Ken de la Bastide: Koehler to receive inaugural Little 500 Impact Award

May 16—Long-time Lucas Oil Little 500 competitor and car owner Ron Koehler is being honored by Anderson Speedway.

Koehler will receive the inaugural Little 500 Impact Award, which will become an annual honor presented at the Little 500 Hall of Fame banquet and during prerace ceremonies.

Koehler made his first start as a competitor in 1972, and the last time he drove in the race was 2005.

Over the years, the South Bend native made nine starts in the Little 500 with a best finish of seventh in 1985.

Since that time, Koehler has entered cars for Chris Neuenschwander, Troy DeCaire and Jim Dolph.

Neuenschwander is entered for this year's race in a car owned by Koehler.

This weekend the field will be determined for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 with qualifying set for Saturday and Sunday.

As of Tuesday, there are 34 teams hoping to make the 33-car starting field, which, of course, means depending on what takes place, one driver and team will be disappointed with not making the race.

Six drivers will make their first start of the year with the NTT IndyCar Series, including two former 500 winners.

Former winners making their first start of 2023 are Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan.

Marco Andretti also will make his first start of the season along with Katherine Legge, RC Enerson and Stefan Wilson.

My guess is there is a strong possibility the driver that won't make the Indianapolis 500 is Sting Ray Robb driving for Dale Coyne Racing.

Robb has struggled all season and would have to be considered a long shot to make the show.

Of course, the two big story lines from the weekend will be which drivers start on the front row and which three drivers will start in the 11th row.

I suspect Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden along with Ganassi driver Scott Dixon will be in contention for the coveted pole position Sunday.

But, as is the usual case on pole day, the cars of Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay will be among the front runners.

Carpenter is always among the fastest drivers when it comes to qualifying.

The long shots will include Andretti, Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Alex Palou.

There are 33 current entries for the Lucas Oil Little 500, with track officials anticipating more than 40 teams seeking to make the 33-car starting field.

The list includes defending champion Tyler Roahrig, along with former winners Kody Swanson, Bobby Santos III and Jeff Bloom.

Four rookies are entered: USAC standout Logan Seavey along with Drew Crenshaw, Jake Trainer and Scott Evans.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.