INDY 500 News and Notes

INDY 500 News and Notes

INDY 500 Starting Lineup

1  Helio Castroneves

2 Tony Kanaan

3 Dario Franchitti

4 Scott Dixon

5 Sam Hornish Jr.

6 Dan Wheldon

7 Ryan Briscoe

8 Danica Patrick

9 Marco Andretti

10 Tomas Scheckter

11 Michael Andretti

12 Scott Sharp

13 Jeff Simmons

14 Ed Carpenter

15 Darren Manning

16 Buddy Rice

17 Kosuke Matsuura

18 A.J. Foyt IV

19 Vitor Meira

20 Davey Hamilton

21 Sarah Fisher

22 Buddy Lazier

23 Roger Yasukawa

24 John Andretti

25 Al Unser Jr.

26 Alex Barron

27 Jon Herb

28 Jaques Lazier

29 Milka Duno

30 Marty Roth

31 Roberto Moreno

32 Richie Hearn

33 Phil Giebler

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

Analyzing the Indy 500 Field
Jorge A. Mondaca

The time has finally arrived.

Following seven practice days and four long (and sometimes excruciating) days of qualifying, the field is set for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. The 33-driver field is comprised of six former Indianapolis 500 winners (Al Unser Jr., Buddy Lazier, Helio Castroneves, Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and defending winner Sam Hornish Jr.). Combined, the 33 drivers have a total of 160 starts in the Memorial Day weekend classic, with Unser Jr. being the most experienced of the bunch with 18 previous starts. Only two drivers, Milka Duno and Phil Giebler, will be making their rookie runs at the 2.5-mile speedway.

Below is a list of all the contenders, darkhorses, pretenders, and drivers who should stay out of the way during the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Contenders

While this race offers no "sure bets" for the 500-mile classic, there is definitely a group of drivers that is head and shoulders above the rest — headlined by polesitter and two-time winner Helio Castroneves.

Castroneves, who secured pole position with a late bonsai run during pole day on May 12, goes into the 500 with a head of steam. Not only did the Team Penske driver win the top spot for the race, but he has also won once this season (Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1), scored two additional AAMCO Poles, and performed well in the final race before the "Month of May" began — a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway.

Alongside the Brazilian driver — both on the grid and in the contenders’ category — is fellow countryman Tony Kanaan. Like Castroneves, Kanaan has already scored a victory this year (Twin Ring Motegi on April 21) and has a strong head of momentum after setting quick lap times throughout the month’s practices. Additionally, Kanaan has been the perfect teammate, having tested four of the five team cars in the Andretti Green Racing stable (sans Dario Franchitti, whom he chats with daily and trades advice). If AGR is willing to put all of their trust in the hands of the driver of the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara-Honda, expect that person to know what he is doing.

Other drivers to pay close attention to on race day are Franchitti, defending winner Sam Hornish Jr. and the two Target Chip Ganassi drivers, Scott Dixon and 2005 winner Dan Wheldon, both of whom have been fastest throughout the practice sessions this month.

Darkhorses

While not mentioned in the same breath as Castroneves and Co., this group of drivers could easily be drinking from the celebratory bottle of milk at the end of the Indianapolis 500 if the drivers from the contenders’ category stumble even the slightest.

At the top of this list are the three remaining AGR drivers; Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Michael Andretti. While both Patrick and the younger Andretti have had disappointing seasons so far in 2007, they both know their way around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — their results in 2005 and 2006, respectively, prove that. Combine their understanding of the track with Kanaan’s help, and these two drivers could make some noise on race day.

As for the elder Andretti, yes, he has been the most snakebitten man in race history, but c’mon, he has led 430 career laps in the Indianapolis 500, more than any other driver in this year’s field. Can the planes align perfectly this one time? It happened with Dale Earnhardt at the 1998 Daytona 500, so don’t bet against it for Andretti.

Want a true "darkhorse"? Look at Ryan Briscoe. Driving for Luczo Dragon Racing, a satellite operation of Team Penske, Briscoe pulled off the stunner so far this month after qualifying seventh for the race — ahead of many high priced drivers and top level organizations. Sure, Briscoe’s open-wheel experience has been limited in recent years, but this guy knows how to race — just look at his victory in the Utah American Le Mans event this past weekend. Also, remember that in his only Indianapolis 500 start, the Australian started 24th and finished 10th. Just imagine what he can do now that he is closer to the front with his Team Penske equipment underneath him.

Other drivers in this group include Vision Racing’s Tomas Scheckter and Ed Carpenter, Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira and A.J. Foyt Enterprises Darren Manning and two-time winner Al Unser Jr.

Pretenders

It is looking pretty grim for the drivers in this category, as they have struggled to find the pace throughout this month to really contend for a victory.

Like the rest of this year, the "Month of May" has been a disappointment for Rahal Letterman Racing and their driver lineup of Scott Sharp and Jeff Simmons. They have not been very quick in practices (Sharp’s fastest lap of 224.214 mph was 19th best while Simmons’ 223.894 mph was 23rd out of 49 driver/car combinations) and look to be in full rebuilding-mode — remember, neither of these drivers was with this team at the beginning of 2006.

Despite showing improvement in the races prior to Indianapolis, Dreyer & Reinbold also fits into this category. Sarah Fisher and 2004 winner Buddy Rice are looking stronger than how they started the year, but they still have a long way to go.

Panther Racing’s Kosuke Matsuura and John Andretti, Vision Racing’s A.J. Foyt IV and Davey Hamilton, Dreyer & Reinbold’s Roger Yasukawa, Schmidt Motorsports Buddy Lazier and Chastain Motorsports Roberto Moreno all fit into this category as well.

Is it possible anybody from this group can win? Yes, but a top-10 result for any of these drivers would still be a positive result.

"Get out of the Way"

Let’s put it nicely — these drivers should focus on keeping their noses clean and “getting out of the way,” not on victory: Alex Barron, Jon Herb, Jaques Lazier, Marty Roth, Richie Hearn, Phil Giebler and Milka Duno.

If there is a big accident, particularly in the first laps, look towards this group to have at least one person involved in it (and probably be at fault). However, as Duno proved in her debut at Kansas Speedway, giving way to the leaders and staying out of trouble is not only possible, but it can lead to a rewarding finish.

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Fuel issues take center stage at Indy 500
May 22, 2007


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Dennis Reinbold contends his race team made a mistake. Others might call it outright cheating.

Either way, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is paying a price - a fine and a ruined engine - for using an illegal fuel blend during the first week of Indianapolis 500 practice.

IndyCar series president Brian Barnhart said Tuesday he couldn't determine whether the team intentionally added methanol to the fuel to increase speeds. So he fined the team an undisclosed amount.

``It was a mistake, and we're moving on,'' team co-owner Reinbold said through team spokesman Klint Briney.

