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Fans look on during the qualifications for the NTT IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 22, 2022, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the 106th Indianapolis 500 draws closer, it brings the racing world one step closer toward normalcy.

The first “full house” since the onset of the pandemic (and also since Roger Penske purchased the track in late 2019) will contain the fastest front row in 500 history, and a legendary driver called Helio Castroneves who is looking to be the first driver in history to win five Indy 500s. But, that’s not even the half of it.

Let’s take a look at some of the key storylines going into race day.

3 Indy 500 Storylines

Chip Ganassi Racing

chip ganassi racing teammates scott dixon and jimmie johnson shake hands at march 2022 texas motor speedway race
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If there is a team that has dominated the month so far, it is Chip Ganassi Racing. Their five-car armada of Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, Tony Kanaan, and Jimmie Johnson all start in the first four rows and all but Johnson start in the first two rows.

Dixon qualified for the pole at 234.046 mph with Palou in second place. 2022 marks Dixon’s fifth pole for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” while Palou is out to show that last year’s runner-up finish at Indianapolis was a learning experience.

Meanwhile, Marcus Ericsson is looking to show that his form at Texas Motor Speedway that netted the Swedish racer a third-place finish wasn’t a fluke, and Tony Kanaan wants to earn a second baby Borg-Warner trophy to go with the one he won in 2013.

Then there’s Jimmie Johnson, who had a massive save in the Fast 12 round of qualifying that had minimal space between his car and the wall. Johnson is not new to 500-mile races, but this will be his first 500-mile race in open-wheel cars. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion finished sixth at Texas Motor Speedway in March, so expectations are high.

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Row 9

Colton Herta prepares for warm up laps on race day at the 2022 Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach on April 10, 2022
Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Qualifications at the Indianapolis 500 sometimes provide circumstances where there are rows in the field that are extremely strong, but are mid-pack or further back than one would expect. Such is the case with Row 9.

Starting 25th is GMR Grand Prix winner Colton Herta. Herta had an engine failure on his warmup lap coming to his qualifying run, which required an engine change before the second-generation racer finally made his qualifying run late in the session.

In 26th position is Scott McLaughlin. The New Zealand native was originally on Row 5, but withdrew his time to try and get into the Fast 12 to participate in the shootout on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, the three-time Supercars champion qualified slower, withdrawing an average of 231.543 mph and qualified with an average of 230.154 mph. The gamble did not pay off, but at least there was no danger of falling out of the field.

The Strong Rookie Class

Kyle Kirkwood talks to Sebastien Bourdais after qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on February 26, 2022
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seven rookies make up the rookie class for the 2022 Indianapolis 500 starting field, which is one of the strongest in recent memory. Going down the list numerically, Kyle Kirkwood is the most successful driver on the Road to Indy ladder system. The Florida native won 31 out of the 50 Road to Indy races he took part in, becoming the first driver to win the championship in the three steps of the ladder as he climbed them.

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David Malukas also went through the Road to Indy system with Kirkwood, finishing second to Kirkwood in the 2021 Indy Lights title battle by just over a dozen points. The Chicago native won seven Indy Lights races that season before signing with Dale Coyne Racing and qualified a remarkable 13th.

Romain Grosjean raced at Gateway in 2021, learning how to race on ovals before making his first superspeedway start at Texas Motor Speedway in March. The former Formula One driver teamed up with Andretti Autosport and starts ninth on May 29th.

Devlin DeFrancesco won two races in Indy Pro 2000 in 2020 and had two podiums in Indy Lights in 2021. However, the transition to IndyCar has not been going the Canadian’s way. After finishing as the last car on the lead lap at St. Petersburg, DeFrancesco crashed at Texas and at Long Beach before respectively finishing 17th and 21st at Barber Motorsports Park and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Christian Lundgaard qualified fourth for his IndyCar debut at the IMS road course last August and finished 12th. A solid debut in the August race at the IndyCar/NASCAR combined weekend was a lead-in to a full season for 2022. Lundgaard finished ninth at the IMS road course earlier in May, but the first Danish driver to race at Indianapolis starts 31st for the team that has had some of the fastest cars at IMS the last few years.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 Honda has Johnson behind the wheel starting in 12th place after competing in the road and street course races in 2021. Sixth place at Texas Motor Speedway was a great superspeedway debut for Johnson, but this rookie has one advantage that no other rookie has this year.

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By competing in NASCAR in the early-mid 2000s, Johnson experienced what it was like to race in front of packed grandstands almost all the way around IMS. The other rookies competing at Indianapolis have never had a packed house greeting them on race day, which will be a whole other experience entirely.

The final rookie competing at Indianapolis this year is Callum Ilott. The 2020 Formula 2 runner-up is competing for Juncos Hollinger Racing, the only team competing full time in IndyCar competition as a single-car operation. The partnership has paid dividends, with Ilott finishing eighth at the GMR Grand Prix earlier in May and advancing through qualifying rounds at Barber Motorsports Park and at the IMS road course to start in the top 12 grid positions at those races.

The rookies competing at the Indianapolis 500 are actually very experienced drivers, but everyone starting the race for the first time has to deal with all the jitters that come with competing in the world’s largest single-day sporting event.

2022 Indy 500 Odds

These odds are according to DraftKings and are current as of the article’s publication.

Top 10

Scott Dixon (10) poses with the pole award for a front row photo for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Scott Dixon: +550

Alex Palou: +600

Pato O’Ward: +900

Rinus Veekay: +1100

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Josef Newgarden: +1200

Will Power: +1400

Colton Herta: +1500

Scott McLaughlin: +1600

Jimmie Johnson: +1600

Takuma Sato: +1800

The Rest of the Field

Marcus Ericsson talks to reporters during IndyCar media availability at Texas Motor Speedway on February 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Marcus Ericsson: +1800

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Ed Carpenter: +1800

Tony Kanaan: +2000

Felix Rosenqvist: +2000

Alexander Rossi: +2500

Simon Pagenaud: +2500

Helio Castroneves: +2800

Graham Rahal: +3000

Romain Grosjean: +3000

Marco Andretti: +5000

Conor Daly: +5000

David Malukas: +5000

Santino Ferrucci: +6000

Juan Pablo Montoya: +8000

Christian Lundgaard: +10000

Kyle Kirkwood: +10000

Devlin DeFrancesco: +10000

Jack Harvey: +10000

Sage Karam: +10000

J.R. Hildebrand: +10000

Callum Ilott: +10000

Dalton Kellett: +20000

Stefan Wilson: +20000

MORE: 10 Indy 500 Facts to Get You Prepped for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”

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