Saturday, May 23, 2009

The 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Positions 22 through 11
Race Preview Edition 2nd in a series

Sunday afternoon at 1 P.M. Eastern, the most famous words in racing will be heard over the P.A at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.” From there the 93rd running of the greatest spectacle in racing will begin in Speedway, Indiana. IndyCar Garage breaks down the field starting with the middle 11, with highlights from this May and predictions of a winner’s circle trip.

Row 4 – Position 12 – Raphael Matos
Matos is a leading candidate for rookie of the year at Indy and in the 2009 season. He stole the show on day two of qualifications with an average speed that would have put him in the top 11 a day earlier. The 2008 Indy Lights series champion is running for a up and coming team in Luczo-Dragon Racing. A full 500 miles for this rookie and top 15 finish would top off a respectable May for Matos. A trip to victory circle for Matos is a long shot, but if the car holds up, anything can happen.

Row 5 – Position 13 – Paul Tracy
Tracy returns to Indy for the first time since 2002 when he was just short of a victory with a 2nd place finish. Tracy thinks he won the 2002 race because he passed Helio before the caution. Tony George and company thought otherwise. This year Tracy comes into town with motivation to win and secure a ride for the rest of the season. After being the dominate force of CART and Champ Car for several years, his career has struggled since the merger. He finished 4th at Edmonton last year and still couldn’t find a ride. He finally found a ride for Indy this year with a limited program sponsored through Geico. He will start 13th and is a sleeper pick to win. If he doesn’t get caught in a wreck and the car holds up, Tracy will be a threat at the end.
Row 5 – Position 14 – Vitor Meira
Vitor is a very talented driver when it comes to the Indy 500, represented by two runner up finishes in 2005 and 2008. He is running for a new team this year with A.J. Foyt Racing. He currently sits 15th in points after three races, so Indy could be the race to get him back on track. If Vitor has a car that will give him 500 miles, then look for him to be around at the end barring any crashes he gets caught in. This month has given us no reason to believe he can’t compete for a trip to the winners circle.
Row 5 – Position 15 – Justin Wilson
Justin was one of the transition drivers from Champ Car after the merger, and he made an impact in his first IndyCar season by capturing a victory at Detroit. His first Indy 500 in 2008 was marred by a accident that left him finishing 27th. He is currently driving for Dale Coyle Racing and rewarded them with a 3rd place finish in the 2009 season opener at St. Pete. His speed throughout the month has been consistent and his sponsor, McDonalds makes the car very visible. His in-experience at Indy makes him a liability to drive in traffic and could make him a early race causality. A full 500 miles and a top 10 finish would be a step in the right direction for this talented British driver.
Row 6 – Position 16 – Hideki Mutoh
Mutoh has been a force in the IndyCar series since signing on to drive full time for AGR in 2008. The 2008 series Rookie of the year finished 7th last year at Indy. Like his other AGR teammates, he hasn’t found the speed of Penske or Ganassi this month. He still remains a threat because of the power of AGR. The Japanese driver has proven he can drive, now can he make the break through for more wins and a place in winners circle? A top ten is expected for a AGR driver.
Row 6 – Position 17 – Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter grew up a half mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and lived across the street from Speedway High School. He is the step-son of Tony George and has raced midgets as early as age eight. His open wheel career has been less than spectacular. He currently is in his sixth season with a full-time ride and has not finished higher than 14th in the point standings. He still has yet to register a podium finish. He did finish a career best 5th at Indy last year and his team seems to be making improvements. Vision racing has struggled since its inception to be competitive at every race. His speed throughout the month has been average. He needs another strong showing to prove he can compete at every race. Anything finish in the top 15 should be considered a positive for Carpenter and his team.

Row 6 – Position 18 – Dan Wheldon
Wheldon started 16th in 2005 and turned out his 1st 500 victory. If he wants a repeat trip to victory circle he will have to do so from the 18th position. A pole day crash dampened what would have been a secure spot in the top 11. With his return to Panther Racing this season in the National Guard, Wheldon needs a strong showing to restore himself as a threat to win every race. A top 5 would go a long way with his Panther team.
Row 7 – Position 19 – A.J. Foyt IV
Nothing would add more history to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than a Foyt putting another Foyt in victory lane during the Centennial Era. The reality is that A.J. Foyt IV isn’t the driver his grandfather was. In other good news for Foyt IV is that he just got engaged to Casey Irasy (her dad owns the Colts). The chances of Foyt IV in victory circle are slim, but a top 10 would do wonders to jump start his career. As of now, he doesn’t have a ride for the rest of the year. A top 5 finish might change that.
Row 7 – Position 20 – Scott Sharp
Scott has 146 career Indy Racing League starts, the most ever in league history. Scott sat on the pole here in 2001, but finished 33rd. This month he has suffered some set backs with a crash prior to qualifications. He was able to save himself and his team a major headache by pulling off last minute heroics on day two of qualifications. He is a veteran driver who is very familiar with Indy. He has five career top ten finishes in the 500 mile race. A few breaks throughout the race and a top five is well within reach for the Patron car.
Row 7 – Position 21 – Sarah Fisher
Sarah Fisher is also a very unique story from the month of May. She has seen the highs of IndyCar by setting numerous female records in 2001 and 2002. She also has seen the lows of racing by drifting into minor league NASCAR in 2004 and 2005. She finally has a sponsor (Dollar General) for her race team Sarah Fisher Racing and seems poised to recapture the magic that made her one of the most popular drivers in the IndyCar series for three straight years. Her speed hasn’t been great this May, but was good enough for a day two effort that put her in 21st. She has a partial schedule for the rest of the season with a goal of a full schedule run in 2010. She needs to finish the race this year and establish her team as contenders. Anything above 18th would be a personal best for her at Indy.
Row 8 – Position 22 – Davey Hamilton
6th in 1997, 4th in 1998, 11th in 1999, 9th in 2007, 14th in 2008. Notice a trend hear? Davey Hamilton knows how to run Indy and has the experience to finish near the top. Hamilton suffered a horrible accident in 2001 at Texas and returned to racing in Indy in 2007 with Vision Racing. He is not a full-time entry and has only run two races since coming back from retirement, which have both been at Indy. He’s a long shot to win the race and his Dryer & Reinbold Racing w/Kingdom Racing team has struggled throughout the month with it’s other entries(see John Andretti’s pit on bump day). This means Hamilton has had little time to do much race-time preparation. His experience is what warrants him consideration for the winners circle, but not much else. A top 20 is about all you can hope for.

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