24 May 2014

2014 Indianapolis 500 Preview

"The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," it is the Indianapolis 500. It will be the 98th running tomorrow afternoon at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway as over 300,000 will pack the joint to watch the crown jewel of American open wheel racing. As usual, there are plenty of storylines to chew on with the biggest question of all being, who will be the one drinking the bottle of milk in victory circle?

1. Doing the Indy 500/Coke 600, how will Kurt Busch fare?
Busch is the first driver since Robby Gordon in 2004 to attempt to compete at Indianapolis and at Charlotte in the same day. Even though he has no IndyCar experience whatsoever, Busch is one of the more talented drivers in America and is capable of running strong in both. He has shown a lot of speed this month but also had to go to a backup car, one that was Marco Andretti's backup, after getting in a big crash in Monday's practice. It probably is a little much to expect a victory for the 2004 Nextel Cup Champion, but one should not rule it out either.

2. Juan Pablo Montoya returns to this race after a 14 year absence, what are the expectations for him?
Montoya's first full season the Verizon IndyCar Series has been a bit of a bumpy road as he has only one top ten, a fourth at Long Beach, and sits 16th in the standings. But while he has not raced in this race since winning it in dominating fashion in 2000, he has plenty of experience at the track having raced at IMS every year since whether it be in Formula 1 on the road course or in NASCAR on the oval. And Roger Penske's cars always seem to run fast at Indianapolis, something we should never forget.

3. After finally breaking through last year, can Tony Kanaan repeat?
Kanaan had come so close before but he finally broke through with an emotional victory last year. In his first year with Target Chip Ganassi, Kanaan has been hit or miss but everybody knows that he had May 25th circled on his calendar. And he is racing for an owner that also knows what it takes to win at IMS, but considering there have only been a handful of repeat winners in the race's history, with Helio Castroneves being the last to do it in 2001-02, Kanaan does have history against him.

4. Points leader Will Power has not finish in the top ten in this race since 2010, can he finally break through?
Power is known for his excellence on the road courses but he has not seen much success at all in the 500, having only one top five in 2009 and his last top ten in 2010. In the last three races, he has had finishes of 14th, 28th and 19th. There is no question that he has the speed to get it done but he has failed to put it all together for the big prize. In a year in which he could be finally poised to get his first title, a 500 victory would make it all the more sweeter.

5. Can Helio Castroneves become the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500's?
Few know how to work his way around the Brickyard quite like this Brazilian, but he also has not gotten to victory lane here since 2009 nor has he been all that competitive of late. He has shown plenty of speed over these past two weeks and he obviously has the experience to get the milk, but can he break his slump?

6. Who will win on Sunday?
We have not had an American win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish, Jr. won it in 2006, and there have only been two in the last decades. However, I think that is going to change tomorrow as my pick to win it is 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. He had his best finish in the 500 a year ago in third and I think he has the car to win and he will get it done.

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