How To Watch The 2020 Indy 500 (And What To Watch For)

Illustration for article titled How To Watch The 2020 Indy 500 (And What To Watch For)
Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

Tomorrow afternoon, the 104th running of the Indy 500 will decide which driver will be crowned champion, forever to be remembered in history books as the winner during the year of the pandemic. Here’s how you can watch the magic happen—and what to watch for while you do.


Where and When

Coverage of the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 1pm EDT on August 23, 2020 on NBC. The green flag will fly at 2:30pm EDT.

If you’re not in America, then IndyCar has compiled a handy list of where to watch, which is available here.

And if you’re not near a TV (or you just have a preference for certain commentators), you can also listen along on IndyCar Radio.

A Little Background

The Indy 500 has been run just about every year since 1911 (with the exception of a few off-years due to war). It’s the oldest, continuously running motorsport event in the world, and the goal is to be the first driver to cross the finish line after completing 500 miles. With its hefty purse and the long-lasting prestige, it’s a race that many drivers dream of winning. Since the 1930s, 33 cars have traditionally started the race in eleven rows of three cars.


This year, things are a little different, despite the event’s emphasis on tradition. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race is taking place outside of the month of May—and without fans—for the first time ever. The impressive purse strings have been tightened, and it was something of a miracle to even see 33 cars on the entry list. But just because things are different doesn’t mean we won’t be privy to the same action that accompanies the 500. It’s shaping up to be an excellent race, and you’re not going to want to miss it.

Who’s Starting Where?

Marco Andretti will be leading the field to the green flag for the first time in his career, with Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato rounding out the front row of the grid. The full starting grid can be found here.


Storylines to Follow

If you’re new to the Indy 500 or to IndyCar more generally—or if you just haven’t been keeping up with the wild schedule changes—then you might not know who or what to watch for. No worries: we’ve got you covered.


Marco Andretti, grandson of the legendary Mario (and the only Andretti in a long line of racers to win the 500), has finally done it: He has qualified on pole position. As with many things at the Speedway, the Andretti name is imbued with history—just not the good kind. There’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to something called the Andretti Curse, which states that, ever since Mario Andretti’s 500 win in 1969, the family has been unable to find success at the Speedway. But with Marco on pole, there’s a solid chance that 2020 might just be the year that the curse is broken.

All of the Andretti Autosport cars have been quick at the Speedway, with their Honda power proving superior to that of their Chevy-engined competition, with five Andretti cars qualifying in the top 10. If you’re looking to cheer for a driver that’s basically guaranteed a solid finish, look no further than the Andrettis.


That said, there’s a very solid rookie class lined up this year, with rookie Rinus Veekay heading row two as the only Chevy to make it into the Fast Nine. Alex Palou will be starting just behind Veekay, and if the Chevy power can hold out during the race itself, then there’s a good chance we’ll see all of the Arrow McLaren SP drivers making a run for the win. Experience might help at the Speedway—only nine rookie drivers have ever won the race if you count Ray Harroun’s win during the inaugural race—but it is the Indy 500. Anything can—and probably will—happen.

If you’re a casual IndyCar fan, you might be wondering what’s up with Team Penske. The outfit is normally incredibly dominant on all tracks, with Roger Penske coming home as the team owner who has secured the most victories at the Speedway, including in three of the last five races. But Penske has been struggling with a lack of pace all season, and its Chevy engines have left a lot to be desired at IMS. While it’s always possible the team could have a race day surprise tucked into their back pocket, I’d put my money on someone else this year.


I’d be remiss to mention storylines without bringing up Fernando Alonso. The former F1 driver is heading back to Renault next season, which means that it’s going to be a few years before fans see the Spaniard competing for the Indy 500. He’s already been warning fans that, if they want to see him back sooner rather than later, they should start praying for him to not win the 2020 race. Starting back in 26th bodes well for those wishes.

Finally, in 2020 there will be eight former Indy 500 winners starting the race: Scott Dixon in second (2008), Takuma Sato in third (2017), Ryan Hunter-Reay in fifth (2014), Alexander Rossi in ninth (2016), Will Power in 22nd (2018), Tony Kanaan in 23rd (2013), Simon Pagenaud in 25th (2019), and Helio Castroneves in 28th (2001, 2002, 2009). 2020 is Kanaan’s final year as a full-time IndyCar driver, but it is likely that he’ll make an appearance for another 500 to end his career with a crowd in the stands. Castroneves, who has been with Team Penske for almost two decades, will likely be making his last Indy 500 start for the team before seeking a new outfit for 2021.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.



I remember when the Indy 500 was on tape delay so my dad would listen to it on the radio.