What to Watch For at the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500
Can the Racing Be as Good as Last Year?
As the 2012 highlight video attests, last year’s racing was truly special. These cars allow for a lot of passing. Even with the second year of the DW12, that hasn’t changed if the first four races are any indication (particularly the last race in Brazil). Last week’s practice has also produced great action. Last year broke a 52 year record for lead changes with 34. That record may just be in jeopardy once again.
Chevy vs. Honda 2: Electric Boogaloo
Last year, Chevy dominated practice and qualifying, but by race day, Honda had figured out what was wrong and came out with an updated engine that blew away the bowtie. For all their struggles early in the month, it was Honda that came out with the victory. This year, Chevy’s early dominance has been even more pronounced. They were all over the top of the speed charts in practice, then took every Fast Nine spot in qualifying. The highest starting Honda is Alex Tagliani in 11th. Last year, Honda got its act together in the nick of time to win the race. Can lightning strike twice, or is this destined to be Chevy’s time?
Helio and Dario Go For 4
For the first time since 1987, multiple drivers will be going for their 4th Indy 500 win and join AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears in that exclusive club. Helio Castroneves is going for #4 for the fourth time, while Dario Franchitti goes for it for the first time after winning #3 last year. Going into the race, it looks like Helio has the advantage of the two. He driver for the most successful owner in Indy history, has the Chevy power plant under him, and starts right in there in 8th. Dario is once again starting midpack, 17th, thanks to Honda’s issues. Of course, he started 16th last year and it didn’t phase him. Still, Dario needs Honda to come back again, because no matter how much of a champion he is, it won’t happen if the power isn’t there.
For the record, it took Foyt 10 tries to win his 4th, Unser 9 tries, and Mears 2 tries.
Is This Andretti’s Time?
This could mean either the driver or the team. Starting with the Andretti Autosport team as a whole, it has been their month so far. They led the practice charts almost every day, and on Pole Day, put all five of their cars into the Fast Five. Amazingly, the top of that list was their rookie (more on him later). James Hinchcliffe, he of two wins this season already, is their worst starter: 9th. Defending series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 win in 2013) will start 7th, and the fast but erratic EJ Viso 4th. However, the one Andretti driver getting the most win talk is Marco, the 3rd scion of the famous family. He’ll start on the outside of the front row, the first time in 20 years an Andretti has started on the front row. 2012 looked like Marco’s year the first half of the race, but he couldn’t keep it together the second half. Marco has looked like a much more mature man and driver this year. Will that help him put it all together and break the Andretti Curse?
The Hometown Polesitter
Ed Carpenter was considered a favorite to win by some in the sport before Pole Day, most notably Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, but only a second-tier pick at best. That changed when Ed took the pole over all the big guns at Penske and Andretti. This small team with an owner/driver in Carpenter brings it on the ovals, including last year’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway. It’s not the sprawling set-up other teams have, but it works for the man who may one day run IMS. If Ed can win it, it’ll be one of the most popular outcomes for the fans that day.
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