The Herald Bulletin

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Sports

February 26, 2014

Ken de la Bastide: Indy 500 champ returning in 2014

With activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just a few months away, the IZOD IndyCar Series is getting a boost for the Indianapolis 500.

It will be officially announced today that former Indy 500 winner, 1997 CART champion and 1997 Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve is returning to IMS.

Villeneuve will be driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in a third car joining veteran Simon Pagenaud and rookie Mikhail Aleshin.

In two career starts in the Indianapolis 500, Villeneuve finished second in 1994 and won the 1995 race.

With the return of 2000 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya to the IZOD IndyCar Series, that’s good news for race organizers and the fans of both drivers.

The other interesting development for the “500” is an effort to have a “People’s Race Car” in the race. Two fans are trying to raise the money to enter a car in the Indy 500 without corporate sponsorship.

The goal is for 10,000 people to provide $100 to be part of the Cutters Race Team. Everyone donating money will have their name on the car.

Sarah Fisher Racing is a partner in the project and will be providing a car for the effort.

I like the concept and hope that the Cutters Race Team selects a driver with local short track racing ties. Bryan Clauson would be a natural to drive the team or Conor Daley.

The goal is to have 3,000 people sign up by late March. Depending on how many fans agree to provide $100, the car could have corporate sponsorship to make a qualifying attempt.

If successful, the effort should attract a lot of attention among the media and the fans.

As the AARP commercial aptly states “Sign me up.”

In other racing news: With the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix this weekend, it will be the first time the new “knock-out” qualifying format will be used to set the starting field. I normally don’t watch qualifying for a NASCAR race, but depending on the time frame, I will be watching to see how it works.

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