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Indianapolis 500


Hammerhead
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INDIANAPOLIS ? The field is set for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race after four days of qualifying and some actual bumping on Bump Day.

 

As expected, the big three (Penske, Andretti Green and Ganassi) dominate the first three rows, and they most likely will dominate the race. History shows that the race winner usually comes from among the first three rows of starters. This year, make that the first five, as the depth of talent starting up front in this year's race is the best it has been in several years.

 

Only once before has the driver leading the race on the white flag lap not gone on to win the race. That was last year, when Sam Hornish Jr. edged Marco Andretti.

 

It could easily happen again this year.

 

Here is a field breakdown, row by row, for this year's Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

 

Row 1: Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti

 

? Polesitter Castroneves slid under the radar during the first week of practice before showing his strength when it mattered. He's patient and calculating. If he stays out of trouble, he could score Indy 500 win No. 3 this year.

 

? Kanaan has been fast all month. He's the hardest charger of the five Andretti Green cars. Expect Kanaan to lead a lot of laps on race day and quite possibly the one that really matters.

 

? This is Franchitti's second front-row start (2004). The Scot always is fast, but unfortunately for him, he hasn't had Lucky Luck on his shoulder at Indy. He's been the practice mule for the AGR squad and if the weather is warm on race day, Franchitti may have an edge.

 

Row 2: Scott Dixon, Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon

 

? In Dixon and Wheldon, Chip Ganassi has his best driver combination since the CART days of Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi. That was 10 years ago. Dixon set the top speed for the month and is the only driver to exceed the 227 mph mark. Dixon wants to be No. 1 at Ganassi, so look for the Kiwi to be in the thick of things during the final 20 laps.

 

? Now that he's gotten his first Indy win, Hornish Jr. can focus on getting No. 2 before he heads off to NASCAR.

 

? Wheldon is flashy, fast and egotistical ? everything you want in a winning race car driver. He didn't hide his disappointment after a less-than-stellar qualifying effort, and all he's talked about since is that the real payday is on race day.

 

Row 3: Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti

 

? Briscoe is the consensus dark horse of the race. He's talented, he's running a Penske car and he has a heavy right foot. There is one weak spot: His team is brand new, and despite having veterans on its roster, it could spell trouble in the pits.

 

? Patrick once again will be a contender at Indy as long as she stays with the lead pack. She will need to have a good car in traffic on race day or it will be a long day.

 

? The youngest of three Andrettis in the race is still thinking about his missed opportunity here last year. There's only one Indy victory in the Andretti family. Marco can make it two this year. He's got all the tools to do it.

 

Row 4: Tomas Scheckter, Michael Andretti, Scott Sharp

 

? Scheckter has been accident-prone at Indy, as he has finished just twice in five attempts. His best result was fourth in 2003. It will be a victory for the South African-born Scheckter just to cross the finish line.

 

? Back for his 16th attempt, Andretti is everyone's sentimental favorite. His best finish was second in 1991, and he holds the record for most laps led by a non-winner. That's a lousy record he'd rather retire. His car was good last year. It is better this year.

 

? Sharp's two best finishes at Indy have come in the last two years. His car isn't the fastest in the field, but Sharp says he'd rather have a good handling car than a fast one. This year, he has one. A top-five isn't out of the question.

 

Row 5: Jeff Simmons, Ed Carpenter, Darren Manning

 

? Making only his third start at Indy, Simmons is a more talented driver than his record shows. If he were driving an AGR or Ganassi car, he'd be finishing in the top five on a regular basis. He'll have his work cut out for him on race day.

 

? Carpenter might be the most improved driver in the field. Once considered to have received his ride only because Tony George is his stepfather, Carpenter has proven he deserves it. He wasn't the fastest of the four Vision Racing cars this month, but he's shown the kind of maturity that makes him a real candidate for a top-10 finish.

 

? Manning hasn't finished a 500 in his previous two tries. He has been known to take chances during a race that usually don't pay off. And he's driving an A.J. Foyt car. Three strikes?