The team offered no explanation for how the methanol ended up in the garage or which car used the illegal fuel blend. The rules require cars to run on almost pure ethanol.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is one of eight full-time IndyCar teams. Its regular drivers, Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indy champion, and Sarah Fisher, the fastest woman qualifier ever on the 2.5-mile oval, were both on the track the first week. The team hired a third driver, Roger Yasukawa, last Tuesday.

All three have qualified for Sunday's 33-car starting field.

Barnhart insisted the illegal mixture was not used during qualifying - only in practice.

``It must be a slow month if everyone's trying to make a big deal out of that one,'' he said. ``It's not a big deal.''

Still, he acknowledged there was a substantial amount of methanol in the fuel tank, which ruined an engine.

``It cracked and popped and ruined the engine,'' Barnhart said. ``That's close to $100,000 itself. We penalized the team as well, but the biggest thing was the abuse to the engine. It wasn't just sprayed into the engine, it was an enormous amount.''

Excessive exhaust temperatures tipped off Honda officials, which prompted league officials to recheck the car.

Barnhart said he was told a young crew member grabbed the wrong liquid when asked to put fuel in the car. When asked why methanol even would be in the garage, Barnhart responded: ``I have no idea.''

Tests showed a high percentage of methanol in the fuel, far higher than Barnhart thought a team would use if it intended to cheat by adding horsepower to the car with a different fuel. The results also showed water in the mixture. Speedway spokesman Ron Green said diluted methanol would not enhance speeds as much as undiluted methanol and could have been a result of condensation from a long shelf life.

Come race day, drivers will face a different fuel challenge.

At engine maker Honda's urging, the knobs in the cockpit that allow the drivers to conserve fuel while racing have been removed. Drivers generally have had two options to control fuel flow - one for optimum horsepower, another for optimum fuel mileage.

This is the first time in five races this season that drivers will not have that choice.

One reason for the change, Barnhart said, was concern about how the engines would hold up over 500 miles.

``Honda came to us and asked us to make sure we gave everyone the best opportunity in terms of engine reliability,'' Barnhart said. ``Honda said that with the change to ethanol, if the mixture got too lean, it could cause problems.''

It's unclear how this will affect strategy.

``From our standpoint, it puts more of a burden on the driver to conserve fuel because you can't just do it with a knob,'' he said. ``You have do it in the turns and going down the straights.''

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:



Come race day, drivers will face a different fuel challenge.

At engine maker Honda's urging, the knobs in the cockpit that allow the drivers to conserve fuel while racing have been removed. Drivers generally have had two options to control fuel flow - one for optimum horsepower, another for optimum fuel mileage.

This is the first time in five races this season that drivers will not have that choice.

One reason for the change, Barnhart said, was concern about how the engines would hold up over 500 miles.

``Honda came to us and asked us to make sure we gave everyone the best opportunity in terms of engine reliability,'' Barnhart said. ``Honda said that with the change to ethanol, if the mixture got too lean, it could cause problems.''

It's unclear how this will affect strategy.

``From our standpoint, it puts more of a burden on the driver to conserve fuel because you can't just do it with a knob,'' he said. ``You have do it in the turns and going down the straights.''

This could make a big difference I think since the car out front won't have this type of advantage of being in clear air and being able to conserve fuel at the same time.

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

I made my one and only bet to win the INDY 500 today.

Dan Wheldon  4/1 @ BetJamacia

Wheldon has been on fire this year running up front in every race so far this year and INDY is a track that suits Wheldons driving style perfectly.

I was going to pass on this race since I never saw anything that offered any value and with Wheldon the heavy favorite at around 5/2 at most every book. I just didn't see any value betting him at such a short price but when I saw 4/1 at BetJamacia I jumped on it.

The only other driver I think that offers some value to knock off Wheldon is Tony Kanaan 5/1 at most every book.

wink

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

Scott Sharp looking for Indy 500 victory on Sunday
By MIKE ENGLISH

In what has become a new tradition for the Indianapolis 500, the entire field of 33 drivers turned up in New York City on race-week Monday — lined up three-by-three in 11 rows, just like they will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday with the green flag flutters.

It's the third year the drivers have lined up in the Big Apple for ultimate media coverage. This year the driver's "grid" was lined up on Military Island in Times Square.

Exactly where he will be on race day, Jupiter's Scott Sharp was on the outside of row four Monday in Times Square.

It will be Sharp's 13th start at the Indianapolis 500. Now driving for Rahal Letterman Racing, Sharp finished 18th last year last year when he was still driving for Delphi Fernandez Racing.

His best finish at Indy was seventh in 2005 but he was pole sitter in 2001 when he qualified at 226.037 mph.

This year, Sharp earned a spot on the grid on the second day of qualifying — on Mother's Day — with a 223.875 mph effort, which was the ninth best qualifying time.

"We're in pretty good," Sharp said on the Indycar.com Web site. "Like I've said all along coming here, we probably wouldn't win the qualifying battle, but we might have a really good chance to win the main battle — the 500 miles.

"We continue to get the car better and better every day, and that's what you've got to do."

The Indianapolis Speedway is Sharp's favorite track on the IndyCar circuit and winning "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is his goal.

With Buddy Rice at the wheel, the Rahal Letterman team won the Indy 500 in 2004. But Rice moved on and Sharp came over from the Delphi Fernandez team to Rahal Letterman.

"I really think I'm with a team that knows what to do at Indianapolis," Sharp said earlier this spring. "I'm pretty excited about that track. A lot of effort, from the team, has gone into that race.

"I expect to be a contender at Indy. That's gets me more excited than anything."

In four races this season, Sharp's best finish was sixth at the Twin Ring Motegi race in Japan.

"We're a team that is going to get better (during the year), naturally with all the work we're doing, the development we're doing and that we're just new together," Sharp said.

The Rahal Letter team has been one of the top outfits in IndyCar Racing for years, Sharp said.

"This isn't just a team that one year when the package was just right they won," he said. "They've won with six, seven or eight different drivers. They're won with different chassis and different engines. They've a team that for the last decade has been at the fore-front of IndyCar racing."

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Buddy Rice hopes to follow "Buddy System" to 2007 Indy 500 Success

In 2004, Buddy Rice came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a re-building team and surprised everyone the 88th Indianapolis 500.

He hopes to follow the same "Buddy System" for the 91st edition of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on May 27.

Rice, who will make his fourth start in the race, was Kenny Brack's substitute with Rahal Letterman Racing when he arrived at the Speedway in 2004. He practiced quietly until Pole Day, when he surprised the field with a pole-winning run.

On Race Day, Rice's car was the class of the field and won the after a late charge to the front just before a downpour halted the race after 180 of the 200 laps.

"We did it unconventionally, anyway," Rice said. "No one had us a favorite to sit on the pole, nobody had us as a favorite to win the race.

"To think it happened and to do it the way we did, I think it was great. I think that it's definitely unique, and maybe I'll have another opportunity to have a proper winning victory celebration, but I'm definitely happy with what I have right now."

This season, Rice has moved to another rebuilding team. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has fielded cars for five drivers since co-owner Robbie Buhl retired a few weeks before Rice's 2004 "500" win.

