Which ‘long shots’ can win the Indianapolis 500?

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INDIANAPOLIS – There are many favorites that can win Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 (11 am ET on NBC). There are the four Team Penske drivers including pole winner Simon Pagenaud, defending Indy 500 winner Will Power, NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

Ed Carpenter Racing is stacked with its three drivers starting 2, 3 and 4 including, in order, Ed Carpenter, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones.

Andretti Autosports is always a contender at the Indy 500 and Alexander Rossi, winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500, leads that brigade with a ninth-place starting position.

Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing is also a threat as is former winner Takuma Sato and five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.

No matter where those drivers start in the field of 33, they have to be considered prime contenders to fight it out at the finish of Sunday’s 500-Mile Race.

But who are the “Long Shots?”

There are several prime candidates that fit into that category and one of the best longshots is starting in the middle of the last row.

NBC Sports.com has analyzed the starting lineup and picked these seven drivers as “Long Shots” that could possibly win the 103rdIndianapolis 500.

WISE PICKS

James Hinchcliffe – Despite starting 32ndin the 33-car starting lineup, Hinchcliffe was a solid pick to make the field on Saturday if he had not crashed in the Turn 2 wall with his primary car in the first round of qualifications. It was unlike 2018 when his car was slow on its original run, had a vibration issue on its second run and the clock ran out with Hinchcliffe still in the qualification line to take the track.

INDYCAR PHOTONow that the popular driver from Canada is in the race, the former Indy 500 Pole winner is very capable of driving through the field and making his way into the top five, just as Rossi did in 2018.

Keep an eye on the No. 5 Arrow Honda on Sunday because he’s going to be putting on a show in his charge from the rear of the field.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – The 2014 Indy 500 winner starts 22ndafter struggling to find speed during Saturday’s qualifications. IndyCar’s “Captain America” won the 2014 race starting 19th, so he knows it can be done and he’s just the driver to do it. In the last three Indy 500s, Herta’s DHL Honda has led 81 laps.

Colton Herta – How does a driver starting fifth qualify as a long-shot. Well, he’s only 19 and he is starting his seventh career NTT IndyCar Series race. Herta has a chance to break Troy Ruttman’s record as the youngest Indianapolis 500 winner. Ruttman was just 22 when he won the 1952 Indy 500 after race leader Bill Vukovich crashed with just nine laps to go after leading 150 laps.

Herta is calm, cool and poised, especially for a teenager. A victory by Herta would be huge because he’s already gathering interest from fans in his age group that are the future fans of IndyCar. He already won a race this season when he became the youngest winner in IndyCar history with his victory at Circuit of the Americas. His Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda is fast and Herta already drives like a savvy veteran.

DECENT PICKS

Charlie Kimball – He is the only one of the three drivers at Carlin that made the Indianapolis 500 starting lineup. Kimball, an NTT IndyCar Series race winner with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio in 2013, has been a solid performer in past Indianapolis 500s. He finished third in 2015 behind race winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Power. He finished fifth in the 100thIndianapolis 500, eighth in 2012 and ninth in 2013.

INDYCAR Photo He had an engine issue that dropped him to 25thin 2017, his final year with Ganassi. Last year, driving for the startup Carlin team, he finished 18th.

Kimball’s driving style is perfectly suited for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway because he is always calm and in control. Racing in the Indianapolis 500 is like driving through a severe storm with high winds for 3-1/2 hours, so it takes a steadiness and calmness to succeed.

Conor Daly – Another popular driver with the fans, Daly has struggled in the past in the Indianapolis 500. But this year, he landed what he calls the “ride of a lifetime” at Andretti Autosport. It’s the No. 25 United States Air Force Honda and he has made the most of his opportunity this month. Daly starts 11th, right beside teammate Mark Andretti in 10thand in the row behind of the favorites, Alexander Rossi in ninth.

The three drivers can group together early in the race and advance forward.

This is Daly’s best ride at the Indy 500. Now, it’s time for him to deliver.

Graham Rahal – Stuck in 17thstarting position, Rahal is fully capable of racing to the front from mid-pack. This is actually one of Rahal’s better starting positions in recent years at Indy. He started 30thlast year and 26thin 2016 and 2013. If his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team finds the right setup on Race Day, Rahal could be there at the end to fight it out. He is confident the addition of engineer Allen McDonald can make that happen.

BOLD GAMBLES

Felix Rosenqvist – Starting way back in 29thpotions, the rookie driver from Sweden has a lot of miles and passes ahead of him to make it to the front of the Indy 500 field. But he is driving a Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and that in itself gives him a fighting chance.

INDYCAR PhotoJR Hildebrand – An adjunct professor at Stanford University, Hildebrand was Indy’s ultimate “Heartbreak Kid” in 2011 when he was leading the race, heading to the checkered flag on the final lap and crashed in the Turn 4 wall. The late Dan Wheldon went on to win after Hildebrand’s “Bill Buckner” moment. He’s a much different driver eight years later and a Hildebrand win for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing would be his ultimate redemption.

Jack Harvey – He finished third in the most recent NTT IndyCar Series race two weeks ago in the INDYCAR Grand Prix. His career is on an upward trajectory. Last year, his team made a huge gamble on fuel strategy that could have paid off if there had been one more caution. Harvey was in second place, but running low on fuel, when he had to pit six laps from the finish.

There are many drivers capable of winning the 103rd Indianapolis as this is the closest field from the pole speed to 33rd position in history. This is also a race where that has a few surprises end up in the top 10 and even top five, some of them may not be on this list.

And that’s what makes them “Long Shots.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)