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Auto Racing

10 things to know about the Indy 500


Published:   |   Updated: May 26, 2013 at 09:55 AM


The 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 is today with a wide-open field and a pair of drivers trying to join the elite list of four-time winners. Two Americans start on the front row, along with Carlos Munoz, an unknown Indy 500 newcomer who grew up idolizing Juan Pablo Montoya - a fellow Colombian who won "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" as a rookie. Lurking back in the sixth row are Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato, the three drivers who raced for the victory last year.

Here are 10 things to know about today's race:

Four-timers

Two drivers - Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves - will try to win their fourth Indianapolis 500 to join an exclusive club that has only three members. Rick Mears was the last driver to win a fourth Indy 500, joining A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr. in the group in 1991.

AJ'S goal

AJ Allmendinger is making his Indy 500 debut seven years after he left open-wheel racing for NASCAR. He had the best job of his career with Roger Penske when he was suspended last July by NASCAR for failing a random drug test. Penske has given Allmendinger a second chance in IndyCar, and some believe he has a solid chance to win.

Good Will hunting

Will Power went into the 2012 500 riding the momentum of three straight victories. He has not won a race since, though, and said this has been the most low-key month of his career because he's ranked 18th in the IndyCar standings. Although Power has 16 career victories, he never has won on an oval and has never won an IndyCar title.

USA, USA

The field of 33 cars has a red, white and blue feel this year with 11 Americans in the race. Leading the charge is Ed Carpenter, the local guy who starts on the pole. An American driver has not won this race since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. Four-time winner A.J. Foyt has an American in the field with newcomer Conor Daly, and Foyt believes an American winner would give the race and the series a boost.

Family curse?

Marco Andretti will start on the front row in third, the highest starting spot of his career. Always a contender because of his race craft at the speedway, he'll be trying to break the "Andretti Curse" that has plagued the family and made Mario Andretti's 1969 victory its only win.

Bar set high

Last year's race was considered one of the best in Indy 500 history as Dario Franchitti, Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon raced down the stretch for the win. Sato spun and wrecked as he attempted to pass Franchitti on the final lap, and the Scot sailed to his third victory.

Girl power

There are a series-tying four women in the field after Katherine Legge arrived last week, pieced together a deal to drive a third car for Sam Schmidt and qualified it in the field on her first day back in an Indy car since September's season finale. Simona de Silvestro, driving for KV Racing, might have the best chance to run up front. Ana Beatriz and Pippa Mann are the other two women in the field.

Honda vs Chevy

It seems to be deja vu for engine manufacturer Chevrolet, which dominated all the practice sessions for a second consecutive year. But it was Honda that claimed the big prize last season, with signs that it had more speed on Carburetion Day. It happened again this year as Honda driver Simon Pagenaud shot to the top of the speed chart in the final practice session, and Honda drivers claimed six of the top 10 spots.

Pride of Japan

Among the Honda drivers who have a chance to win is Takuma Sato, the IndyCar points leader. Last month at Long Beach he became the first Japanese-born driver to win an IndyCar race, and he nearly won Brazil until James Hinchcliffe passed him in the final turn. Sato is trying to overcome last year's nightmare finish in which he went for the win on the final lap but spun as he tried to pass Dario Franchitti.

Home sweet home

There's a familiar feel to the 500 this year as Jim Nabors returns to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" a year after missing the race because of heart surgery. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Colts quarterback who is part-time owner of Panther Racing, will drive the pace car.

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