Rice said the switched is a good move for him. DRR co-owners Dennis Reinbold and Buhl have stepped up their competitive operational level and he works well with teammates Sarah Fisher and Roger Yasukawa.

"I'm really happy here," said Rice, who missed his chance to defend his race win in 2005 because of injury and crashed out of the 2006 event. "Dennis has taken great strides in getting his team to be a lot more competitive between the engineers, the staff and everybody he's brought in. And it's been extremely exciting, and it's great to take part in that.

"I think I've had more top-10 finishes this year (in the first four races leading up to Indy) than the last two years combined. That already shows an improvement for me to get here, and they've really stepped up their deal."

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Danica Patrick just one of the guys on new team
May 23, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -After two years of feeling isolated and closed off from her teammates, Danica Patrick says, she's now part of a team with a fun-loving group of drivers who have made her more comfortable and confident.

``For the first time, I'm having fun with my teammates,'' said Patrick, who joined Andretti Green Racing this season after spending the past two years with Rahal Letterman Racing.

``Whether I'm in my bus, just hanging out, and I see them outside and go hang out and talk, or we're in engineering, just chitchatting, there's no uncomfortable place,'' she added. ``You always have buds, people you can hang out with. That's something very different for me.''

A lot of that has to do with the chemistry at AGR, where Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and team co-owner Michael Andretti, Marco's father, all will compete along with Patrick in Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

They make up the most close-knit group of drivers in the IndyCar paddock.

Kanaan is the clown of the group, always full of pranks and jokes. Franchitti is the older brother, taking care of everyone. Marco is the kid brother and Michael, the veteran racing star and the boss, is a role model for the others.

Everyone on the outside wondered how Patrick would fit in.

``She's becoming more a part of the team every day,'' Franchitti said. ``When we hang out, she's one of the guys. It's been pretty much an instant chemistry.''

For the 25-year-old Patrick, who has lived in a pressure cooker of expectations since making her IndyCar debut in 2005 with Rahal Letterman and still is looking for her first win, the tension builds with each race that she doesn't get to Victory Lane.

She says facing all that pressure alone the past couple of years was not easy.

``I wasn't embraced by my teammates, and that made it kind of miserable,'' Patrick said. ``I was very alone. I didn't talk to them. We just didn't talk and we didn't go through things and, not only that, I didn't necessarily think the things that worked for them were working for me.

``And it just so happened that I was faster more of the time, so it was just a sort of closed-off area that I was in.''

Scott Roembke, general manager and chief operating officer for Rahal Letterman, said it was no secret that Patrick didn't get along with her former teammates, and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice in particular.

``As a team, it's our job to foster a productive driver-teammate relationship and we weren't able to do that,'' Roembke said. ``I take the blame. But it was just a matter of different personalities. It probably hurt both of them a little.

``But, whatever I did, I just couldn't get them to work together. They just didn't see eye to eye. It wasn't totally destructive, though. We were relatively successful despite ourselves in that regard. We were having some success with her and Buddy, but it was a delicate balance.''

Noting how well Patrick has fit in with her new team, Roembke said, ``The Andretti Green lovefest you see from the outside is a unique thing. I think it's good that she's got that relationship now. I'm happy for her.''

While she didn't have much to do with fellow drivers Rice, Vitor Meira or Jeff Simmons, her main teammates during the past two years, Patrick is grateful for the chance that the Rahal Letterman team, and particularly co-owner Bobby Rahal, gave her.

``I go running around the (Indy) track very frequently and I'll run around the back of the track and see this big picture of Bob and I, where I'm in my helmet and he's grabbing my helmet and smiling. I run by it and smile every time,'' she said. ``I have fond memories, no doubt. I mean, Bob gave me opportunity, he gave me a platform to show my ability and, right out of the box in IndyCar.

``It's not like I had to push my way through a midlevel team to get to that. I went to a championship-contending team my first year. I'm grateful for that and I like Bob. When it came down to it, I have no doubt that they love racing, but we just didn't have the support we needed to learn and go faster and do everything we needed to do.''

Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner, acknowledged he wasn't very happy with the way his drivers got along the last couple of years.

``In the end, they're all adults,'' he said. ``You expect a certain level of professionalism. No question that was not there at times. And it's a two-way street. Everyone suffered from it and that made for some tense times within the team.

``In 2005, I think everybody in the paddock was a little jealous of (Patrick). Remember, all the other (IndyCar) drivers even boycotted an autograph session at Milwaukee. That wasn't her fault.

``You need to also remember, though, that we had some success in 2004 and 2005, particularly with Buddy winning the 500 and Danica's great showing at Indy the next year. There was great communication on the team and great confidence in the chassis. Both of those were missing last year.''

From a technical standpoint, Michael Andretti said he considers Patrick a rookie.

``I don't think she got a lot of help from that team,'' Andretti said. ``There was just so much she didn't know about the cars when she came to us.''

Patrick shrugged when told of Andretti's remarks.

``At Rahal, No. 1, I didn't get along with my teammates. No. 2, I didn't talk a lot about the car because we just didn't do that,'' Patrick said. ``I came in and explained what it was feeling like and my engineer made adjustments for that. But there just wasn't a whole lot of chitchat about it and technical stuff.

``Now, at AGR, we sit in engineering, we have group meetings, we talk about the car. The driver's the one that talks about the car; what we did, what the changes were. And that's something that's completely different.''

Roembke agreed that Rahal Letterman does things differently from AGR.

``I don't see anything wrong with her comments,'' he said. ``But I don't know that, technically, we treated her any different than any of our other drivers, and last year aside, we've some had pretty good results for a number of years.''

Patrick's teammates, including 20-year-old Marco Andretti, already have won in the IndyCar Series and they expect her to become a member of that exclusive club soon. Could that first win come at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where she finished fourth as a rookie two years ago to ignite Danica-Mania?

``Why not? I like Indy a lot. I feel very confident here,'' she said. ``It's a good feeling knowing there are (teammates) who I can count on. And they know they can count on me.''

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Sharp happy with new team and another shot at Indy 500
May 24, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Scott Sharp figures he and the Rahal Letterman Racing team make for a perfect pairing.

``I come here really hungry and they're real hungry, too,'' said Sharp, a former IndyCar Series champion whose career has had plenty of ups and downs.

Sharp, who was left without a ride when Delphi Fernandez Racing left the series after the 2006 season, wound up at the team co-owned by longtime racing star Bobby Rahal and TV personality David Letterman after both Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick moved on to other teams.

Rahal Letterman, after winning the Indianapolis 500 with Rice in 2004 and having a strong season with Patrick in 2005, had a terrible season last year, struggling after starting the year with the unpredictable Panoz chassis and switching after five races to Dallaras.

``Over the last decade, this team has been at the forefront of open-wheel racing,'' Sharp said. ``They had a tough year last year for various reasons. They were the last full-time team to switch to the Dallara Chassis and they were going to tracks where the Penske and Ganassi teams had already run four or five times with that car.

