One of the biggest questions awaiting an answer from the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday is “Can he do it?”
Helio Castroneves is sitting in the catbird seat in his quest to become the fourth four-time winner. The pole-sitter could join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in a unique club at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mears was the last driver to earn four wins, the last in 1991. Ironically, Mears works very closely with Castroneves during races.
“I stopped telling him things weeks ago,” Mears jokes.
Castroneves said, “To be successful here, you’ve got to have a lot of combinations of things. First of all you got to have the team. You have to have a fast car and you need to be comfortable in that car. The track is fast, and when you see four corners that look the same, they’re not. And you have to be patient to be good here, and don’t try to think so much you can get yourself in trouble.”
A little luck is always nice, he added.
Castroneves’ quest is just one of many dramas to be played out on race day. One of the series’ strongest and toughest competitors, Tony Kanaan will start in 33rd slot on the grid. In his eight previous starts, he has never began the race lower sixth. Kanaan qualified 32nd, but the Andretti Autosport team repaired the original car, believing it to be the better car. Going from 32nd to 33rd, means little to Kanaan. “There is nothing good about starting in the back,” Kanaan said.
In spite of his troubles, Kanaan is confident in his team. “The team, it’s one of the most winning teams in IndyCar. We’re not lacking anything. We’re behind and we’re going to work for it.
Kanaan knows the challenge ahead of him and puts it into perspective with time management. “I’ve been leading the race and look up and see there are still 120 laps to go, and I think ‘Oh, no we got 120 to go.’ This year, I will be too busy working my way through to think about that.”
Kanaan was quick to point out that the car that starts last is not always the worst car in the field. “That’s not the case here. I have no doubt that I can do it. I can tell you from experience that where you start does not dictate where you finish here.”
For the first time in history, four women will start the Indy 500, two veterans and two rookies. Ana Beatriz made it to the top 24 on Pole Day. She was the fastest rookie of that day with her qualifying speed of 224.243. She was thrilled then and is still in the euphoria of being steps closer to realizing her dream of winning Indy.
Beatriz competed in the Indy Lights series, running two Freedom 100s at Indy, but Sunday is a whole different situation for her. “You have to think of so much more. The IndyCar has so much more speed. It’s a bigger car, heavier car,” Beatriz said.
Simona de Silvestro will start 22nd in her first Indy 500. The 21-year-old from Switzerland previously competed in the Atlantic Championship where she won four times in 2009.
Former Rookies of the Year, Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher will start in the 23rd and 29th slots, respectively. Patrick battled an ill-handling car during qualifications, but feels differently about her race day. “As opposed to just doing four laps as fast as you can, in the race you have strategy and pit stops and all of those other things that make a difference.”
Although not the oldest driver, John Andretti has the most starts of any driver in the field. Andretti starts his 10th Indy 500 spanning from his rookie year in 1988 to today. Richard Petty Racing and Andretti Autosport teamed up to put him in the field in the 28th spot. In 1991, Andretti finished fifth, his best to date. Of all of the drivers, Andretti probably has one of the most reverent attitudes about the speedway.
In his rookie season, Andretti lost engines in two cars before finally making the field. He said he felt he deserved to be in the field. As he looks back, he thinks differently.
“I came to realize that when my dad [Aldo] came up to shake my hand, here’s someone who really deserved to be here and never got that. At that point you realize this place is really special,” Andretti said.
Andretti will be contending with something else this year. For the first time the Overtake Assist “Push to Pass” will be available to drivers during the race. The Overtake Assist adds 200 RPMs to a car. Each track is different, but for Indy drivers will have 15 uses that last for 18 seconds. Each time the button is used, it takes 10 seconds to reset.
Kansas was Andretti’s first opportunity to use the system.
“You kind of have an old dog that rolls over one way,” he said. “That’s why I did Kansas so I could get used to things. I think it could be really critical here.”
The “Push to Pass” is often used as a defensive device, but Andretti said that eventually that offense and defense goes away.
In addition to Beatriz and de Silvestro, four other rookies join the field. Bertrand Baguette, Mario Romancini, former Formula One driver Takuma Sato and 19-year-old Sebastian Saavedra.
