Indianapolis 500 Race: Preview and Writer's Pick Pool for the 94th Running

Ryan WordenFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 25:  The Borg Warner Trophy following the 93rd Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 2009 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

"You don't know what Indy means!" declared a triumphant Al Unser Jr. in victory lane after winning the 1992 Indianapolis 500.

On Sunday, the men and women of the IZOD Indycar series will live the words spoken by "Little Al" nearly 20 years ago when they compete to have their careers immortalized by winning the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Helio Castroneves will attempt to further his legend and become just the fourth man to win four Indianapolis 500 mile races.  To add his name to the list of Foyt, Unser, and Mears would be a dream come true for Castroneves. 

The "Dancing with the Stars" champion will start on the pole, but he has 32 very hungry, eager drivers right behind him who will not make winning back-to-back titles easy.

The field will feature four former winners, with the other three being Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Dan Wheldon.  The 33 car field will also feature a record four women, including Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Simona DeSilvestro, and Ana Beatrix.

The 2010 Indianapolis 500 will be the 99th year since the first 500 Mile International Sweepstakes at the Motor Speedway in 1911.  The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is aging well though, with nearly 400,000 expected to descend upon the speedway by race time on Sunday.

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The drivers will navigate the 2.5 miles speedway for 200 total laps, attempting to become the first pilot to make 800 left hand turns (plus another 5/16ths of a mile).  The course will feature speeds of up to 230 mph, earning its nickname as the fastest day in sports.

Traditions are everywhere in the 500, be it the pace car, the invocation, or my personal favorite, Jim Nabors singing 'Back Home Again in Indiana.'  While the drivers may love the festivities and the traditions themselves, the only one they will truly care about on Sunday is the drink of milk around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

A win at the 500 can make a race car driver's entire career, no matter what else he may have done.  Greats such as Michael Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Lloyd Ruby never experienced the joy of winning the great race, and the lack of a win has stained their careers. 

It's similar to Dan Marino never winning a Super Bowl.  He is always viewed as one of the greatest quarterbacks, but immediately you always hear that he has never won the big one.

The race starts at 1 p.m., and will be broadcast on ABC; be sure and tune in early to see all the pre race and traditions of the 500.  The race will also be broadcast on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and its regional affiliates.  In Indianapolis, the rebroadcast will begin at 7:00 p.m. due to the local blackout.

And without further ado, we have our writer's weekly picks.

Picking for Chris this week is my roommate John.  If Chris posts his picks, I will update with new picks.

First : Helio Castroneves.

I want Tony Kanaan to win, but I think its going to be Helio.  He has the fastest car and the best pit crew, it looks like No. 4.

Second :  Dario Franchitti

I have heard his name before, and he is starting second.  Seems like a good combo to me.

Third:   Ryan Hunter-Reay

I know 6 people's names in Indycar, he is one of them...good enough.

Dark Horse: Tony Kanaan

Normally, I do not allow racers like Kanaan to be chosen as a dark horse, but he is starting in last after switching cars after qualifying, so I'm allowing it.

First to Crash: Danica Patrick

She threw her team under the bus and was shown getting booed on SportsCenter.  This is all very bad news for her and karma will hit her.

And picking for James this week will be John's brother, Mike.

First: Helio Castroneves

He always finishes solid at Indy, and he is one of the best Indycar drivers.

Second: Tony Kanaan

Despite starting last, he has an excellent track record at the Indianapolis 500.

Third: Dario Franchitti

He won in 2007 in the rain, and he is with a better team now than he was then.  His overall winning percentage in the program is also impressive.

Dark Horse : Danica Patrick

After being booed, she is going to feel she has something to prove to everyone... GIRL POWER!

First to Crash: Ana Beatrix

Its her first Indy 500, and in the extremely pressure-filled race, she will push more than she should and lose control.

Chad Smith

First to crash : Bertrand Baguette

Just call this one a hunch, because nobody can really predict this one.

Dark Horse : Graham Rahal

Graham may be on the inside of row 3, but I don’t think many people expect him to stay up front. Pretty much anyone outside of the Ganassi/Penske drivers would be a legitimate pick here.

3rd Place : Will Power

Will has shown he is not just a road course guy. With a Penske machine, look for the points series leader to stay near the front.

2nd Place : Scott Dixon

Dixon dominated most of the practice sessions throughout the month, and seems to have a little more than what he was able to show in qualifying.

2010 Indy 500 Winner : Helio Castroneves

I don’t think I really need to justify this pick.

Ryan Worden

First : Helio Castroneves

Well, the only solace I can give to readers rooting for someone else is that there are only three other four-time winners in the race's 100-year history, so it is against him. 

But his team is the fastest and he knows how to race at the speedway.  Starting on the pole, its his race to lose.

Second: Scott Dixon

Dixie has won at the speedway in the past, and he is hoping to be able to place high again.  He was quick every day in practice, including the final carb day practice. 

Chip Ganassi does not like being out of victory lane two years in a row, and Scott will try and let him share some milk again.

Third : Townsend Bell

In a bit of a shocker, Bell, the driver of the Ganassi/Sam Schmidt car, is my pick for third.  He has been quick this month and is a fixture at the speedway over the last few years. 

It is likely his only race of the year, and he will look to make the best of it.  Plus, I had to add a little spice to my picks, favorites are boring.

Dark Horse : Ed Carpenter

Carpenter is running in a joint Vision/Panther Racing machine, but the No 20 Fuzzy's Vodka car will attempt to be fast.  He qualified eighth, after just making the fast nine on Pole Day. 

Carpenter, like Bell will be attempting to field extra races through his payday and exposure. 

He currently has no other races on his 2010 schedule, but a big check from Indy could help fund the car in the future as well as provide greater sponsorship opportunities.

First to Crash : Takuma Sato

If Sato ever reads these, he would be mad at me, because I almost always pick him to crash first.  But I have good reason, he crashed all the time in F1, and he never has really run ovals. 

The first turn at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is possibly the scariest turn in all of motorsports, and it often leads to a first lap incident.