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Kurt Busch's double bid highlights Indy 500


Tony Kanaan's Lucky Charm
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to watch. So will Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. NASCAR's biggest names all plan to tune in to the Indianapolis 500 to watch Kurt Busch run the first leg in his attempt to complete The Double.

Millions of other casual fans will also turn their attention to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, where Busch's debut will bring new eyeballs to the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing." Although the Indy 500 has always been the crown jewel of motorsports, the slumping IndyCar Series struggles to gain much traction outside the showcase race.

"I think he does bring attention, and I think the series does need that added attention," 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said of Busch. "The racing in the IndyCar Series has been called the best kept secret in racing, and it is some of the best action out there, so I think it's a great opportunity for some fans who wouldn't necessarily tune in to check it out and see what it's all about and how good the racing is."

Fans will be treated to one of the most wide-open races in recent memory.

No single driver or team has risen to the top this season. And with so much attention on Busch, who will become just the fourth driver in history to compete in both the 500 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, so many other elements of this magical race at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been somewhat overlooked.

"I don't know that there's a favorite at all this year," said Graham Rahal. "I feel like it is extremely wide open at this point, even as a driver myself, I couldn't even tell you who I would pick. I have no clue."

Indy is a race in which three owners - Andretti, Ganassi and Penske - typically have the cars to beat. That, at least, is no different this year as Andretti Autosport put three of its five entries in the top 10, while Team Penske got all three of its cars in.

"I'm sure we've got the winner sitting here," Roger Penske said of Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power.

But Andretti feels just as strongly about its chances, especially after James Hinchcliffe qualified in the middle of the front row three days after he was medically cleared to drive following a concussion. He leads the five-car Andretti stable, which has Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz in the two rows behind Hinchcliffe.

Further back in the field is Hunter-Reay and Busch, the former NASCAR champion who will start 12th in Marco Andretti's backup car because he crashed his primary on Monday.

If one had to pick a favorite from that group, it would be Marco Andretti, who will make a ninth attempt at ending the family heartache in this race. His grandfather, Mario, won just once, in 1969, while father and car owner Michael never had the chance to drink the celebratory milk in victory lane.

Boy, does Marco want this.

"This is the biggest race in the world and I have so much respect for it and I want nothing more in my life than to add my name to the list of champions," Andretti said. "I feel like I have the car and the team and the crew to do it, but being the ninth year in it and seeing everything under the sun go wrong, I can't be overconfident."

Why?

"I've been having this same recurring nightmare of where to be in the closing laps because there's no right answer," he said. "Do you lead? Should you be fourth? I've been in this race with a shot to win a ton of times, and there's no right answer, and it's so unsettling for me."

Adding to the angst had to be the sudden emergence of the Ganassi cars, which finally showed the speed they'd been lacking for two weeks on Carb Day. After lagging behind and failing to move into the final round of qualifying, defending race winner Tony Kanaan and defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon went 1-2 in Friday's final practice session.

"I think as we all know the competition is extremely tough and it looks like there's many good cars out there," said Dixon, noting the Ganassi organization has a penchant for dragging through race preparations and then showing up on Carb Day and race day. "We definitely don't do it on purpose. But, yes, last year we kind of did the same thing, and the cars were actually pretty horrible in the race. Hopefully that's not going to happen."

Kanaan is one of three drivers in the field who can win a second consecutive Indy 500. Joining him in that quirky statistic is 1995 winner Jacques Villeneuve and Montoya, who won in 2000. Both bolted for Formula One the next season and finally make their long awaited returns to the Indy 500.

Villeneuve's return has brought some attention, but few consider him a threat to win. Montoya? Everybody expects the Colombian to be in the mix. Although he's struggled to regain his footing through the first four races of the season after 14 years away from IndyCar, Montoya quickly slipped back into form at Indy, a track he raced during his stints in both Formula One and NASCAR.

"I think I have a really good shot at winning it, I really do," Montoya said. "With my oval experience in NASCAR and knowing this place really well, and being with Team Penske, chances of winning don't come much better than that."

