Can Franchitti or Castroneves win their fourth Indy 500 this year?
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Three drivers share the record for most victories in the Indianapolis 500 with four -- A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.
Could Sunday's 97th running of the Indy 500 feature a fourth driver added to that list of record winners?
Helio Castroneves from Team Penske and Dario Franchitti from Chip Ganassi Racing have three victories each at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Franchitti has won three of the last six races at Indy, including a victory here one year ago.
In a race that featured a record 34 lead changes, the 2012 Indy 500 concluded in thrilling fashion. Franchitti grabbed the lead for good on the penultimate lap. During the last circuit around this famed 2.5-mile oval, Takuma Sato bumped into him while the two were battling for the top spot. Sato slammed into the outside wall in turn one, forcing the race to end under caution. Franchitti took the checkered flag, while his teammate, Scott Dixon, crossed the finish line in second.
Franchitti's win here last year, though, was a difficult task. After starting 16th (on the inside of row 6), Franchitti endured a pit-road mishap early in the race when E.J. Viso bumped into the back of the four-time IndyCar Series champion and turned him around in his pit stall. Franchitti fell to 28th in the field but patiently made his way through the field before taking the lead for the first time with 47 laps to go.
Franchitti will start 17th in this year's Indy 500.
"There's no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field," Franchitti said when he was asked if there was any pressure on him to win this race a fourth time. "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 car is fast and consistent."
Sato wound up finishing 17th in last year's Indy 500, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He had led three times for a total of 31 laps. Sato, who is in his first season driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, is the current points leader. He holds a 13-point advantage over Marco Andretti.
"The 500 last year was just an unforgettable day for me," Sato said. "Obviously, I was disappointed with the result, but still it was just a tremendous support from the team, and I had a great experience leading the 500 for the first time. It was a special feeling, in particular after the hard fight, hard race with everyone. When I came back to the garage (after the last-lap crash), hundreds of fans waited and cheered me on big time, and (team owner) Bobby (Rahal) really gave a big hand. It was just a special event."
Sato placed 18th in Indy 500 qualifying last Saturday. He will share row 6 with Franchitti and Dixon.
Franchitti won his first Indy 500 in 2007, a race shortened by 34 laps due to rain. He drove for Andretti Green Racing at the time. His second victory in this race came in 2010.
"I am very happy to have won one," Franchitti said. "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."
Castroneves is the only driver who won the Indy 500 consecutively in his first two starts (2001 and '02). His most recent victory in this race came in 2009. He started on the pole in that event.
"I feel blessed to be in this opportunity, to be in this elite group, I feel blessed," Castroneves said. "I still have a great chance to keep going."
Castroneves will start from the middle of row 3, sharing the row with Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending series champion, and James Hinchcliffe, who has two wins already this season (St. Petersburg, Fla. and Sao Paulo, Brazil). Castroneves is presently third in points (-20).
"Obviously in the situation that we are right now, we're certainly feeling very confident, but we know what we need to do as well," he said. "So now we're looking strong."
If Castroneves or one of his teammates, Will Power and A.J. Allmendinger, wins the Indy 500, It would be team owner Roger Penske's record-extending 16th victory in this race. Allmendinger, who is competing in his first Indy 500, qualified fifth, while Power placed one spot behind him in sixth.
Ed Carpenter, an Indianapolis native, will start on the pole for this race. Carpenter won the Indy 500 pole for the first time with a four-lap average of 228.762 mph during the final segment in qualifying (the fast-nine shootout). Andretti Autosport drivers Carlos Munoz, also a rookie in this year's event, and Marco Andretti will share the front row with Carpenter.
Thirty-three teams will have one last opportunity to practice and fine tune their cars for the 500-mile race in Friday's "Carb Day."
Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, May 26. Race: Indianapolis 500. Site: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start Time: 12:12 p.m. ET (expected green flag). Laps: 200. Miles: 500. 2012 Winner: Dario Franchitti. Television: ABC. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.