Every Indy 500 features at least one underdog, and in some cases like the brand-new Top Gun Racing team, the odds of making it into the field of 33 are exceptionally long and imposing. But that’s why it has been a tradition for so many years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to root for the smallest team on the entry list.
In 2019, it was DragonSpeed Racing and rookie Ben Hanley, plus Juncos Racing and sophomore Kyle Kaiser, and Clauson Marshall Racing with veteran Pippa Mann, who were the clear pre-event favorites to miss the show, but all three made a mockery of those predications on their way to earning qualifying positions in the big race.
With only 33 cars entered in 2020, there was no threat of being knocked out after qualifying, but with 35 entries for this year’s race, Top Gun has been the one team under a constant spotlight. Driver RC Enerson is fast and smooth in whatever he races, and despite being a rookie, has only drawn praise for looking polished behind the wheel of the No. 75 Chevy.
It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the No. 75 entry has missed a considerable amount of track time since practice began on Tuesday, and has a steep hill to climb in its search for adequate speed to stake its claim on the grid. Across four days of running, Enerson has completed just 83 laps; the closest driver on the list is Santino Ferrucci at 144 laps, who crashed on Thursday and lost time.
Most of the field is near or over the 300-lap mark, which speaks to the challenge that lies ahead as the other 34 drivers have amassed far more data and setup information leading into qualifying. Enerson climbed from the car at the end of practice on Fast Friday holding P35 on the speed chart at 226.055mph and P35 on the no-tow report.
Whether it’s a Hail Mary or the power of positivity, Enerson and the Top Gun team will need a healthy dose of good fortune if they’re to displace two cars this weekend and become Indy’s latest knockout story.
“We obviously know we’re definitely the biggest underdogs,” Enerson said. “It’s gonna be a tall order to get in the show, but we have the confidence to do it. We just need to make sure we have the car to do it tomorrow morning.
“We’re pretty trimmed out now, but for some reason we could not get the rear end of the car to move around at all and were stuck with understeer. It is still just tough to get the front to turn. It’s not as freed up as everybody else’s. We have a lot on our table right now.”
Team co-owner Bill Throckmorton brings a fighting spirit to the program, and has confidence in the driver and crew he’s assembled.
“RC’s doing a fabulous job, smart kid,” Throckmorton said. “I’m impressed with him; our engineers are very impressed. I don’t think people actually realize how racy my group of guys are. You know, it’s not like we just fell off the banana boat. There’s a lot of experience in that garage and it’s nice to be the underdog. It’s kind of fun.”