``They didn't have a book and that means you go to those tracks trying things, trying to figure the car out, which is really tough. That doesn't mean it isn't a good race team.''

Things have improved for both Sharp and his new team in 2007.

Sharp and teammate Jeff Simmons, the only holdover from last season, have each run well at times this season and both have one top 10 finish in the first four races. Sharp finished sixth at Motegi, Japan, last month, with Simmons running eighth in the same event.

Both of them also qualified on the first weekend of time trials for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, with Sharp starting 12th and Simmons 13th in the 33-car field.

``I think we can be a real factor in the race,'' said Sharp, whose seventh-place finish in 2005 was his fest in 12 Indy 500 starts. ``I think we've done everything we've wanted to this month. I think this the most engineering-based team I've ever been with. There's certainly a lot of talent and ability here.''

Scott Roembke, general manager and chief operating officer of Letterman Rahal, likes what he has seen of Sharp.

``I think Scott's been a real good fit for us,'' he said. ``He's a catalyst for the team and a good teammate for Jeff because he has so much experience and is ready to help with whatever he can.''

The 39-year-old Sharp, who has nine career victories, including one at Kentucky Speedway in 2005 while driving for Kelley Racing, said he believes there are still more victories in store for him, particularly driving for a team like Rahal Letterman.

``Honest, I don't think I've ever driven better than I am now,'' he said. ``I'm still willing to take whatever chances I need to take and I still believe that winning is all that matters.

``And this team is willing to do what it takes to get back to winning. We're making the kind of small gains that will get us there. I can hardly wait for the race.''

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Low-budget teams facing a disadvantage
May 23, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -For Marty Roth, a top-10 finish in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 would be his version of sipping milk, the winner's traditional drink in the victory circle.
   
It's about the best Roth, owner-driver of a small one-car team, can expect.

With a limited budget, the 48-year-old Canadian has been forced into selectively picking which races to run and making frugal decisions about the best way Roth Racing can keep up with the Penskes.

Good luck doing that Sunday when Roth and his underfunded colleagues face the ``big boys'' in the IndyCar Series' most prestigious event.

``We've got a 4-year-old car that we keep updating and we're still learning what it needs so we can fix it,'' Roth said. ``There's so many things you can do, and they all have to be perfect because those other guys are all perfect.''

Those ``other'' guys - Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi and Andretti Green Racing - have multimillion-dollar budgets that dwarf those of teams such as Roth's.

The financial disparity between the haves and have-nots of racing certainly is not new. But in the IndyCar Series, founded in part to reduce costs and keep smaller teams competitive, it has become an all-too-familiar line of delineation.

One look at Sunday's starting grid illustrates the disparity. Nine of the 10 drivers employed by Penske, Ganassi and Andretti qualified in the first three rows, with only Michael Andretti as far back as Row 4. He'll start 11th.

Meanwhile, teams such as Paul Diatlovich's PDM Racing and Kent Baker's Team Leader Motorsports always seem to be on the brink of going home early. Roth, the slowest qualifier in the field, survived Bump Day and will start No. 30 in the 33-car field. Diatlovich and Baker weren't as lucky, and already are out.

Not surprisingly, Penske, Ganassi and AGR ran multiple cars for hundreds of laps on the 2.5-mile oval, while Diatlovich and Baker spent the month pinching pennies. Diatlovich didn't even bring his No. 18 car to the track until the second week of practice and qualifying, an estimated savings of roughly $150,000.

The lack of cash creates other problems, too.

PDM was using a 3-year-old Panoz chassis. Its crew members will now go back to their day jobs. And the team has little, if any, money left for research. Diatlovich estimates it now costs about $5 million to run a full-time IndyCar team, far too expensive for an owner who has spent most of the decade scrounging for sponsors.

``We're looking for money so that we can get this program up and running properly so that I put this guy (Jimmy Kite) in a proper car,'' Diatlovich said after his No. 18 car was bumped from the race last weekend.

At Indianapolis, small-budget teams have played a traditional role.

During the '50s and '60s, drivers would bring old cars and ask makeshift crews to help them rebuild engines in the wooden garages. Back then, just making the race was a major victory.

In today's high-tech world, in which computers have replaced hammers, IndyCar president Brian Barnhart believes there's still a place for low-budget teams.

``The fact is there is no replacement for being well-funded,'' he said. ``That's the case in every form of motorsports. That's why you have to do everything you can to reduce the amount it takes to compete.''

Under the leadership of Barnhart and Tony George, the IndyCar series has tried to level the playing field.

Each team now uses a spec Honda engine, and testing has been reduced. The turbocharged engines of yesteryear have vanished, too. Yet many of the teams racing at Indy shut down at the end of May and don't resurface for another year.

So what's the benefit of making a one-race splash, aside from bragging to your buddies?

``It's different for everybody,'' said Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. ``For me, it's a business first and foremost. If we weren't owning a team, I'd still be out here in the stands watching. And you can make some good money here.''

Reinbold said each starting car is ensured of about $200,000 by showing up on race day, not bad for a month's work. Or a couple of weeks, in the case of Chastain Motorsports and driver Roberto Moreno, who replaced injured Stephan Gregoire and got up to speed in two days in his repaired car.

The problem is there are still bills to pay. Each team must employ a driver, crew members, buy fuel and chassis and lease an engine. Diatlovich contends that even winning prize money doesn't ensure teams a profit.

``There are no guarantees in this business,'' Diatlovich said. ``You're not guaranteed $200,000, and you're not guaranteed a kick in the butt, either.''

There have been success stories.

In 2000, Reinbold's team was an upstart organization. Now it has evolved into a full-time, two-car entry that employs Sarah Fisher and 2004 Indy champ Buddy Rice as drivers. Reinbold even hired a third driver, Roger Yasukawa, for Sunday's race.

He's following the same model John Barnes used at Panther Racing, which won back-to-back points titles in 2001 and 2002 before the former CART teams rejoined the series.

Reinbold believes it can work.

``Panther is someone we've tried to emulate because they've traditionally had good sponsorship and they're good,'' he said. ``But we've got a lot of work to try and catch up with Penske and Ganassi and the others.''

This year, there are only eight full-time teams - A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Andretti Green, Dreyer & Reinbold, Ganassi, Panther, Penske, Rahal Letterman Racing and Vision Racing, owned by George - on the IRL circuit.

Barnhart, of course, would like to see that increase. But it takes plenty of money to compete.

Penske has 57 full-time employees, and AGR has four full-time IndyCar drivers who share information. Perhaps that's why the last four IndyCar titles have gone to the big-bucks teams, and drivers from Penske, AGR and Ganassi hold the top six places in season points this year.

Indy again will start with a full 33-car field, something it's done every year since 1948. Without the smaller teams, that wouldn't be possible.

``You wouldn't have 33 cars in the field if you didn't have the small teams,'' Baker said. ``You'd only have 20 to 22.''

