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INDIANAPOLIS — The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 is almost here!

Chris Hagan and Chris Widlic talked to driver Ed Carpenter in our “Countdown to Indy” digital special. Carpenter is a three-time pole winner who qualified 16th for this year’s race.

This is a year unlike any other at the track.

No fans will be in attendance at this year’s race. Organizers originally scaled the crowd down to 50% before cutting it down further to 25%. Ultimately, with the surge in COVID-19 cases, they decided to run the race without fans in the stands.

“It’s so bizarre. It’s been bizarre already. You know, qualifying–there’s still an electricity when you’re in the car, just getting amped up to go 230-plus miles an hour. But at the same time, when you’re in pit lane watching, just not having the energy or the buzz of the crowd, it’s different. So I know, race morning, driving in with no traffic is going to be the first signal of just how odd it is.”

Carpenter also said driver introductions would be odd and make things feel more pressure-packed since it’ll just be the competitors getting together.

Carpenter will start from Row 6. He believes, as long as the team can stay in contention for the last 30 laps, he’ll be a factor. While Honda had the speed on qualifying, Carpenter believes he’ll be able to compete with his Chevrolet engine.

“Honda came out very strong in qualifying,” he said. “We felt like, as a team, we had the speed. We didn’t execute on our end in qualifying. I really felt that all three of our cars had the speed to be in the Top 9 shootout. We just didn’t execute well enough.”

Carpenter gushed about the fastest rookie–Rinus Veekay–who will be the youngest starter in the field at 19 years old. Carpenter didn’t get his start at the 500 until he was 22 years old. Veekay, who’s on Carpenter’s racing team, qualified fourth.

“It’s exciting having young guys on the team,” Carpenter said. “Those young guys keep me feeling spry. I think we can do something with the United States Space Force car on Sunday.”

The race is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was pushed back from its original May date due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite that, the race is still packed with tradition. Marco Andretti won the pole after weekend qualifying.