TRACK LAYOUT / MAP:
Rookie Orientation Program, Seven days of practice, Two days of qualifications, Carb Day Final Practice with Pit Stop Competition, and 500 Festival Parade…Complete. All that is left for the IZOD IndyCar Series at Indianapolis is to run 500 Miles and find out whose face is etched on the Borg Warner trophy this time next year. Storylines are abound on the eve of the World’s Greatest Race!
NEW CARS AND CHEVROLET VS. HONDA
The IZOD IndyCar Series debuts its new DW12 package on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in race competition for the first time on an oval. The car has gone through substantial testing and modification to bring it to this point. New rear wings and underwing ground effects have greatly enhanced the car’s ability at IMS. The car drafts very well and according to drivers being ten car lengths behind in this car is like two car lengths in the car that IndyCar retired after the 2011 season. This year’s rendition of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race could have to most passes in the history of the event, especially for the lead. The indications are that this aero package could breed Indianapolis’ version of “pack racing” so hopefully the drivers use their heads and have a safe afternoon. Double-file restarts have been scrapped for this year’s race for safety reasons which should help the safety factor. This new DW12 car is still in the development stages and drivers have said that the car can be difficult in traffic so that is something to watch. The question is which driver/team combination can find the car’s sweet spot over the course of the race’s 200 laps to make their car the best in traffic?
Returning to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 2005 is engine competition. Series staple Honda along with returning Chevrolet and newbies Lotus have entered cars in the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Lotus is not expected to be a factor, but Chevrolet and Honda will duke it out until the very end. The Indianapolis 500 has often proven to be won on a game of fuel mileage strategy and the 2012 edition could be more of the same. Through the first four races the Chevrolet twin turbo powerplant has been able to get slightly better fuel mileage than their Honda counterparts, however, all these races were on road and street courses so the engines were not constantly on the high end of the RPM meter. Which manufacturer will emerge victorious?
PENSKE GOING FOR 16:
Roger Penske, honored at Legend’s Day in 2012, is going for his 16th Win at the Indianapolis 500 as an owner. Penske has an unmatched record at the Speedway, a record he would undoubtedly like to build upon. Ryan Briscoe has already won the Pole Postion for Team Penske giving Roger the first bullet fired in the race. Briscoe is joined in the top six by teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves starting 5th and 6th respectively. Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet powered Shell V-Power Team Penske car, strives for his fourth Indianapolis 500 win; A feat only accomplished by Rick Mears, AJ Foyt, and Al Unser while Power and Briscoe look for their first likeness on the Borg Warner Trophy. Since 2003, when Gil de Ferran gave Penske his third straight win after returning to the race in 2001, Team Penske has won in 2006 and 2009 marking a return to victory lane every three years. 2012 would be three years since the last win. The numbers add up, but will the results on Race Day?
GANASSI WINS CARB DAY!
The Andretti Autosport and Penske teams handily outdueled the four car Chip Ganassi Racing stable in qualifying, but, if Carb Day is any indication, Ganassi’s team should be a factor on Race Day. Dario Franchitti topped the speed chart in final practice on Carb Day followed closely by Scott Dixon. Dixon finished the day for Team Target by winning the Pit Stop Competition, a first for Chip Ganassi in his storied history at the Brickyard. Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball also showed strong pace on Carb Day practice and with the DW12′s drafting ability these cars could go straight to the front!
ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT POISED FOR HUGE REBOUND!
In 2011, Andretti Autosport endured possibly the most difficult month of May at Indianapolis for any team since Team Penske failed to qualify in 1995. The 2011 Andretti Autosport cars handled well, but had no speed, ending up with Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay missing the 33 car field in qualifying and Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti making the field on Bump Day by the slimmest of margins. Fast forward to 2012, Andretti Autosport entered the sacred ground of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway loaded for bear qualifying cars in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th separating only Team Penske in the front two rows. James Hinchcliffe missed the Pole by a total of ten inches. Andretti Autosport could be the team Favorited to win the 2012 Indianapolis 500 with the pace, talent, and experience of their cars and drivers. What will 500 Miles hold?
19 YEARS IN FORMULA 1, FIRST INDIANAPOLIS 500
Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello faced a steep learning curve entering the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for IndyCar’s Month of May. Barrichello has shown well in practice and qualifying by starting 10th, but this race is a 3 1/2 hour, 500 mile marathon of an event. The learning curve only gets steeper as Barrichello has yet to drive an IndyCar on an oval in traffic for any substantial length of time, and, thusly, has a monumental task in front of him. Barrichello must approach Indianapolis as he has every other race and test session which is a learning experience. Barrichello has done a remarkable job through the first four races keeping the car on the track and learning as much as he can each event. Don’t count Barrichello out if he can keep the No. 8 KV Racing car on the track and the lead lap when it comes down to the finish.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a history of having a say in who wins this race. The biggest factor on race day may not be the cars, drivers, strategy, engines, or tires but the SUN! This could be the hottest Indianapolis 500 on record making the conditions harsh on handling, driver fatigue, and engine reliability. The drivers will have a difficult time staying hydrated and focused for the 500 miles. Who can endure the conditions?
This field, except for the two Lotus powered cars, is WIDE OPEN with a winner too tough to call and surprises could be abound once the green flag drops at around 12:15 Sunday. Tune into ABC for all the action at 11:00 AM Eastern time! Pull up a chair and E N J O Y!
REMEMBER OUR FALLEN HERO
For the first time since 1947, the defending Champion of the Indianapolis 500 will not be able to defend his title due to his death. The most important part of the 2012 Indianapolis 500 is remembering the great Dan Wheldon. Dan Wheldon loved this race more than any other and everybody knew it. Wheldon came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011 with a small team helmed by former Andretti Green Racing teammate Bryan Herta. The team became sleepers qualifying sixth and triumphantly crossed the bricks first after JR Hildebrand hit the Turn 4 wall on the final lap. Nobody thought that win would be Dan’s last. Wheldon was more than just a top flight racecar driver, he was an ambassador for the sport of IndyCar racing always taking extra time for a photograph or an autograph for a loving fan. Dan’s death has left holes in the lives of everybody that loves INDYCAR…holes that may never be filled. Dan Wheldon was a fan favorite, media favorite, and competitor favorite and meant more to our sport than just about anybody. Wheldon was slated to drive the GoDaddy.com car that James Hinchcliffe now pilots. Instead of piloting the car, screaming in to turn 1 as the green flag drops, Dan Wheldon will be watching the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, 2012 from the best seat in the house. Alas, he will not be here with the rest of us and it hurts. Everybody wear some Orange on Race Day in honor of the late, great Dan Wheldon! Hope you enjoy this one, Dan, it’s going to be a great race.
R.I.P. DAN WHELDON