And although it's unlikely Moreno or Roth will be pulling into Victory Lane this weekend, teams such as Roth's don't judge their success merely by winning races.

``We're hanging in there,'' Roth said. ``A top-10 finish here would definitely be like a win for us.''

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Low-budget teams facing a disadvantage

Even with indentical engines and chassis these low budget teams have no shot at winning any race let alone the INDY 500 unless 3/4 of the field drops out of the race.

:-","xx

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Forget the odds, Hearn happy to be in Indy
By Brian Hilderbrand
Las Vegas Sun

Richie Hearn will start Sunday's Indianapolis 500 from the middle of the last row - his worst starting position in seven Indy starts - in a car in which he has turned only 40 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since landing the ride last weekend.

And he couldn't be happier.

Hearn, a 36-year-old Henderson resident, would rather be racing in the Indy 500 and have the odds stacked against him than watching it on television. He learned that the hard way last year.

For the first time since 2001, Hearn opted not to go to Indianapolis last May and search for a team owner willing to put him in the race. Instead, he accompanied the racing team he owns to Connecticut for a pair of Formula BMW USA races in which his drivers were competing. Because the series was not racing on the day of the Indy 500, Hearn and his team watched the race in a restaurant bar near Lime Rock Park.

"I was not happy watching the race on TV last year," he said. "There are reasons why I wasn't there last year ... so I didn't even go, I just blew it off. It really doesn't bother you until you watch the race ... It didn't make me feel very good."

Although his Las Vegas-based team was racing last weekend in Utah, Hearn turned the keys to the shop over to an employee and boarded a plane for Indy on the eve of the first day of qualifying. It took him a week, but he landed a ride with Hemelgarn/Racing Professionals. He qualified the car the same day he took it on the track for the first time and will start 32nd in the 33-car field.

"Unfortunately, I don't have any full-tank (runs in the car) so I'm kind of flying blind a little bit going into the race," he said. "I'm going to have to take a setup from somebody else and just trust that it's going to be OK."

Hearn, who finished third in the 500 as a rookie in 1996 and sixth in 2002 while driving for fellow Henderson resident Sam Schmidt, is realistic about his chances on Sunday.

"If I can finish in the top 15, I'll consider that a pretty good day," he said. "I'm not really going to push it that hard. Really, the only way I'm going to get paid is to not crash the car. I've got to stay out of other people's trouble and not screw up in the pits and not have any mechanical problems."

So, if you're admittedly a long shot to be sipping milk and kissing the Borg-Warner Trophy on Sunday, why go through the hassle and expense of spending two weeks in Indianapolis in the hopes of landing a ride with an underfunded team?

"To be here on Sunday," Hearn said of race day at the famed Brickyard. "There's nothing like walking out on that grid before the start of the race.

"I just love (racing). It's what I've done since I was 8 and it's what I'm meant to do. As far as Indy itself, it's everything. I don't think there's ever been a driver who has competed there and not been attracted to it forever."

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Indianapolis 500 driver profiles
May 24, 2007

Profiles of the 33 drivers in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, in starting order with car number in parentheses, age, hometown, chassis, race team, four-lap qualification average and biographical information (w-former winner; r-rookie; all engines Honda):

Profiles of the 33 drivers in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, in starting order with car number in parentheses, age, hometown, chassis, race team, four-lap qualification average and biographical information (w-former winner; r-rookie; all engines Honda):

1. (3) w-Helio Castroneves, 32, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Dallara, Team Penske; 225.817 mph. Won Indianapolis 500 as rookie in 2001 and again in 2002, the first to repeat since Al Unser in 1970-71. Finished second to former teammate Gil de Ferran in 2003 and ninth the next two years. Started second to teammate Sam Hornish Jr. last year, but crashed on 110th lap and finished 25th. Has won at least one race each season since 2001 and is third in series points so far this season, with a win at St. Petersburg, Fla., last month.

2. (11) Tony Kanaan, 32, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Dallara, Andretti Green Racing; 225.757 mph. The 2004 IRL series champion, won at Japan last month and is fifth after four races this season. Best finish in five previous starts at Indy was runner-up to Buddy Rice in rain-shortened 2004 race. Started on pole and led 54 laps in 2005 but finished eighth; fifth at Indy last year. Holds IRL record with 25 straight races running at the finish.

3. (27) Dario Franchitti, 34, Edinburgh, Scotland; Dallara, Andretti Green Racing; 225.191 mph. CART series runner-up to Juan Montoya in 1999. Was 19th as Indy rookie in 2002. Missed race in 2003 after breaking his back in motorcycle accident. Sixth and seventh the past two years. Fourth in IRL points this season, improving finish in each of the first four races to runner-up at Kansas. Married to actress Ashley Judd.

4. (9) Scott Dixon, 26, Auckland, New Zealand; Dallara, Ganassi Racing; 225.122 mph. CART rookie of the year in 2001, when victory at Nazareth, Pa., made him at 20 the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing. Moved to IRL with Ganassi and was series champion with three wins in 2003. Has won three other races since then, and is second in IRL points behind teammate Dan Wheldon with two seconds and two fourths in the first four races this season.

5. (6) w-Sam Hornish Jr., 27, Defiance, Ohio; Dallara, Team Penske; 225.109 mph. Defending Indy 500 and IRL series champion. Started from pole last year, made up a late penalty and passed Marco Andretti just before the finish to win by 0.0635 seconds, second closest in Indy history. Won three other races, tied Dan Wheldon in series points but earned his third IRL championship because he won more races. Sixth after four races this season. Making eighth start at Indy. Before winning last year, best previous finish was 14th. Holds IRL record with 18 career wins.

6. (10) w-Dan Wheldon, 28, Emberton, England; Dallara, Ganassi Racing; 224.641 mph. Former Indy winner leads IRL points after wins in two of the first four races this season at Homestead and Kansas. Won 2005 Indy 500 after passing Danica Patrick with six laps to go and went on to IRL series championship. Third at Indy and runner-up to Tony Kanaan for IRL championship in 2004. Won two races last season and tied Sam Hornish Jr. in points, but Hornish earned series title because he had four race wins.

7. (12) Ryan Briscoe, 25, Sydney, Australia; Dallara, Luczo Dragon Racing, 224.410 mph. Tenth in only previous start at Indy in 2005. Drove in four IndyCar races last year, with best finish third at Watkins Glen. Making first start this season. Won Formula Three Euroseries championship with eight wins in 2003 and was a test driver in Formula One in 2004.

8. (7) Danica Patrick, 25, Roscoe, Ill.; Dallara, Andretti Green Racing; 224.076 mph. Indy and IRL rookie of the year in 2005, when she started and finished fourth and was the first woman to lead the 500. Eighth at Indy last year. Left Rahal Letterman Racing for Andretti Green this season, and eighth in series points after four races with best finish seventh at Kansas. Drove in developmental Toyota Atlantic series before moving to IndyCar series in 2005.

