pippa Mann, Dale Coyne Racing

Jack Harvey, Michael Shank Racing

OUT

Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing

James Davison, A.J. Foyt Racing

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

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