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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Indy 500 2020 Qualifying Analysis: Rows 4 to 7

With the NTT IndyCar Series Indy 500 rapidly approaching this weekend, we at Frontstretch are breaking down the starting grid row by row to analyze who has the best shot at winning the race and who will have a grueling 200 laps in front of them. Today, we’re taking a look at the midpack drivers in rows four to seven.

The full qualifying grid can be found here.

Row 4: Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson, Spencer Pigot

Colton Herta may not have secured a Fast Nine position like last year, but 10th place is nothing to sniff at. While his last two outings on ovals left a lot to be desired—a pair of 19ths at the Iowa doubleheader—Herta has been otherwise incredibly solid in 2020. He’s also paired in a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport this season, which has proved to be a great choice, considering their dominance in qualifying. Herta will have no problem taking home a top five position if he can keep it together this year.

 

Marcus Ericsson has been on a tear with Chip Ganassi Racing this season. He had a great weekend at Iowa, but his oval game historically needs some work. He’ll benefit from starting near the front and by having the Honda engines that look so dominant, but it’s going to be a serious learning curve for the Swedish driver. We might see him finish in the top 10, but it’ll be a tough road for him to get there.

Rahal Lettman Lanigan driver Spencer Pigot has never had an easy go of things at the Speedway. No matter how good his starting position, Pigot has struggled to make something of it. The RLL team has looked great this year, so it’s likely he has a car that can keep him in the top 15, but he’ll need to start working on his experience.

Row 5: Josef Newgarden, Felix Rosenqvist, Patricio O’Ward

Defending series champion Josef Newgarden is having a frankly terrible year. It took Team Penske until Iowa to really sort out its problems, and it looks like the gremlins have come back at the Speedway. Newgarden is the only current member of his team who doesn’t have a 500 win to his name, and while it isn’t impossible in 2020 (four drivers have won the race from 13th position), it seems extremely unlikely we’ll see him much higher than a top 10.

Felix Rosenqvist might have won his first race this season, but he hasn’t been having an otherwise great year—and his oval record is still pretty mediocre. That said, this is his best Indy 500 starting position yet, and he’s always been well capable of transforming a meager year into a great result. The Chip Ganassi Racing cars have looked quick at IMS, and if Rosenqvist can finish, he’ll finish well.

Patricio O’Ward might have failed to qualify for the Indy 500 last year, but Arrow McLaren has looked dangerously quick all season. Chevy has been struggling in practice and qualifying, which means O’Ward will have to fight an uphill battle just to keep his car in solid shape. He’s also a rookie at this specific race, which means he’ll have the added challenge of having next to no idea what to expect in the thick of battle. If he finishes, though, expect to see him finish above his starting position.

Row 6: Ed Carpenter, Zach Veach, Conor Daly

Despite his many pole positions, Ed Carpenter has yet to take first when it really matters: at the checkered flag. It’s not likely he’ll take victory this year (even though it has been done twice since 2005), especially since Chevy is having a tough time when compared to the Hondas.  There’s a stacked field in front of him, but if Carpenter can pull through, he has a great shot at finishing inside the top 10.

Zach Veach‘s year started out with such promise at Texas Motor Speedway, but it just hasn’t paid off. Veach’s 17th place starting position is his best yet, but he’s also the slowest of his Andretti teammates and is surrounded by stiff competition. His best finish of 23rd will be easy to beat if he can keep the car running to the end, but I wouldn’t expect him to work any magic.

Conor Daly has notoriously bad luck at the Indy 500—it’s been a tough road just to start the race, let alone finish it for the Indiana native. Daly has a bit of a double-edged sword this race. 18th is still his second-best starting position in his seven years of contesting the race, but he’s also racing with underpowered Chevy engines. It’s not likely we’ll see him in the top 10 again this year, but a top 15 could still be in his grasp if he plays his cards right.

Row 7: Santino Ferrucci, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew

Santino Ferrucci took home Rookie of the Year accolades last year with his seventh place finish and his aggressive driving, and there’s nothing this year that would show he’d be unable to secure another solid performance. No, a 19th place starting position isn’t ideal—he would have rather kicked off in Fast Nine with his rookie teammate—but Ferrucci can perform well when he really needs to. A top 10 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Jack Harvey is starting in 20th—his best Indy 500 start ever to match what’s been a solid year for the Meyer Shank Racing team in its first full-time IndyCar effort. His Chevy power is going to make it extra difficult to bring it home in the top 10, but Harvey has a chance to secure his best Indy 500 finish this season in a well-prepared and well-raced car.

Oliver Askew looked like the rookie to beat coming into qualifying, but with Chevy taking a backseat to Honda, he’ll be starting in a miserable 21st. A win from that far back on the grid has only happened once, so it’s not time to start getting your hopes up—but Askew still has a shot at coming home with accolades if he’s able to display the hard-charging race craft that has launched him up the standings. With two of his rookie competitors in the Fast Nine, Askew will have a tough time coming out on top, but anything can happen in the Indy 500.

The 2020 IndyCar season continues Aug. 23 with the 104th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will air at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBC.

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