9. (26) Marco Andretti, 20, Nazareth, Pa.; Dallara, Andretti Green Racing; 223.299 mph. Runner-up and rookie of the year in 2006, when he was passed by Sam Hornish Jr. just before the checkered flag in the second-closest finish in Indy history. Son of driver-owner Michael Andretti, grandson of 1969 Indy winner Mario Andretti. Youngest driver in the lineup. Drove in Indy Pro Series in 2005, including a win on Indy's road course during U.S. Grand Prix. Fourteenth in IRL season points, with best finish fourth at St. Petersburg.

10. (2) Tomas Scheckter, 26, Cape Town, South Africa; Dallara, Vision Racing; 222.877 mph. Son of 1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter. Led 85 laps and was co-rookie of the year at Indianapolis in 2002 and fourth in 2003. Crashed at Indy the past two years. Seventh in IRL points this season with top-10 finishes in all four races. Only wins in 79 IRL starts at Michigan in 2002 and Texas in 2005.

11. (39) Michael Andretti, 44, Nazareth Pa., Dallara, Andretti Green Racing; 222.789 mph. Team co-owner, came out of retirement to drive in son Marco's rookie race last year. Was leading with three laps to go before being passed by Marco and then by eventual winner Sam Hornish Jr. Best finish in 15 starts at Indy was second in 1991, when he was CART series champion. Has led 430 laps at Indy, the most by any non-winner. Father, Mario Andretti, won 1969 Indy 500.

12. (8) Scott Sharp, 39, Norwalk, Conn.; Dallara, Rahal Letterman Racing; 223.875 mph. Holds IRL records with 133 career starts and current 125 consecutive starts. Series co-champion in 1996, joined Rahal Letterman this season and 10th in series points with best finish, sixth, at Japan. Started from pole at Indy in 2001 but finished 33rd after first-lap crash. Best finishes in 12 starts at Indy were seventh in 2005 and ninth last year.

12. (8) Scott Sharp, 39, Norwalk, Conn.; Dallara, Rahal Letterman Racing; 223.875 mph. Holds IRL records with 133 career starts and current 125 consecutive starts. Series co-champion in 1996, joined Rahal Letterman this season and 10th in series points with best finish, sixth, at Japan. Started from pole at Indy in 2001 but finished 33rd after first-lap crash. Best finishes in 12 starts at Indy were seventh in 2005 and ninth last year.

13. (17) Jeff Simmons, 30, Hartford, Conn.; Dallara, Rahal Letterman Racing; 223.693 mph. Hired last year after death of rookie Paul Dana. Eleventh in IRL points this season with best finish at Japan - eighth. Indy Pro Series runner-up in 2003 and 2005, made IndyCar debut with 16th place at Indianapolis in 2004. Only other Indy appearance was 23rd last year.

14. (20) Ed Carpenter, 26, Indianapolis; Dallara, Vision Racing; 223.495 mph. Driving for team co-owned by his stepfather, Speedway boss Tony George. Finished third in Indy Pro Series in 2002 and '03, including win at Indianapolis in 2003. Was 31st as Indy rookie and 11th the past two years. Best finishes in 52 career starts were fifth at Chicago in 2006 and sixth at Homestead in the opener this season. Fifteenth in IRL standings this year. Butler University graduate.

15. (14) Darren Manning, 32, North Yorkshire, England; Dallara, Foyt Racing; 223.471 mph. Former Formula One test driver, was ninth in CART series for Walker Racing in 2003 and moved to IRL with Ganassi Racing in 2004. Was 25th and 29th in two previous starts at Indianapolis. Best finish in four races with Foyt this season was 11th at Kansas.

15. (14) Darren Manning, 32, North Yorkshire, England; Dallara, Foyt Racing; 223.471 mph. Former Formula One test driver, was ninth in CART series for Walker Racing in 2003 and moved to IRL with Ganassi Racing in 2004. Was 25th and 29th in two previous starts at Indianapolis. Best finish in four races with Foyt this season was 11th at Kansas.

16. (15) w-Buddy Rice, 31, Phoenix; Panoz, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; 222.826 mph. Won Indy from the pole in 2004 but unable to compete the next year after injuries in a crash during practice. Was 26th at Indy last year. Left Rahal Letterman Racing and is 12th in series points this season with 10th-place finishes in each of first three races and 20th in last race at Kansas. Toyota Atlantic champion in 2000.

17. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, 27, Aichi, Japan; Dallara, Super Aguri Panther Racing; 222.595 mph. Crashed in two of the first four races this season and is 18th in IRL points. Career-best fourth at Kentucky in 2004. German F3 runner-up in 2002. Best finish in three previous starts at Indy was 11th in 2004, when he was the fastest rookie qualifier and the Indy and IRL series rookie of the year.

18. (22) A.J. Foyt IV, 23, Hockley, Texas; Dallara, Vision Racing; 222.413 mph. Grandson of four-time Indy winner A.J. Foyt. Won the IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship in 2002 and youngest starter in Indy 500 history in 2003, when he was 18th as a rookie. Was 33rd at Indy in 2004 and 28th in 2005. Drove in NASCAR Busch Series last year, with one IRL start in place of injured Dario Franchitti at Chicago. Sixteenth in IRL points this season, with best finish ninth at Kansas.

19. (4) Vitor Meira, 30, Brasilia, Brazil; Dallara, Panther Racing; 222.333 mph. Indy runner-up in 2005 and 10th last year. Ninth in series points this season, with best of fourth in opener at Homestead. Joined IRL in 2002 after two seasons in European F3000 series. Won the South American F3 championship with eight wins in 2000. Holds IRL record with 63 career races without a win.

20. (02) Davey Hamilton, 44, Eagle, Idaho; Dallara, Vision Racing; 222.327. Making first start since 2001, when he was seriously injured in a crash at Texas and underwent 21 operations on feet and legs. At the time, he was the only driver to compete in every IRL race since league began in 1998. Best finish in six starts at Indy was fourth in 1998. IRL series runner-up in 1997 and 1998 and fourth in 1999.

21. (5) Sarah Fisher, 25, Commercial Point, Ohio; Dallara, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; 221.960 mph. Third woman to race at Indianapolis, making first start at Indy since 2004. Drove in NASCAR West series in 2005 and returned to IRL in two starts late last season. At Kentucky in 2002, became first woman to start from pole in a major U.S. open-wheel race. Best finish in five starts at Indy was 21st in 2004. Seventeenth in IRL points this season, with best finish 11th in opener at Homestead.

22. (99) w-Buddy Lazier, 39, Vail, Colo.; Dallara, Sam Schmidt Motorsports; 221.380 mph. Indy 500 winner in 1996 and IRL series champion in 2000, when he was runner-up at Indy for the second time. Also runner-up in 1998. Making 15th start at Indy and first start this season. Was 12th at Indy last year, his best finish in eight races. Older brother of driver Jaques Lazier; father, Bob Lazier, was 19th in only start at Indy in 1981.

