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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student


Drivers prepare for Indy 500

Indianapolis 500 Practice

INDIANAPOLIS — In the 96 iterations of the Indianapolis 500, 67 different drivers have had their names etched into the race’s glimmering Borg-Warner Trophy. Eighteen of those drivers claimed victory more than once.

While any driver able to join that exclusive club will have their name forever remembered on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three names stand above the rest: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears, the only four-time winners of the 500-mile race.

Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, Indianapolis legends in their own right, will each attempt to join Foyt, Unser, and Mears with a fourth Indy 500 victory Sunday.

“I am very happy to have even won one,” Franchitti said. “So difficult. Look at some of the great drivers that didn’t get the opportunity even to win one, so I was happy. Three is beyond anything expected. But I really want the fourth.”

Franchitti, a member of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, has collected each of his three victories within the past six races, giving him the second-shortest time span to win three Indy 500s. Wilbur Shaw won three races between 1937-40.

The Scot posted a qualifying speed of 226.069 mph, placing him 17th on Sunday’s starting grid.

A member of Team Penske, Castroneves won his first race at IMS in 2001, following that with triumphs in 2002 and 2009.

The Brazilian won in his first two races at IMS, the only driver to do so. His 2001 victory made him the eighth rookie to win the Indy 500.

“I feel blessed to be in this opportunity, to be in this elite group, I feel blessed,” Castroneves said. “There’s a lot of guys, lot of races, and being in a very good position, unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. But for me, certainly I’m happy. But I still have a great chance to keep going.”

Castroneves recorded a qualifying speed of 227.762 mph and will begin Sunday’s race from eighth.

The drivers’ quest for a fourth Indy 500 title will be one of the most prominent headlines in a race saturated with stories, but Franchitti said he feels no more pressure to win than in previous years.

“There’s no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field,” he said. “Doesn’t make you any faster. Doesn’t make the team work any harder. It’s simply right now about the mechanics of trying to put ourselves in a position to challenge on race day, trying to make sure the Target car is fast, consistent.”

The largest obstacles to a fourth title for the two drivers may be the five Andretti Autosport drivers, who have been dominant throughout much of the month. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Muñoz, E.J. Viso, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti will all start in the first three rows, and Andretti drivers recorded the fastest practice speeds on five of the first seven days.

“The team has been consistently at the top of the charts,” Viso said. “It shows that we are a strong team. This is what a big team and a team that has plenty of resources is able to do.”

Andretti Autosport’s fiercest competition has come from Team Penske, consisting of Castroneves, Will Power and rookie A.J. Allmendinger, a regular on the NASCAR circuit. Team owner Roger Penske has fielded 15 Indy 500-winning drivers, and each of his three drivers in this year’s race will start in the first three rows.

Despite the two teams’ overwhelming performances in practice and qualifications, every Andretti Autosport and Team Penske driver will begin Sunday’s race chasing Ed Carpenter, an Indianapolis native crowned as this year’s pole-sitter. Carpenter posted a final qualifying speed of 228.762 mph, narrowly beating out Muñoz and Andretti to capture his first career IndyCar pole.

Carpenter said winning the pole in his hometown race was a highlight, but he was not satisfied.

“I love the race a whole lot more than qualifying, and I really want to send a message and make sure I lead by example to the team and make sure we don’t forget why we’re really here,” Carpenter said. “The pole won’t mean much if we don’t go out and perform on race day.”

Franchitti and Castroneves, along with the 31 other drivers who make up the field in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, will have every decision, bump and passed car scrutinized by approximately 300,000 fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and millions across the world.

Franchitti and Castroneves will attempt to make history on Sunday with a fourth victory.

No matter who gets to partake in the traditional winner’s feast of bricks and buttermilk, one thing is certain — a legend will be born.

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