The Indianapolis 500 will be run for the 102nd time on May 27. Mark Glover will be attending his 56th 500.
What to make of the utterly wide open Indianapolis 500 that will be run this Sunday?
Besides the usual variables that go with a long, open-wheel auto race -- mechanical failures, unfortunate caution periods, crashes, pit stop mistakes, mental errors and bad luck -- you have a new aero package that promises to make the bullet-like cars twitchy in the turns. And the new chassis configuration apparently will make passing much more difficult than what we've seen in recent years.
What we do know right now is that Chevrolet power plants have the power advantage over the Hondas, and the four Team Penske cars seem to have things locked in to the point that it wouldn't be surprising if those machines took the top four spots on race day.
But back in 2012, Chevy had a similar pre-race advantage over Honda. By race day, however, Honda had turned the tables and was getting good gas mileage to boot. Dario Franchitti won the race in a Honda-powered car that year.
And this is Indy, where anything can happen. Even a moderately knowledgeable student of Indy history knows that. You can win from the middle of the pack. You can start near the back of the pack and be in the top five before the race is even 25 percent completed.
Can Danica Patrick win after a years-long absence from IndyCar? Absolutely, and she has a very fast car for the 500-mile grind.
Watch for Tony Kanaan, the 2013 winner, starting from the No. 10 spot. He knows how to drive this race, and no one is better when it's go time in the late stages.
You can make the same case for three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and he's driving for the powerhouse Penske team. I have a soft spot for Helio as I'd love to see him get a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 win.
But frankly, any one of his Penske teammates could pull it off -- Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden. If I had to pick a favorite among the four Penske pilots, I'd take Newgarden. He's smart, fast and seemingly fearless when it's time to make the final push to the checkered flag.
So, Newgarden is the best among the top-flight Penske team. He should win it, right? Logic says yes.
But I believe that pole-sitter Ed Carpenter will win on Sunday.
Carpenter is outstanding on high-speed ovals, and he obviously has the car to carry the day. Even before the "fast 9" drivers made their runs for the pole position yesterday, I picked Carpenter to take it, because his skill on the blazing fast Indy oval is unmatched.
Indy has been a cruel sister in Carpenter's past, dishing out heartbreaking crashes and setbacks when the driver had the car to take racing's biggest prize. And what a popular win it would be if Carpenter takes it on Sunday, with him being a hometown favorite adored by the hardcore Indy fans.
If Carpenter stays clean and is in the mix late, he will win it. If not, put your money on Newgarden.