The starting grid of Sunday's Indianapolis 500 features two rookies to the race—Carlos Muñoz and A.J. Allmendinger—among the top six, in addition to a man with the always-threatening surname Andretti.
Despite the looming threat of those three young guns, the most dangerous men in the field may just be the seasoned, grizzled vets.
Four past champions of the Indy 500 sit among the starting field: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Buddy Lazier. Between them (well, just Castroneves and Franchitti), they've won three of the past five races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Here's a look at which ones, in order, seem most poised to repeat that crown this weekend:
4. Buddy Lazier
Lazier's return to the track is a great story, one worth conferring about in the hours leading up to the race. But once the green flag flies, Buddy will return to the state his career has embodied since 2009:
That's the last year the 1996 champ tried to qualify at Indianapolis, but against a stiff field of younger, faster drivers, he found himself unsuccessful.
Buddy shocked the world this month by announcing his intention to race in this 500, and further amplified that shock by actually qualifying. But he still finds himself on the dreaded back line, and isn't enough in form to compensate for that start.
He has five career top-five finishes at Indy, but once the rubber hits the road, CVs become irrelevant—only MPHs and RPMs seem to matter.
Don't bank on the old guard stirring things up.
3. Scott Dixon
Dixon was named New Zealand's Sportsman of the Year in 2008, riding the momentum of his Indy 500 win to a prestigious national distinction. But in the grand, global scheme of motor sports, he's never been able to maintain that relevance.
Which isn't to say Dixon's been bad. In the years since his triumph at Indy, he's managed to win a few races every year, and often finds himself among the top-three Championship finishers.
He'll start on the inside of the sixth row come start time, exactly five rows behind where he started in his 2008 victory (the pole). That doesn't bode well for his chances of securing win No. 2.
2. Dario Franchitti
The perfectly coiffed 40-year-old from England is no stranger to winning from the sixth row—he did so just one year ago at Indy, albeit from the inside (where Scott Dixon will be racing from) instead of the middle.
His other two wins at the 500 came from the first row, but his success from the middle last year might presage things to come in 2013.
He hasn't shown the same regular season form as he has in the past—his age, perhaps, finally starting to take a toll after an illustrious career—but Super Dario always shows his best form at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Never count him out in Indianapolis.
1. Helio Castroneves
The only former champ starting above the sixth row, Castroneves will race from the middle of row three—a much more auspicious spot than his fellow veterans.
He's also, much like Dario Franchitti, accustomed to winning this race from all over the starting grid. His only win of the past 10 years came from the pole, but his two previous wins—2001 and 2002, respectively—both came from relatively the same position as this year. (The former was from the middle of the fourth row; the latter from the inside of row five).
He knows this track better than anybody in the field and that, combined with his better starting position and form so far this week, makes him a prohibitive favorite over the other past winners.
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