23. (24) Roger Yasukawa, 29, Los Angeles; Dallara, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; 222.654 mph. Tenth in first two starts at Indianapolis and 18th and 16th the past two years. Making first IRL start this year. Best finish in 36 IndyCar races was seventh at Kansas in 2003. Came to Indy series after driving in Champ Car's developmental Toyota Atlantic series in 2002.

24. (33) John Andretti, 44, Indianapolis; Dallara, Panther Racing; 221.756 mph. Nephew of Mario Andretti and cousin of Michael and Marco Andretti. Making first start at Indy since 1994, when he was 10th. Spent most of last decade in NASCAR. Best finish in seven Indy 500s was fifth in 1991. Only IndyCar victory also in 1991 in Australia. Won two NASCAR Nextel Cup races and drove 10 times in Brickyard 400 at the Speedway.

25. (50) w-Al Unser Jr., 45, Albuquerque, N.M.; Dallara, Foyt Racing; 220.876 mph. Two-time Indy winner, making second IRL start, both at Indy, since 2004. Ninth place in 2003 was best finish at Indy since he won in 1994. Also won in 1992. Son of four-time Indy winner Al Unser Sr. and nephew of three-time winner Bobby Unser. Making 19th start at Indianapolis, where he is second in career winnings with $5.8 million. Was 24th last year.

26. (98) Alex Barron, 36, Menifee, Calif.; Dallara, Beck Motorsports; 220.471 mph. Only win in 59 IRL starts was at Michigan in 2003. Making first start since end of 2005 season. Best finishes in four races at Indy were fourth in 2002, when he was co-rookie of the year, and sixth in 2003. Drove in CART in 1998-2001.

27. (19) Jon Herb, 36, Chicago; Dallara, Racing Professionals; 220.108 mph. Was 27th in only previous start at Indy in 2001. Unable to qualify after crashing twice in 2002. Drove in Indy Pro Series 2004-06 with one win and 14 top-10 finishes. Competed in U.S. Formula 2000 series in 1997-99, made IRL debut with 22nd at Orlando in 2000. Former high school wrestling champion, played college football at SMU.

28. (21) Jaques Lazier, 36, Vail, Colo.; Panoz, Playa Del Racing; 219.409 mph. Younger brother of 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. Best finish in five Indy starts 13th as rookie in 2000. Also, finished 29th in 2004 in relief of Robby Gordon, who left early to get to NASCAR race in North Carolina. Sixteenth and 17th at Indy the past two years. Making first start of this season.

29. (23) r-Milka Duno, 35, Caracas, Venezuela; Dallara, Samax Motorsport; 219.228 mph. Fourteenth in her IRL debut at Kansas. Fifth woman to qualify at Indianapolis, joins Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick in first time three women have started same race at Indy. Raced sports cars for a decade, winning Panoz GT Series championship in 2000 and the first woman to win a major North American sports car race with 2004 victory at Homestead. An engineer, holds four master's degrees.

30. (25) Marty Roth, 48, Toronto, Canada; Dallara, Roth Racing; 218.922 mph. Owns his own team and was the first Infiniti Pro Series owner to move up to Indy cars. Oldest driver in the race for third time. Best previous finish at Indy was 24th as a rookie in 2004. Nineteenth in IRL points this season, with 15th in opener at Homestead his best finish in two races.

31. (77) Roberto Moreno, 48, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Panoz, Chastain Motorsports; 220.299 mph. Making third start at Indy and first since 1999, subbing for Stephan Gregoire, who broke his back in a crash during practice. New Zealand Formula Atlantic champion in 1982, runner-up to Michael Andretti in U.S. Formula Atlantic series in 1983. Best Indy finish was 19th as rookie in 1986. Drove Formula One in 1990-92, CART in 200-05.

32. (91) Richie Hearn, 36, Glendale, Calif.; Dallara, Hemelgarn Racing Professionals; 219.860 mph. Making first IRL start since Indianapolis in 2005, when he crashed and finished 25th. Best finishes in six previous Indy starts were third as rookie in 1996 and sixth in 2002. Only win in 24 IRL starts was at Las Vegas in 1996. Raced in CART from 1997-99.

33. (31) r-Phil Giebler, 24, Oxnard, Calif.; Panoz, Playa Del Racing; 219.637 mph. Drove in the developmental Indy Pro Series, passed his IRL rookie test in April at Kentucky Speedway and making his first IRL career start. Began racing go-karts at age 10, won his Indy Pro Series debut at Homestead in 2004. Also has competed in F3000 and represented the United States in the A1 GP series.

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Fisher the other woman at Indy
May 25, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Danica Patrick gets the star treatment, and rookie Milka Duno is IndyCar racing's new glamor girl. So where does that leave Sarah Fisher, who has more Indianapolis 500 starts than both of them combined?

``I'm just trying to keep getting better as a race car driver and win races,'' said Fisher, who will join the other two women in the 33-car field for Sunday's 91st running of the Indy race.

It's the first time three women have qualified for the big event, and Fisher's OK with the many questions about Patrick and Duno.

``It doesn't bother me,'' said Fisher, who will race in her sixth 500 this weekend. ``We're in the minority, and, as the minority, a lot of times people will go to each other because of what they have in common. But here we've got some individuals who can stand alone and are doing their own thing.''

Patrick grabbed headlines by leading laps and finishing fourth in the 2005 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - both firsts for a woman at Indy.

But it's the 26-year-old Fisher who holds the distinction of being the fastest woman qualifier at the Brickyard, posting a four-lap average of 229.439 mph in 2002. And her second-place finish in the 2001 season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway remains the best finish by a woman in IndyCar Series history.

Still, Fisher has had a hard time finding sponsorship and a team that would stick with her.

She last competed full time in IndyCar in 2003, the second of two years with Dreyer & Reinbold. She ran only one IndyCar event in 2004, finishing 21st in the 500 for Kelley Racing, and spent 2005 as a developmental driver in a minor league NASCAR stock car series.

She was without a full-time ride last season, working in a marketing job, when Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of the Dreyer & Reinbold team, gave Fisher another opportunity, hiring her for the final two races of the season.

``I said, 'Hey, I'm not doing anything. I'm sure my boss will let me do that,''' Fisher said. ``Thanks to Dennis, I'm one of the few that get a second chance.''

Finishes of 12th and 16th were good enough to prompt Reinbold to put together a deal for a full-time ride.

Fisher, who qualified 21st in this year's 33-car Indy field, admits she's a little jealous of the big-money teams such as Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi.

``The one thing that is noticeable for everyone is they've had their program together forever, drivers working with the same engineers, and they're doing (research and development) the year long,'' Fisher said. ``For us to put together a program in January, we're already behind the eight ball.''

But Andy O'Gara, Fisher's crew chief and the man she will marry on Sept. 15, believes his team and his future wife can compete. ``It's a challenge, of course,'' O'Gara said. ``But you have to set your sights high in anything if you want to be successful. And I think we're heading in the right direction.''

