The Indianapolis 500 is arguably the most famous race in motorsports, and the best IndyCar drivers in the world will converge on Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend in hopes of cementing a place in history.
Indy 500 winners are forever immortalized in the world of racing, and those who win on multiple occasions reach a stratosphere unseen by most. The stakes will be extremely high, and that should make the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 a must-see event.
Here is a closer look at some of the top drivers in this year's field along with predictions for how they will ultimately fare.
Brazilian star Helio Castroneves is one of the most successful drivers in IndyCar history. He is also the only active driver with multiple Indy 500 victories, as he has taken the checkered flag on three occasions. Only A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears have kissed the bricks more than Castroneves has, but he has a golden opportunity to join that elite group of four-time winners.
Castroneves has enjoyed a steady 2014 season thus far, as he sits in fourth place, but he has yet to pick up a victory. Castroneves has put himself in solid position by qualifying fourth, although his car may be even better than that starting spot suggests. According to Jake Query of WNDE 1260, Castroneves posted the best speed on Fast Friday:
Top Fast Friday Speeds that did not include tow: Castroneves- 229.843 Hildebrand 228.384 Carpenter 229.195 Dixon 229.062 Montoya 227.832— Jake Query (@jakequery) May 16, 2014
That definitely bodes well for Castroneves' chances Sunday. Castroneves simply knows how to get to the front and stay there in Indianapolis, and it won't take much for him to get to that point this year.
Castroneves knows better than anyone what it takes to excel in the Indy 500 and ultimately come out on top. It won't be easy for him to win No. 4, but the smart money is on Castroneves, as he will overcome the rest of the field and win the race.
Which driver is most likely to win the 2014 Indy 500?
After many years of frustration in Indianapolis, Tony Kanaan finally found his way to victory lane last year when he won his first career Indy 500. It was an emotional triumph for Kanaan, as he had previously accomplished pretty much everything, including a points title in 2004.
Kanaan is currently ninth in the standings, but he does have three top-10 results and will likely have all the confidence in the world now that he knows he is capable of winning this race. In fact, Kanaan now seems to view the Indy 500 just like any other race with a win under his belt, per Dave Lewandowski of IndyCar.com:
If you use an extra pressure, you're going to put an extra effort just because it's the '500,' to me you're not a complete driver. You should put extra effort every time you go on the racetrack. I try to take that pressure off and not think about it's the Indy 500, it's another race that we have to win. We're here to win every one of them if we can.
Kanaan didn't have a great qualifying run, as he will start in the middle of the field at No. 16, but he won from No. 12 last year, so that certainly won't deter him. Kanaan figures to be very much in the mix this year, but his starting position may be a bit too much to overcome in terms of scoring a win.
With that in mind, expect the defending champion to pick up a respectable fifth-place finish.
Juan Pablo Montoya
After spending eight years in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya has made his triumphant return to IndyCar racing this year. Unfortunately for the Colombian star, there haven't been many triumphs quite yet. Montoya is 15th in the standings and doesn't have a ton of momentum on his side, but he will still be a definite threat in the Indy 500.
Montoya won the race way back in 2000, and his aggressive nature suggests he won't hesitate to go for it. On top of that, Montoya is extremely excited to be in position to vie for another Indy 500 victory, according to Nate Ryan of USA Today:
Juan Pablo Montoya disappointed with quals but borderline giddy talking Indianapolis and the race. Can tell he's happy to be here. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 18, 2014
The fact that Montoya has been out of the IndyCar game for so long means that a readjustment is natural. Perhaps Montoya hasn't quite hit his stride yet, but he may be inspired to do precisely that in Indianapolis.
Montoya won't quite be able to pull off a victory, but a strong top-10 finish of eighth will give him a ton of confidence and make him a true threat for the remainder of the season.
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