The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Auto Racing

May 25, 2013

Indy 500 could be better than 2012’s epic race

INDIANAPOLIS — They raced 1-2-3 in line, trading the lead a whopping 15 times over the final, frantic 75 laps. All three drivers had a last-lap plan in mind when they zipped past the white flag, and it was Takuma Sato who acted first with a bold move for the win.

Sato pulled out of line, dipped inside of Dario Franchitti and tried to pounce as they headed into the first turn. Scott Dixon watched and waited from third, figuring he was now in position to slingshot past both for the victory.

Instead, Sato and Franchitti nearly touched. Sato spun out and into the wall, and Franchitti zipped to his third victory in one of the most dramatic Indianapolis 500 finishes in memory. Some even argued it was one of the greatest Indy 500s ever.

It sure won’t be easy to top today.

“I got a lot of comments from drivers in NASCAR and Formula One saying it was the best 500 they’d ever seen,” Franchitti said. “But I think this year will also be a very close exciting race.”

The bar was certainly raised at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year with 34 lead changes, passing throughout the field, Franchitti rallying from the back to win and three close friends of the late Dan Wheldon sweeping the podium. So perfect it could have been a Hollywood movie script.

But the IndyCar Series has given every indication this season that today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be another thriller.

The series is off to a terrific start with three winners in the first four races, and for the first time since 1991 none of the winners drive for the mighty Penske Racing or Chip Ganassi Racing teams. Instead, it’s been three wins for resurgent Andretti Autosport and one for A.J. Foyt Racing, which celebrated Sato becoming the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race.

So steady this season, Sato goes into today’s race as the series points leader. And he’ll start from the sixth row — right next to Franchitti and Dixon.

Sato, who calls last year’s race “an unforgettable day,” has the chance to give Foyt his first Indy 500 victory since Kenny Brack in 1999. Sato’s win at Long Beach last month was the first for the Foyt organization since 2002.

“We’re here for it. We are here aiming to win the 500 so there is no reason why we cannot,” Sato said. “Winning, I was so close last year. Knowing that now, how to get there, what you need there, so it’s been a tremendous experience last year to hopefully I can translate it to... this year’s performance.”

The field is stacked, though, and has a pair of drivers trying to join the exclusive club of four-time winners. Franchitti and Helio Castroneves are each vying to join Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the Indy 500, a feat that’s not been done since Mears’ 1991 victory.

“What an incredible opportunity for the fans to have not only one but two guys trying to make history,” Castroneves said. “Forget about the names, forget about who it is. But imagine people who didn’t even see the last time when the guy won four times.”

They’ve got five Andretti Autosport cars standing in their way, and two of them start from the front row.

Carlos Munoz, a 21-year-old Colombian making his IndyCar debut, will start second alongside Marco Andretti, who is once again considered a favorite but must overcome a curse that has limited his famous family to one win — Mario Andretti in 1969 — in 80 starts.

Andretti feels far more comfortable about his chances this year than he did last season, when he called the race “mine to lose.” Graham Rahal, the other half of the closest rivalry in the mild-mannered series, doesn’t consider his nemesis the favorite.

“Do I think it’s Marco’s race? No. Marco hasn’t led in the pack all week,” Rahal said. “He just sits in the back and runs a big lap time and pits.”

Instead, Rahal thinks everybody is overlooking AJ Allmendinger, who will make his Indianapolis 500 debut seven years after he left open-wheel racing for NASCAR. A failed drug test cost him his NASCAR ride last summer with Roger Penske, but the team owner has given him a second chance with this IndyCar opportunity.

Allmendinger has been fast at Indy — so good that struggling teammate Will Power used his setup in qualifying. Power said Allmendinger has the best car in traffic of all three Penske entries. Named after Foyt, his father’s favorite driver, Allmendinger could complete his comeback today.

“AJ Allmendinger is a very good race driver. He’s had quite a bit of experience,” said Foyt. “I met his daddy the other day, I said, ‘Why did you handicap that kid putting A.J. on him?’”

Allmendinger is one of 11 American drivers in the field of 33 — there are also a record-tying four women — and leading the red, white and blue charge is local boy Ed Carpenter, the only owner-driver in the field.

