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Indy 500 2013: Top Drivers to Watch in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 24:  Dario Franchitti driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara during the final practice on Carb Day for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24, 2013 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The 2013 Indy 500 is the biggest event in the IndyCar racing season, and everyone in the 33-car field will be looking to make the best of the opportunity in the spotlight.

If last year's race was any indication, the 2013 version should be one of the highlights of the race season. 2012 race winner Dario Franchitti will be back to defend his crown, but he won't be the only talented driver angling for a championship.

The race features a loaded field that will provide fans with plenty of intense action on Sunday. Here's a full listing of the qualifiers for the race.

Pos. Driver Car No.
1 Ed Carpenter 20
2 Carlos Munoz 26
3 Marco Andretti 25
4 E.J. Viso 5
5 A.J. Allmendinger 2
6 Will Power 12
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1
8 Helio Castroneves 3
9 James Hinchcliffe 27
10 J.R. Hildebrand 4
11 Alex Tagliani 98
12 Tony Kanaan 11
13 Oriol Servia 22
14 Justin Wilson 19
15 Sebastien Bourdais 7
16 Scott Dixon 9
17 Dario Franchitti 10
18 Takuma Sato 14
19 Charlie Kimball 83
20 James Jakes 16
21 Simon Pagenaud 77
22 Townsend Bell 60
23 Ryan Briscoe 8
24 Simona de Silvestro 78
25 Josef Newgarden 21
26 Graham Rahal 15
27 Sebastian Saavedra 6
28 Tristan Vautier 55
29 Ana Beatriz 18
30 Pippa Mann 63
31 Conor Daly 41
32 Buddy Lazier 91
33 Katherine Legge 81

Here are the top contenders to watch on the 2.5-mile track:

Dario Franchitti

Franchitti may be having a mediocre season, but counting him out of this race would be a big mistake. He's only 15th in the point standings for the season, but he's won the race three times, including 2012's race. 

Things won't be easy, though. Franchitti will have to rally from the middle of the pack. He'll start off in the 17th position and has plenty of skilled drivers ahead of him.

With three Indy 500 wins in his career, Franchitti will be chasing history Sunday. According to CBS Sports, a fourth victory would tie him for most Indy 500 wins in history. Only A.J. Hoyt (1961, '64, '67 and '77), Al Unser (1970-71, 78, 87) and Rick Mears (1979, 84, 88, 91) have accomplished the feat.

Aside from joining that prestigious club, he could become the sixth driver to win the race in back-to-back years.

The odds may not be in his favor, but history says that Franchitti will be a contender.

Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti certainly has the name for racing, but the Indy 500 hasn't always been kind for Andretti's. The family hasn't won the race since his grandfather, Mario Andretti, took the checkered flag in 1969.

However, Marco has the car and skills to end the streak of poor performances this time around.

In four starts this season, he's claimed two top-five finishes and four top-10's. Throw in the fact that he led the most laps in last year's race with 59, and he's more than capable of having success at Indianapolis.

According to the Indy Car 500 PR Twitter account, Andretti is among the fastest racers in practice:

INDYCAR PR @INDYCARPR

With 30 remaining in the #indy500orbust final practice, the fastest is @dariofranchitti 224.668 mph. @MarcoAndretti is P2 and @TonyKanaan.P3

This could be the year that Marco ends the Andretti Indy 500 curse.

Helio Castroneves

Dario Franchitti won't be the only one with an extensive history at Indianapolis. Castroneves' resume at the premier race is even more impressive than Franchitti's.

Castroneves is one of the few to have won the race three times. And he won it two years in a row in 2001 and 2002.

His last victory came in 2009, but he's been racing really well in early 2013 and should be a contender on Sunday. He has two top-five finishes in four starts this season.

With a much better qualifying position than Franchitti (eighth), Castroneves could be the one who cements his legacy with a win on Sunday.

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