Sunday, May 24, 2009

Race Preview - 3rd Part

The 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Positions 11 through 1
Race Preview Edition 3rd 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 11th through pole position, with highlights from this May and predictions of a winner’s circle trip.

Row 1 – Position 1 – Helio Castroneves
What is not to like about Helio going into this year’s race? Past Champion? Check. Pole Position? Check. Fan favorite? Check. He has a great team, a great owner, and for the first time since 2002, a special feel for this race track. He very easily could be sitting in a federal prison right now, but he isn’t. He is racing on the greatest race course in the world and loves every second of it. Don’t be surprised if Helio wins his third Indy 500 come Sunday.

Row 1 – Position 2 – Ryan Briscoe
Not to take anything away from what Briscoe has accomplished during his time with Penske this season, but he has been largely over shadowed by Helio’s tax evasion trial. He sat on the pole for most of pole day and has proven to be a complete driver early in the season. He finished 5th two years ago driving for Jay Penske. He should be around at the end, and it would be no shocker to see him take Penske to winner’s circle.

Row 1 – Position 3 – Dario Franchitti
No surprise to see a Ganassi car up in the front, but a rather interesting story with Franchitti. A one year hiatus from the 500 hasn’t affected the open wheel veteran. He currently sits third in points and an Indy 500 victory would boost his chances of returning to his 2007 form of 500 and series champion. A top five finish is highly likely. Look for his wife to be wearing her customary race dress and hat, too.

Row 2 – Position 4 – Graham Rahal
It’s great to see a Rahal in Indy again. Last year’s performance (started 13th, finished 33rd) is long gone and Rahal has proven himself with a solid month of May. His 02 McDonalds machine nearly saw death on day two of qualifications as he barely avoided John Andretti’s wreck. His chances of a good showing are as good as ever with a strong team in Newman/Haas. Rahal’s in-experience to run a complete 500 miles could hurt him mid-race. A top 10 would be a great way to cap off a very satisfying month.

Row 2 – Position 5 – Scott Dixon
The defending 500 champion started the season slow but picked it back up with a win at Kansas and is a solid fourth in points. Like his teammate, Franchitti, Dixon has had a fine month. A great month is what Team Penske has done with 1st and 2nd spots locked up. Dixon is by far one of the most recognizable drivers in the series and another win for him at Indy would put him in the elite category as a two time winner. The car and team is there, it’s all about how the race plays out for the 9 car.

Row 2 – Position 6 – Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan has done everything at Indy except win. He hasn’t run at Indy without leading at least one lap. He sat on the pole in 2005 and dominated the race in 2007 before a questionable pit stop. Last year his teammate ran him into the marbles coming out of turn three. His car appeared to be strong enough to win last year. This year has been a bit different. Even though he is starting 6th, he had to qualify a backup car to make the field. All Kanaan needs to now is WIN. It’s all or nothing for the AGR Star.

Row 3 – Position 7 – Mario Moraes
Moraes, a very young driver (only 20), finished 18th for Dale Coyle Racing in the 2008 Indy 500. He has had a good month for KV Racing, represented by his starting position inside the 3rd row. His future is very bright, but his inexperience will be a factor as this is only his second 500 mile race. His career best finish of 7th at Watkins Glen last year represents one of his three top 10 finishes in his short career. Anything in the top 15 would be a success for this young Brazilian.

Row 3 – Position 8 – Marco Andretti
Marco is one of the up and coming drivers in the series. His near miss by .0635 in 2006 shows he has the talent and skill to drive at Indy. He had another strong showing last year finishing 3rd. This May he has been consistent on and off the track. Can he break the curse of the Andretti name at Indy? Only time will tell. Anything outside of a top five finish for him is a disappointment.

Row 3 – Position 9 – Will Power
Will Power had a respectable showing last year at Indy finishing 13th. 2009 started off with a bang as he replaced Helio for the first two races of the season. He finished 2nd at Long Beach after starting on the Pole. He was leading the series in points after two races but didn’t run at Kansas. The Indy 500 is Powers’ chance to show everyone in open wheel racing he belongs in the series full time. He has the resources of Penske which is enough to warrant him as a serious contender. The Verizon car is a nice looking car. And, if it crosses the yard of bricks first, we might see it the rest of the season.

Row 4 – Position 10 – Danica Patrick
Danica broke through last year with a win at Motegi and has been improving ever since. Her showing in Sports Illustrated this year wasn’t bad either. Her career seems to be on the right path with a good start to 2009. She is currently 6th in points with two top five finishes in three races. This May has been eventful, but not in the same way as 2005 when she busted onto the scene with a 4th place start and finish. She was 15 miles away from victory in 2005. If she wins this year it would be historic and, a win is well within reach.

Row 4 – Position 11 – Alex Lloyd
Lloyd is one of the most interesting stories of May because of his car’s color scheme. His all pink #99 machine sponsored by HER energy drink is highly visible from anywhere. The 2007 Indy Pro Series champion has not competed in a race since the 2008 500 in which he finished 25th. His late heroics this May, earning him the 11th starting spot, were nice and should give him momentum into race day. Don’t forget his car is being run by Chip Ganassi and that warrants consideration for a top five finish and a long shot for winner’s circle. He is another driver that is only signed for the 500 and would be interested in running more races in 2009.

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