Monday, May 11, 2009

Two Weeks Till the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Two weeks remain until the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. IndyCar Garage makes ten observations about what is going on in Indy.

1. TEAM PENSKE - What's not to like about what Roger Penske has done with his three cars this May. Helio's remarkable emergence since his tax evasion acquittal has done wonders for the IndyCar series and has put Penske in the running for another 500 victory. Ryan Briscoe has emerged as a series contender in his second full year for Team Penske. Will Power might be the best driver not going on to Milwaukee. Starting 1st, 2nd and 9th has Team Penske in position for another victory this May.

2. Dario Franchitti & Scott Dixon - What team has ever come to Indy with the past two 500 champions? Chip Ganassi has created a monopoly with Franchitti and Dixon. Dario has proven he hasn't missed a step since coming back from NASCAR and Dixon has recovered from a slow start at the beginning of the season. This team has the drivers, speed and technology to be successful come race day. It should be an outstanding battle between Ganassi and Penske.

3. Driver Quality- Unification has brought a renewed interset open in wheel racing in North America. Driver quality is in the spot light this May at Indy. No Indianapolis field since 1996 has had more talent or experience. Penske, Ganassi and AGR are the three power teams, but when you throw in Paul Tracy, Dan Wheldon, Vitor Meira, Scott Sharp, Graham Rahal, Ryan-Hunter Reay, Raphael Matos, Mario Moraes, John Andretti, Justin Wilson and fan favorite Sarah Fisher, you have a wealth of talent here that makes the build up for May 24th even more exciting.

4. Versus Coverage - I know the pre-Indy races were weak in ratings, but Versus coverage has been great in every way ESPN wasn't. Over 13 hours of coverage from this past weekend highlighted a great way to kick off the drama of May. Versus can improve, but lets hope that this a sign of good things to come.

5. Andretti-Green Racing - We all know Danica mania is in full effect, but when will the other AGR stars break through? Tony Kannan had to go to a backup car to get in the top 11, Marco is a lose cannon with loads of potential, and Mutoh is a steady counterpart. We haven't seen the speed from AGR that we have seen from Penske and Ganassi, but that doesn't mean they won't be around at the end. We can only hope Marco doesn't take out Kanaan again this year.

6. Sarah Fisher Racing - Sarah Fisher was nearly bankrupt last year as her team needed the 500 just to keep operations going. Dollar General has stepped up their sponsorship and it has payed off for her team. She is scheduled to race a partial schedule this year with a goal of a full schedule run in 2010. With her nerves from last May long gone and a secure sponsorship this time around, a top 5 finish would create a butting rivarly with Danica for top female driver.

7. The King at Indy - Anyone that has been involved in motorsports knows that Richard Petty's presence at Indy speaks volumes. His involvement with John Andretti only spices it up because of the history of the Andretti name. It was unfortunate to see Andretti wreck on day two, but it's great to see the King around the garages and at the track during May. How perfect would it be to see Petty and Andretti in victory circle together? Right now a top 15 sounds more realistic.

8. Carb Day - The Friday before the race has become a modern day version of the Snake Pit 21st century style. Over 100,000 people will pack the track for the final day of practice, the freedom 100, pit-stop competition and a late afternoon concert that has included the likes of Kid Rock, LIVE, and this year's headliner 3 Doors Down. It all makes for great people watching and a great kickoff to Memorial Day weekend. This year will be no different.

9. Who will be the long shot that's around at the end? - Last year it was Vitor Meira at 35 to 1 odds. The depth of this year's field should give us plenty of options to choose from. Not to say that Paul Tracy is a long shot, but he is probably the most motivated driver at Indy based off of his package for this race , the 2002 race andhis overall outgoing presence. Look for Tracy to wait around until the last 50 laps to make his move. Davey Hamilton is another to keep an eye on.

10. The Centennial Era has begun - This is the first of three years that the IMS will be celebrating their Centennial Era. The entire IMS facility is covered with the new Centennial Logo, reminding us all of the history and heritage of racing. It's great for the IndyCar Series.

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