The Indianapolis 500 is more than just another race and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is more than just another racetrack. It has a rich and deep history that spans the last century. It has brought us some of the finest finishes, the fastest laps, the greatest heroes and some of the saddest moments in all of racing.
For the first time since AJ himself was driving the legendary #14, AJ Foyt Racing has a legitimate shot at Indy glory. Yes, Kenny Brack won in AJ's car in 1999, but that was during the IRL era of low competition. Takuma Sato and Larry Foyt have brought a new life to the longest competing team in Indy Car racing. Sato made a brilliant attempt last year diving under Dario Franchitti but unfortunately it wouldn't stick. Sato leads the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings heading into the 500, so if momentum is a real thing, it's as good as they come.
Target Chip Ganassi racing's Dario Franchitti and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves have the opportunity to join the 4 timers club of AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears. Franchitti has won 3 of the last six 500s, where Castroneves last won in 2009. Both drivers have an average finish of 7.6 at the Speedway, but Castroneves has finished no better than 9th since his last win. Whereas Dario has finished no worst than 12th since winning the race for the first time in 2007.
Marco Andretti is off to his best career start heading into the 500. He sits 2nd in points with his finishes of 3rd, 7th, 7th and 3rd. Andretti looks to redeem himself at the Speedway after leading the most laps last year only to have it end in the wall on lap 187. He had the 2006 500 won until the last few hundred feet when Sam Hornish, Jr. got by him. Could he break the Andretti Curse?
Last year's pole sitter Ryan Briscoe returns to Chip Ganassi Racing after being out of a full time ride this season, much like the late Dan Wheldon did in 2011. That year Wheldon pulled off an upset and won the race driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. Could Briscoe have the same fate?
Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe is also on a tear. Hinchcliffe has won 2 out of the 4 races this year, but has two finishes of 26th holding him down in the standings. Could the Mayor of Hinchtown become the first Canadian to win the 500 since Jacques Villeneuve in 1995? Hinchcliffe started 2nd last year and finished in 6th.
Fellow Canadian and 2011 polesitter Alex Tagliani is also looking for redemption. Tagliani had a great run from the pole in 2011 dashed by a crash on lap 147. Last year, Tagliani started in 11th and ran his way up to the lead until a speeding penalty put him a lap down. He later would unlap himself and finish the race in 12th.
Four drivers will make their first run at the Brickyard: Team Penske's AJ Allmendinger, Schmidt Petersen Motorsports' Tristan Vautier, Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly will race for AJ Foyt Racing.
Allmendinger's return to Open Wheel Racing has been a struggle with a best finish of 19th at Barber. He has the best of opportunities driving for Roger Penske, but he has not ran a superspeedway in an open wheel car since the 2005 Champ Car race at Las Vegas.
Vautier has had good runs an all 4 races this year, but does not have the results to show for it. He finished 3rd at Indianapolis in the Firestone Indy Lights Series' Freedom 100 last year.
Munoz joins the IZOD IndyCar Series outfit for Andretti Autosport whom he competes for in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. He currently leads the Indy Lights points standings after winning 2 out of the 3 races so far this season. He finished in 2nd in last season's Freedom 100.
Daly, the son of former driver Derek Daly, joins the rejuvenated AJ Foyt Racing in between his stint in racing in the Formula 1 latter series. This will be his first race on an oval in any racing discipline.