Saavedra found out he would start his first Indianapolis 500 from a hospital room. After a crash on Bump Day, Saavedra was sure he was out. Team owner Bryan Herta called him with the surprising but good news.
“It is the most amazing turn of events. You don’t know what this meant to our team because we put everything on the line to make this race.”
This is the first foray into the Indianapolis 500 for Bryan Herta Autosport.
As always, veterans starting toward the rear of the field are concerned about the start.
“The start is kind of wild,” said Fisher. “We just see if everybody wakes up on Sunday.”
This year’s field average at 224.974 is the fastest since 2002 which was 228.648, the fastest ever, but this is the closest field by time. Just 3.0622 seconds separate Castroneves, the fastest, and Saavedra, the slowest.
Besides Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon are all former winners in the field. Between the four of them, they have tallied seven victories.
Public gates open at 6 a.m. Legendary actor Jack Nicholson will waive the green flag at 1 p.m.
One of the biggest questions awaiting an answer from the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday is “Can he do it?”
- Auto Racing
Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy
Whether your preference is non-wing sprint cars or late-model stock cars, this is the week that Wabash Valley race fans look forward to all summer.
The best of the best is the only way to describe what will unfold this week at Valley ovals. First comes the continuation of the popular UMP Summer National “Hell Week” tour for late models and its annual stop at Terre Haute Action Track tonight. USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opens later this weekend with stops at Gas City on Friday night, Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday evening.
Metro sports: Pounds among winners at Crossroads Dragway
Ron Pound was one of the winners in Crossroads Dragway racing on Saturday.
Trackside: Rising costs make Valley racing more difficult than ever
The life and times of your weekly short-track racer has long lived up to the colorful and exciting ways coveted by those in the stands who gather each weekend to watch their favorite team or driver compete.
While the weekly trek to the race track has always presented its challenges, the task in recent times has made those trips to the many dirt ovals across the country a little more difficult to make.
Metro roundup: Lady Rex take Ohio softball tournament
The Lady Rex 18u softball team had a 5-1 record over the weekend to win the Ohio Premier tournament.
Trackside: Likable Dave Darland still chalking up victories at 48
One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.
Groomer among Lincoln Park winners; Bell, Abreu take Indiana Midget Week races
Ralph Groomer was a feature winner in racing on Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Trackside: Thumbs up given for upcoming Indiana Midget Week
In his many years of serving in the public relation department for the U.S. Auto Club, Dick Jordan has developed a keen sense for rating the overall health and future of dirt-track open-wheel racing.
So when the veteran publicist voices a note of guarded optimism for the running of an upcoming series, one knows something special looms on the horizon.
Metro sports: Cassell wins Lawrence County title
Chris Cassell put together two rounds of 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory for his first Albright Motors Lawrence County Open championship on Sunday.
Metro: White wins mile, Sebastian 5K at TH Memorial Day events
Nolan White won the mile run and Matthew Sebastian won the 5-kilometer walk during Terre Haute Parks Memorial Day events Monday at Deming Park.
Six former winners chasing Indy 500 championship
Angst, frustration and heartbreak are all part of the lore of the Indianapolis 500, but when a driver finally takes the checkered flag, all of those words are quickly relegated to the back of their mind and replaced with pure joy. That emotion keeps bringing them back, and for the 98th running of the Indy 500, six former winners will chase that passion again.
Darland wins Hulman Classic for 50th trip to USAC victory lane
For once, the Terre Haute Action Track and the U.S. Auto Club got a weather break Wednesday night, a window amidst threatening conditions to allow the 44th Tony Hulman Classic to go off without a serious hitch.
Some might say Dave Darland got a break too, but most would agree instead that the veteran sprint car driver has learned to make his own breaks by this time. He won the Classic for the second time in his career — the first coming in 1993 — and is a three-time USAC winner this season while no one else has won more than once.
Trackside: Tony Hulman Classic set for tonight at T.H. Action Track
Looking for a potential dark horse winner in tonight’s scheduled running of the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned running of the Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track?