Carpenter, the stepson of IndyCar Series founder Tony George, is a graduate of Butler, a die-hard Indiana Pacers fan and the surprise pole-winner for the Indy 500. He is noted for his skills racing on an oval, and he’s twice beaten Franchitti in wheel-to-wheel races to the finish line. But now he’ll be leading the field to the green flag of his hometown race with all of Indiana watching.

“I don’t feel the pressure,” he said. “As far as the local fan base and support, it’s fun. I don’t think that translates into pressure.”

Carpenter is powered by Chevrolet, which for the second year in a row dominated all the preparations for the Indy 500 and swept the first 10 spots in qualifying. But Honda showed more life in Friday’s final practice, when it had six drivers in the top 10 of the speed chart. If that sounds familiar, it should — last year, Chevrolet dominated leading into the Indy 500, but Franchitti won in a Honda.

“We have seen this movie before — this is the same story of last year, and Honda had the advantage on race day,” said James Hinchcliffe, who goes into the race with two wins this season for Andretti.

And race day is the only day that matters, according to Ganassi, who publicly called out Honda during the season-opening weekend at St. Pete when he questioned the manufacturer’s desire to win. Ganassi went so far as to claim the only thing Honda wants to do is “sit around and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I want to win.”

Ganassi wasn’t panicked Friday about Honda’s performance so far at Indy and said today will be the “tale of the tape.”

“I’d like to think we gave them a little bit of a spark there that started a bit of a fire, and that fire burns today very hot,” Ganassi said. “I’m happy with how they responded, but this is in response. This is a long, not a one-race or one-day commitment we’re looking for a response to, it’s a season-long slog. A marathon we’re involved in throughout the season. I’m sure they’re up to the task.”

So he’ll wait and see if this year’s running of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” can live up to last year.

“Last year is going to be tough to top, but what we’ve seen in practice so far indicates we are going to see a really similar race,” Hinchcliffe said. “And I don’t think fans are ever going to get tired of that kind of action.”

1
Text Only
Auto Racing
  • SPT - HB0728 - Gordon art Rain doesn't dampen Brickyard fans' spirits

    Despite threatening skies and chances of rain, fans at the Brickyard 400 were not disheartened by the forecast Sunday. Fans expected the race to be completed and were anticipating an exciting race for the Sprint Cup event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0728 - Gordon art Fifth Brickyard for Gordon Indiana racing fans roared their approval of the kid they watched growing up in open wheel cars as Jeff Gordon scored his record fifth Brickyard 400 victory Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dorer scores JEGS win at Anderson Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Freightliner Redbud 300. The next year he flipped in Turn 1 during the CRA Super Series event. He scored another highlight Saturday night by winning for the first time with the CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour event in the Edgewater Woods 100.|ANDERSON — Florida driver Steve Dorer has had career moments at Anderson Speedway, and at other times ones he would just like to forget. Dorer recorded the biggest win of his career when he passed Chase Elliott on the final lap in the 2011 Stoops Fre

    July 27, 2014

  • Jones perfect in ARCA competition Georgia driver Brandon Jones remained perfect in the ARCA Racing Series by winning for a second time Friday at Lucas Oil Raceway, but he needed some misfortune to strike another driver for the victory.

    July 26, 2014

  • Chris Hacker image Hacker helping kids go to camp Born with an injury that affects the nerves controlling the muscles in his left arm hasn’t slowed Chris Hacker when he climbs behind a race car.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway mourns death of Garner

    The death of three-time Indianapolis 500 pace car driver James Garner is rippling through the motor racing community.

    July 20, 2014

  • Marcum claims Late Model win Morristown driver Jeff Marcum has watched victories in the McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models slip away this season, but that changed Saturday at Anderson Speedway.

    July 20, 2014

  • Ken de la Bastide: Disappointing short track news abounds During the past two weeks, there has been disappointing news coming out of the local short track racing community.

    July 15, 2014

  • Atkinson wins Street Stock 75 New Castle’s Jason Atkinson appeared headed to a dominating win Saturday night at Anderson Speedway in the CRA Street Stock feature.

    July 13, 2014

  • CRA Street Stocks return to Anderson Speedway Racing action returns to Anderson Speedway on Saturday with CRA Street Stocks, NASH FM ThunderCars, Front Wheel Drives Figure 8s and Thunder Roadsters.

    July 11, 2014

Latest Racing News