Another Indy 500 classic?
2012's epic finish featured 15 lead changes in last 75 laps
"Do I think it's Marco's race? No. Marco hasn't led in the pack all week," Rahal said. "He just sits in the back and runs a big lap time and pits."
Instead, Rahal thinks everybody is overlooking AJ Allmendinger, who will make his Indianapolis 500 debut seven years after he left open-wheel racing for NASCAR. A failed drug test cost him his NASCAR ride last summer with Roger Penske, but the team owner has given him a second chance with this IndyCar opportunity.
Allmendinger has been fast at Indy — so good that struggling teammate Will Power used his setup in qualifying. Power said Allmendinger has the best car in traffic of all three Penske entries. Named after Foyt, his father's favorite driver, Allmendinger could complete his comeback Sunday.
"AJ Allmendinger is a very good race driver. He's had quite a bit of experience," said Foyt. "I met his daddy the other day, I said, 'Why did you handicap that kid putting A.J. on him?'"
Allmendinger is one of 11 American drivers in the field of 33 — there are also a record-tying four women — and leading the red, white and blue charge is local boy Ed Carpenter, the only owner-driver in the field.
Carpenter, the stepson of IndyCar Series founder Tony George, is a graduate of Butler and a die-hard Indiana Pacers fan and the surprise pole-winner for the Indy 500. He is noted for his skills racing on an oval, and he's twice beaten Franchitti in wheel-to-wheel races to the finish line. But now he'll be leading the field to the green flag of his hometown race with all of Indiana watching.
"I don't feel the pressure," he said. "As far as the local fan base and support, it's fun. I don't think that translates into pressure."
Carpenter is powered by Chevrolet, which for the second year in a row dominated all the preparations for the Indy 500 and swept the first 10 spots in qualifying. But Honda showed more life in Friday's final practice, when it had six drivers in the top 10 of the speed chart. If that sounds familiar, it should — last year, Chevrolet dominated leading into the Indy 500 but Franchitti won in a Honda.
"We have seen this movie before — this is the same story of last year, and Honda had the advantage on race day," said James Hinchcliffe, who goes into the race with two wins this season for Andretti.
And race day is the only day that matters, according to Ganassi, who publicly called out Honda during the season-opening weekend at St. Pete when he questioned the manufacturer's desire to win. Ganassi went so far as to claim the only thing Honda wants to do is "sit around and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I want to win."
Ganassi wasn't panicked Friday about Honda's performance so far at Indy, and said Sunday will be the "tale of the tape."
"I'd like to think we gave them a little bit of a spark there that started a bit of a fire, and that fire burns today very hot," Ganassi said. "I'm happy with how they responded, but this is in response . this is a long, not a one-race or one-day commitment we're looking for a response to, it's a season-long slog. A marathon we're involved in throughout the season. I'm sure they're up to the task."
So he'll wait and see if this year's running of "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" can live up to last year.
"Last year is going to be tough to top, but what we've seen in practice so far indicates we are going to see a really similar race," Hinchcliffe said. "And I don't think fans are ever going to get tired of that kind of action."
Indianapolis International Speedway
Sunday, 9 a.m.
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