The task is indeed a challenging one. The USAC sprint circuit offers some of the most competitive forms of racing anywhere in the country and picking a potential winner out of a field that has at least eight to 10 drivers capable of making it to victory lane is very much a guessing game.
Unlikely duo on Indy GP pole
Verizon IndyCar drivers in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis showcased rooster tails Friday as the rains came down for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Red flag conditions briefly halted the final session as officials stopped action for safety reasons.
Owner-driver Ed Carpenter getting ready for Indy run
Before too many pages get torn off the May calendar, IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is trying to enjoy his free time away from race tracks.
Wednesday afternoon was an example of that.
The Wabash Valley native — born in Paris, Ill., and lived in Marshall, Ill., until he was 8 — signed autographs and granted media interviews while the car he drove in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 sat in the parking lot of the 500 Automotive Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Vermillion County.
Drivers give thumbs up to Indy’s new road course
IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.
Trackside: Track promoters realize rainy weather is part of territory
The life and times of a race-track operator or promoter is sure to test the patience and character of any individual adventurous enough to journey into such a risky profession.
Especially if your name is Bob Sargent or Reece O’Connor and your race dates are at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Metro roundup: ISU’s Wampler makes national watch list
Indiana State’s Tyler Wampler has been named to the watch list for the 2014 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award.
2014 KISS Series opener today at Terre Haute Action Track
When the 2014 King of Indiana Sprint Series gets underway today, it will be at one of the most challenging ovals on the schedule. The Terre Haute Action Track earned its name years ago.
The Action Track is a big half mile, with sweeping turns and high-speed straightaways that demand the best from drivers, cars and crew. This may be illustrated by mentioning previous KISS winners at the Terre Haute oval — Jon Stanbrough (three times), Levi Jones, Tony Elliott, Shane Cottle and most recently Robert Ballou.
VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track
Chris Windom has big plans.
Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS
INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video
Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies
Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.
Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day
It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
Doctors tell Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti he can no longer race
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti said Thursday that doctors have told him he can no longer race because of injuries sustained in an IndyCar crash last month.
Trackside: Burns, Fitzpatrick provide fun moments at Putnamville
In a season that has generated more than its share of down moments for Wabash Valley fans and racers, last Saturday’s “King of non-wing Sprints” program at Lincoln Park Speedway served notice that there are still a few positive storylines to be found in the wild and unpredictable sport of sprint-car racing.
One such storyline unfolded this past weekend on the rough and challenging 5⁄16-mile Putnamville dirt oval. That’s where the runs of Eric Burns and Blake Fitzpatrick sent fans home feeling that if the season has to come to a close, it couldn’t end on a happier or brighter note.
Coons Jr. wins USAC Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic at Action Track
For all but one race during its 2013 racing season, the Terre Haute Action Track has taken a beating from Mother Nature.
Trackside: Stewart proves versatility is one of his strongpoints
At a time each summer when stock-car racing takes center stage in the heart of open-wheel racing territory, it was Tony Stewart who emerged the big winner last weekend.
No, not Tony Stewart the race driver but Tony Stewart the owner. He’s the undisputed leader on two racing fronts — the car owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Ryan Newman as his driver and the owner-operator of Eldora Speedway. The popular Indiana native posted impressive showings in both ventures.
Precipitation has been unkind to Action Track in 2013
Bob Sargent has seen it all and done it all in 30 years of motorsports track promotion. The Terre Haute Action Track promoter isn’t going to be fazed by much, but even he had to admit there is one thing that has sent a shiver down his spine in 2013.
The weather forecasts. He was asked if watching the weather has given him anxiety in a wet year.
“Sometimes,” Sargent chuckled. “But doing it this long, it becomes normal. I don’t if it’s nervousness so much as it’s frustrating. Rain is a big letdown.”
Trackside: Sprint Week is fun week for USAC fans
With three rounds down and four to go, the 2013 version of Indiana Sprint Week is ready to take center stage at the Terre Haute Action Track tonight — weather permitting, of course.
It’s hard not to mention the elements when talking racing at the Action Track this season.
Race organizers Reece O’Connor and Bob Sargent have felt the sting of Mother Nature worse than most Midwest promoters this spring and summer with all five of their scheduled shows washed out.
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