Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Can a Rookie Win the Indianapolis 500?

Will a first-timer win the Indy 500?

Of the three monster races that fall on Memorial Day weekend every year, the biggest is, without argument, the Indianapolis 500.

And for 2016, the 100th running of the classic race will see a 100 percent packed house for 200 of the fastest laps in motorsports.

Joining the list of first-time achievements this year will be the Indy 500 debuts for five young drivers on Sunday afternoon. Max Chilton continues his rookie Verizon IndyCar season from the 22nd starting spot, while Matthew Brabham, Spencer Pigot and Stefan Wilson will make their speedway debuts from outside the top 25.

But breaking down each one to truly know their odds for Sunday, the rookie with the largest potential for greatness comes in the form of Alexander Rossi. The 24-year-old, driving the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda, led the way in Saturday morning practice, and from then on has seemed to gel well with the 2.5-mile hippodrome.

Even before his first IndyCar start this year, Rossi has made his name known. In the American Formula 1 community, Rossi is a racing hero, becoming the first American F1 driver since Scott Speed (2007) when he took to the track at Singapore last year. Finishing 12th with Manor Marussia’s first and only lead-lap finish in all of 2015, Rossi did the country proud toward another four starts that year.

He can do the same in Sunday’s Indy 500, qualifying 11th, by far the highest of any rookie. Rossi also has the personality to match the car’s performance. Unlike others, who can possibly let the adrenaline surpass the reality of surviving the race, Rossi can control that excitement.

While winning is always a tall task at Indy, Rossi has the most potential among the rookie crowd.

Will Joey Logano complete Charlotte double?

It was an All-Star night for Joey Logano last week at Charlotte. For the first time since Talladega Superspeedway last fall, the driver of the No. 22 saw a checkered flag first in the Sprint Cup Series.

But though he’s had strong speed through this topsy-turvy 2016 campaign, a win in a points-paying race has continued to elude him.

2016 Charlotte All Star CUP Joey Logano confetti Nigel Kinrade NKP
If momentum means anything, Logano is in a good place for Sunday. [Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP]
Can Sunday be his day? If you were paying attention Saturday, from the drop of the green flag to start the first 50-lap segment, Logano was hot. He passed cars, made aggressive moves and soon flew past Kyle Larson with two laps to go en route to adding another memory to Roger Penske’s 50th year of racing.

The All-Star win isn’t the only time Logano has enjoyed at Charlotte, as he also won the most recent points-paying event at the track last fall, leading an outstanding 227 of 334 laps toward the first of three straight wins. In other words, he hasn’t lost anything here in a full year.

But before we give him that Victory Lane parking pass for Sunday night, the last few races have told another tale, with three accidents dragging Logano to finish 25th, 38th and 22nd, respectively. Additionally, his qualifying has seen a similar drop, as he lined up 22nd, 14th and 22nd in those three races.

Charlotte could not be timed more perfectly for the fourth-year Penske boy. Clawing the Ford brand back to the front, he and teammate Brad Keselowski have momentum on their sides.

Can Darrell Wallace, Jr. grab an elusive first win in his 50th start?

Darrell Wallace, Jr. is just another one of those shining talents currently showing off their flair in the XFINITY Series in 2016. But Wallace, driving for Roush Fenway Racing, which has won three of the last five series championships, is still looking for that first career win as he approaches his 50th start Saturday at Charlotte.

Looking at his 2016 performances through 10 races, he has shown improvement from a  year ago, as he’s already snagged two top 5s after having only three in all of 2015. It’s the top-5 finishes that assist in pointing at Charlotte as a possible breakout for Wallace, who scored his first such finish in this race last season after a front-row starting spot.

The past success at the track will give Wallace a much-needed confidence boost, as he sits ninth in points. Coming off a career-high second place last time out in Dover, the 22-year-old will line up with the upper hand alongside Daniel Suarez, Brennan Poole, Brandon Jones and more looking for their first wins against the Cup guys.

Will Nico Rosberg win a fourth-straight Monaco Grand Prix?

The biggest day in motorsports begins in Monaco. While IndyCar and NASCAR prep for their times in the spotlight on Memorial Day weekend, it all succeeds the legendary Monaco Grand Prix, a race that takes place on the dazzling streets of Monte Carlo. Laid out along the stunning harbor, the sight is so picturesque you sometimes forget there is even a race going on.

Nico-Rosberg-2014-F1-Monaco_getty images
Along every sharp corner is a layer of curbing waiting for their tires. [Photo: Getty Images]
Whether you’re there for the sights, the sounds or the girls, Monaco is the event to witness. For Formula 1, it’s the Indianapolis for IndyCar or the Daytona for NASCAR. Though the world’s largest motorsport has Silverstone, Spa Francorchamps and the Hockenheimring, only Monaco presents that certain level of difficulty.

When the green flag flies this weekend, Nico Rosberg will take off into turn 1 searching for a fourth straight Monaco Grand Prix victory in his Mercedes WO7. It’s only been done once before; Ayrton Senna won five straight from 1989 to ’93, also taking the titles in two of those five years.

It’s always fun when you can watch someone chase history, and Sunday morning will be one of those times. And a the 2016 season has showcased, Rosberg seems to be in his prime. The 30-year-old, who is in his 11th season of F1 competition, stands as one of the most experienced drivers in the paddock, with 190 starts. Though it took until 2012 to see a race victory out of the German, the Mercedes Era has found Rosberg score a win 15 times since 2014.

To match the victories, 20 pole positions have put him in strong position to take the fight to teammate Lewis Hamilton. As 10 of last 12 Monaco races have been won from pole, this qualifying pace from Rosberg is an almost-must in order to stay ahead of not only Hamilton, but also Red Bull and Ferrari.

About the author

Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.

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