 

Row 6: Buddy Rice, Kosuke Matsuura, A.J. Foyt IV

 

? Former 500 winner Rice has found a good home at Dreyer & Reinbold. The team has given him what might be his best car since 2004, when he won the rain-shortened event. To win this year, Rice will require a lot of luck and some misfortune on the part of several of the frontrunners.

 

? Matsuura is a mid-pack runner whose highest finish in the 500 is 11th (2004). He'll be consistent once again this year.

 

? Foyt has finished only once in three tries at Indy. Much of that had to do with driving for his grandfather. He'll finish the race this year, but probably not much better than top-20.

 

Row 7: Vitor Meira, Davey Hamilton, Sarah Fisher

 

? This might be the first time in the past four years that Meira can't be considered to be a serious contender. Always a dark horse, he finished runner-up to Wheldon in 2005. He'll have to get everything he can out of his Panther ride to score a top-10.

 

? Hamilton already has scored a victory just by getting into the field after a near career-ending accident in 2001. He doesn't have the fastest car, but his veteran experience and desire to succeed could net him a top-10 finish.

 

? Fisher's record at Indy isn't pretty, as her average finish in five previous tries is 23rd. Fisher has to improve on that this time around to show that she's not just another mediocre driver in the field.

 

Row 8: Buddy Lazier, Roger Yasukawa, John Andretti

 

? Wily veteran Lazier always has to be considered a threat whenever he's racing at Indy, and especially if he's in a good car. This year, he has a good car. Can he win? That's a long shot, but his Sam Schmidt team has won a lot of Indy Pro Series races, and Lazier could surprise everyone with a top-five finish.

 

? Former series regular Yasukawa can't be considered a real threat to win, but he should run a respectable race and finish in the top 15 for the Dreyer & Reinbold squad.

 

? Andretti's return to Indy won't be a disappointment. He'll challenge teammate Meira for the best finish by a Panther car. And he'll be the talk of the Nextel Cup garage when he returns to that series in a couple of weeks.

 

Row 9: Al Unser Jr., Alex Barron, Jon Herb

 

? Unser Jr. hasn't had a good 500 performance since winning in 1994. This could be his final start here, and driving for A.J. Foyt, it could be a short-lived one at that.

 

? Barron was a last-minute entry for Beck Motorsports, but that doesn't mean he should be considered a field-filler. His Indy credentials are impressive. He was the co-rookie of the year here in 2002 when he finished fourth. He also has driven for Roger Penske. Barron should score a top-10.

 

? Herb has made only one other start here (2001). He's been driving in the Indy Pro Series since then. Expect him to be among the first cars out of the race.

 

Row 10: Jaques Lazier, Milka Duno, Marty Roth

 

? Lazier has been injury prone nearly his entire IndyCar career, which has prevented him from reaching his full potential and has relegated him to field-filler status with Playa Del Racing.

 

? Just making it into the field has been a major accomplishment for Duno, who made the leap from sports cars to the Indy 500 in just three months. The first 10 laps will be her biggest test. She'll most likely be one of the first cars that will go a lap down, but expect her to finish the race. Duno is one of two rookies in the race this year.

 

? Roth wrecked on Bump Day last year and missed the race. He hasn't finished a race in his previous two tries (2004-05), and that pattern likely will continue this year.

 

Row 11: Roberto Moreno, Richie Hearn, Phil Giebler

 

? Moreno makes only his third start in 21 years at Indy (1986, 1999). His best finish is 19th. Survival will be his biggest challenge, but expect the veteran driver to stay out of trouble and finish the race.

 

? Veteran Hearn makes his seventh start this year. His best previous finish was third in 1996, when he also was named Rookie of the Year. With just two days of practice with his Hemelgarn team, Hearn will need a lot of luck to finish in the top 20.

 

? Giebler is the other rookie in the race. He crashed in practice this year and his team scrambled to fix his car for qualifying. Giebler could be one of the first cars out of the race.

source

 

Wheldon takes this thing, hands down.

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I hope I get to watch as much of this and the Coke 600 as possible.

The 600 will suck unless you're a Hendrick Motorsports fan.

 

Every race sucks because I'm a Sterling Marlin fan. Nothing new to me.

I know what you mean, I'm a Bobby Labonte fan.

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