INDIANAPOLIS — There have been many times in the 102-year history of the Indianapolis 500 that there are clear-cut favorites entering the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
This year, it’s wide open.
Some drivers believe there could be as many as 25 drivers in the 33-driver starting lineup that have a chance to win the 97th Indianapolis 500, which can be seen live on ABC with the telecast beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Out of that group of 25, however, are probably 10 drivers that have an excellent chance of winning the 200-lap race and becoming the 100th different face etched on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
There are some tremendous storylines in the race including the first time two three-time Indy 500 winners have been in the same race since 1987. That is when Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford both started the race as three-time winners but by lap 200 Unser had be come the second four-time winner of the Indy 500 at that time joining A.J. Foyt. Rick Mears would become the third four-time Indy 500 winner in 1991.
This year, Dario Franchitti of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske hope to become the fourth four-time winner of the 500. Castroneves, who became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in his first two attempts in 2001 and 2002. He won the 500 for the third time in 2009 — just six weeks after he was acquitted in a Federal Income Tax Evasion trial.
Franchitti’s run, however, is even more spectacular. He won his first Indy 500 in 2007 when he was driving for team owner Michael Andretti. He did not participate at Indianapolis in 2008 when he was attempting to compete in NASCAR but returned in 2009 with Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Franchitti won in 2010 and scored a dramatic win in 2012 when he held off a daring charge by Takuma Sato entering the first turn on the final lap. Sato lost control of his car and hit the first turn wall while Franchitti was able to drive to the checkered flag for the third time in his Indy 500 career.
“The race last year was crazy,” Franchitti said. “Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and I were battling for the lead and then Takuma got involved. He got inside on the last lap and almost took me out as well. It was a hell of a finish to the Indianapolis 500.”
Franchitti’s first Indy win in 2007 was rain-shortened but don’t tell that to the talented Scotsman.
“It was tremendous emotion to win for the first time in 2007, rain-shortened or not,” Franchitti said. “It was a great feeling of achievement to finally win the Indy 500. To be sitting here today with three is way more than I ever expected. Helio is always a threat on any track, especially Indianapolis. There is a reason he has won three. He can get it done today, as well. Between him and I, there are another 31 drivers out there.
“Realistically, 25 cars can win this race today. It’s a given that I want to get to No. 4 before Helio. I want to win the race.”
Franchitti starts in the middle of Row 6 in a talented row that includes his Target teammate, Scott Dixon, starting on the inside of the sixth row with current IndyCar point leader Takuma Sato starting on the outside of that row.