There are many drivers in the field who feel this could be their year. From Ed Carpenter, who starts from the pole for the second consecutive Indy 500, to dark horses Josef Newgarden, Justin Wilson and Buddy Lazier, one of six former race winners in the field.

"Last year, there were nine guys that could win this race, this year I think it is double," Kanaan said. "Honda caught up with Chevy, last year I think Chevy had an advantage, we don't know fuel mileage right now, nobody is going to want to lead, saving fuel is going to be a huge factor. If you are not the leader, which is the most exposed guy on earth, then you are going to be saving. We simply don't know how this thing is going to play out."

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Tom May 24 2014 at 3:27 PM

A few years ago (quite a few now) any boy over the age of ten could tell you who the Indy champ is. Now they ask "what is Indy". It's happening to NASCAR right now.

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3 replies
hugh4u2 May 24 2014 at 2:10 PM

who cares, it's all about the money....

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
hollemantom hugh4u2 May 24 2014 at 2:47 PM

Everything in life is, DUH!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
john hugh4u2 May 24 2014 at 6:56 PM

JERK !

Flag Reply 0 rate up
STH-10man May 24 2014 at 2:16 PM

indianapolis is always this exciting, where the **** were the rest of u people all the other years

Flag Reply +3 rate up
EmergencyNrse May 24 2014 at 9:24 PM

I had always been an Open-wheel/Indy-car fan. When CART and USAC split and Penske took all the drivers to Michigan I never looked back. Indy racing is a shadow of its former self. Who is racing? Exactly... nobody cares anymore.
Even with the bullshit with the "Race to the Chase" playoff system (garbage) give me NASCAR. At least there is racing

Flag Reply +2 rate up
tequillasun41 May 24 2014 at 8:40 PM

I'll be watching to see him wreck. Can't stand him or his bro, both loud mouthed whining idiots ! Bet he doesn't last 10 laps .

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
lgvxl42 tequillasun41 May 24 2014 at 11:12 PM

...........Isn't that half of the nascar drivers?

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eli snatz May 24 2014 at 5:17 PM

In the wild, woolly and war-torn sixties the Indy 500 was not televised on the 'ol black and white Philco 23-inch.

But there were other options for those not attending the race.

American enterprise being what it is, venues with drive-in theater-sized screens would charge fans who wanted to see the Indy live. Depending on proximity to the screen, it cost $10 to $20 at indoor facilities like Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

Eight to ten thousand of us would pay that amount each year at the Coliseum, and other venues.

With names like Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt behind the wheel, the Indy was big, big, big. And, in the period before gate security checks, we could also bring in a case of beer in an ice chest.

Moreover, it was a blood-and-guts race back then. Racers died in accidents. I saw Eddie Sachs' fatal Indy crash in 1964.

I probably could've named 25 of the 33 successful Indy qualifiers each year.

Today, perhaps three.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
jreyn57871 eli snatz May 25 2014 at 8:26 AM

Says more about you waning away than Indy racing!

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bfgair May 24 2014 at 8:16 PM

For years this race was the number ! most watched sporting event in the world it WAS ahead of ANY game played with any ball. It is STILL No.1 but slipping with all of the politics being played.
"Mountain climbing and Auto Racing ARE the only true sporting events and of the rest are just games".

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
jtookers bfgair May 24 2014 at 11:29 PM

You must be on drugs. Soccer is yhe most played and wayched sport in the world.

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3 replies
john May 24 2014 at 6:58 PM

The video was a amazing story. Get it again, Toney. You are the definition of class.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jimnivens1 May 24 2014 at 8:06 PM

i would like to see him wreck total wipe out into the wall

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3 replies
macdoodle47 May 24 2014 at 4:39 PM

Greatest,Crown jewel come on they can't even race in the rain. just 500 miles in left turn mode. Just like good ole boy racing. Try Le Man or 24 hrs at Daytona that is real racing. It's to bad Indy car has fallen from grace it is a heck of a lot better Then left turns in a bowl.

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3 replies
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