The Indianapolis 500 is an American institution, as it has run since 1911. So many great drivers have taken the checkered flag and celebrated by chugging milk, but only four drivers who have tasted victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will compete in this year's race.
Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Buddy Lazier all have a golden opportunity to bolster their legacy by winning the Indy 500 once again. At the same time, there are plenty of young and hungry drivers in the field who desperately want to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" for the first time.
Franchitti, Castroneves, Dixon and Lazier will have their hands full, but winning experience is on their side. Here is some further analysis on how all four past winners figure to fare in the 97th running of the Indy 500.
Franchitti is one of the most successful drivers in IRL history, and that is in direct correlation with his past performances in the Indy 500. Franchitti is a three-time winner and will join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the winningest driver in Indy 500 history if he is able to win again.
The Brit is also the defending champion and has won two out of the last three years. His dominance in this race is something to behold, and he will be a marked man on Sunday. Franchitti has experience on his side, but he hasn't gotten off to a great start in 2013.
Franchitti is just 15th in the standings and will start the race 17th. The numbers aren't on his side, but he always finds a way to get the job done in this race. Franchitti isn't among the top favorites like he usually is, but he'll be a factor if he can get near the front.
Projected Finish: 5th
Much like Franchitti, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 thrice. He and Franchitti have been compared to each other many times in the past, so it's fitting that they have matched each other so evenly. If either Castroneves or Franchitti is able to win on Sunday, he will automatically become the winningest foreign driver in Indy 500 history.
Castroneves hasn't won the race since 2009, but he is constantly in the mix. His first two Indy 500 wins came in 2001 and 2002, respectively. He was on the verge of winning his third in a row in 2003, but Brazilian countryman Gil de Ferran beat him out. Castroneves will have another crack at No. 4 this year, however.
Castroneves is off to a strong start this season, unlike Franchitti. He is third in the points standings with two podium finishes, and he will start the Indy 500 in the No. 8 position. While he will have to deal with plenty of drivers who are looking for their breakthrough moment, Castroneves is a smart pick to win because of his track record.
Projected Finish: 1st
Dixon is the only driver from New Zealand to ever win the Indy 500, but he is hoping to become the only Kiwi to win multiple Indy 500 races this year. Dixon won the race in 2008, which was the same year in which he won his most recent IndyCar title. Dixon is driving well thus far in 2013, and a victory could propel him to big things this season.
Dixon is the only driver in the top five in points this year who has yet to lead a lap, but he is hoping to change that. He has some work to do in order to get to the front, however, as he will start alongside Franchitti in 16th. Dixon has won a race every year since 2005, so he is due to reach victory lane at some point.
He has always been one of the most consistent drivers in the IRL, and that is something that comes in handy in the Indy 500. It's impossible to win if you aren't on the track, and Dixon will most likely be in the running during the latter stages.
Projected Finish: 8th
While Lazier is a former Indy 500 winner, he is one of the biggest Cinderella stories in the field. The 45-year-old Lazier's victory came in 1996, which was his rookie season. Lazier, who has always been strong at Indy, finished second in 1998 and 2000 as well. If he is going to run that well this year, it will take a miraculous effort.
Lazier hasn't run an IRL race since 2009, but he managed to qualify 32nd. Lazier is probably just happy to make the field, but he's certainly going to go for the gusto now that he has qualified. Lazier hasn't won a race since winning four in 2001; however, he can be considered an expert of sorts when it comes to thriving in the Indy 500.
As great as it would be to see Lazier run well and challenge for the win, he simply doesn't have the equipment and crew that he has grown accustomed to. He'll manage to hang in there for a while because he's a battler, but he won't be a factor in the end.
Projected Finish: 30th
Four-Lap Average (MPH)
|24||Simona De Silvestro||225.226|
|28||Tristan Vautier (R)||224.873|
|31||Conor Daly (R)||223.582|
* Qualifying results and starting grid via Indy 500's official website.