Fisher nodded in agreement.

A good run Sunday could go a long way toward keeping the momentum going for Fisher and teammates Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indy winner with Rahal Letterman Racing, and Roger Yasukawa, who joined the team last week.

``I am very comfortable in this situation,'' Fisher said. ``I think a lot of it comes from my maturity, more than anything.

``I was 19 years old when I started, and racing IndyCars is an awesome experience and opportunity, but it's hard to do that your first job out of high school. There's a lot more to racing than just driving the car.

``I'm excited because this month has gone really well,'' she added. ``I wish it would really have slowed down, because I've had so much fun with it.''

She's hoping the fun continues for 500 more miles Sunday.

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Sarah Fisher would have a win by now if she had the equipment that Danica Patrick has had,she is ten times the driver that Danica Patrick is.

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Choosing a favorite in 91st Indy 500 isn't easy
May 25, 2007


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Tell Helio Castroneves he's one of the favorites in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 and he just shrugs his shoulders and grins.

``Yeah, me and 10 other guys,'' says the two-time Indy winner.

It seems the 91st edition of the Memorial Day weekend classic is just about anybody's race.

The front of the 33-car field reads like an all-star roster - pole-winner Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti in the first of 11 rows of three, followed by Scott Dixon, defending race winner Sam Hornish Jr. and 2005 winner Dan Wheldon in row two. Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick and 2006 runner-up Marco Andretti make up row three.

Add Michael Andretti, Marco's father and last year's third-place finisher, in the middle of row four, and that's a strong list of possible winners.

Five - Kanaan, Franchitti, Patrick and the two Andrettis - drive for Andretti Green Racing.

``When we showed up at this race last year, we weren't fast enough,'' Franchitti said. ``We wound up with four cars in the top seven of the race, but that was through perseverance, good strategy and making the right decisions. This year, I feel that we've got five cars that are fast enough.''

But Team Penske's Castroneves and Hornish and Target Chip Ganassi drivers Wheldon and Dixon have won six of the last seven 500s and are just as fast.

From Castroneves to Michael Andretti, their four-lap, 10-mile qualifying efforts were separated by just more than 2 seconds.

Asked to handicap the race, Hornish said, ``It wouldn't surprise me if anybody in the top 11 won this race.

``But the competition for the win is probably going to come from Tony Kanaan. Obviously, I feel that Wheldon, Helio and myself are three guys who have won before and know what it takes to do that.

``Scott and Dario have been very fast here, not only this month, but in past years and have made mistakes that have taken them out of contention in the past. But I had done the same thing until last year, so sometimes it's just a matter of getting it right.''

Kanaan has raced here five times and never started worse than fifth. Since crashing out while leading near the midway point in 2002, his rookie year, the Brazilian has always finished in the top eight, with a second-place run in 2004.

``He seems to be fast, patient, consistent and knows how to make it to the end of the race,'' Hornish said. ``But he hasn't had that little bit of Indy luck that you need to get to victory lane.

``It's not always about how good you are.''

No one knows that better than Michael Andretti, who has come agonizingly close to joining his father, Mario, as an Indy winner. Michael, who came out of retirement last year at 44 to race against his then-19-year-old son, led with four laps to go before being passed first by Marco and then by eventual winner Hornish.

``I've never been able to get to that 500th mile without a problem,'' Michael said. ``Maybe there's a scenario there, yet. I was thinking it was there last year. It almost worked out. But, that's the only reason I'm back this year. I think I can win this race.''

Knowing his car owner's history here, Kanaan says he can't complain that he hasn't won yet at Indy.

``Yes, I've been close a lot of times. ... But that doesn't mean anything. It's got to be your day, and Sunday could be my day.''

Wheldon, who has won two of the four IndyCar Series events this year, came into the month as the likely favorite. But, after he and teammate Dixon were the fastest early, they faded back into the pack.

That could be a good thing.

``If you're not driving as fast as the guys in front, you're not using as much fuel,'' the Englishman said. ``And sometimes, it can come down to fuel strategy.''

It definitely could come down to fuel mileage this year after the IRL switched to all-ethanol fuel, which burns hotter, makes less horsepower and produces better mileage.

Honda regained some of the lost horsepower by changing from 3.0 to 3.5-liter engines, and the IRL cut the fuel cell from 30 to 22 gallons. Another factor that could change strategies is Honda's decision to limit the in-cockpit fuel adjustments to two settings, meaning drivers won't be able to use it to save fuel.

``To save fuel this year, they're going to have to take their right foot off the pedal, and drivers hate to do that,'' said IRL president Brian Barnhart. ``But it should make things even more interesting.''

So, too, could Tomas Scheckter and Scott Sharp, starting 10th and 12th. Scheckter, son of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, finished fourth in 2003 and is always fast. Sharp, now with Rahal Letterman Racing, finished seventh and ninth the past two years.

Sunday's race also will include three women for the first time.

Patrick, who created a whirlwind of publicity by leading laps and finishing fourth - both firsts for a woman - in 2005, is part of the Andretti Green Racing juggernaut and has an outside shot at a win.

Sarah Fisher, the fastest female qualifier at Indy in 2002, is back for her sixth race and will start 21st. Milka Duno, a 35-year-old rookie from Venezuela and the least experienced driver in the lineup by far, will start the second race of her IndyCar career from 29th, the middle of the 10th row.

``I am so excited about this, but I know the most important thing is to not get so excited I make a mistake,'' Duno said. ``I will try to learn and stay out of trouble.''

The field also includes three other former champions and a third Andretti.

Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indy winner, will start 16th; Buddy Lazier, the 1996 winner, will start 22nd; and two-time winner Al Unser Jr., (1992 and 1994) will start 25th.

``I can never put aside what has happened in my life, good or bad, but I'm back at Indy, ready to race,'' said Unser Jr., best known in recent years for alcohol-related problems. ``I probably won't win, but we're capable of having a good day.''

John Andretti, a member of another of Indy's most famous families, will start 24th in his seventh 500 but first since 1994.

Andretti, who finished fifth here in 1991, has been racing in NASCAR in recent years. He said it felt a little strange getting back in an IndyCar after such a long absence.

``The cars are real different inside,'' Andretti said. ``There's different knobs and levers and stuff. But, once I got back on the track, it all fell back in place.''

The drivers up front are hoping everything falls into place for them Sunday.

``The real race usually starts after the last pit stops,'' Hornish said. ``And things can get real flip-flopped, like we saw last year in the last 10 laps. You have to think about yellows that come out, who has pitted, who is saving fuel and who is willing to gamble.

``Nobody knows what is going to happen, but the most important thing is to be there at the end.''

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Choosing a favorite in 91st Indy 500 isn't easy

This is one of the worst 500's betting wise I have seen in a long time.  :-","xx

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

Start Your Engines

Helio Castroneves captured the pole for this year's Indianapolis 500. 
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) -After a long three weeks of preparation and qualifying its time to get down to actual racing. Eleven rows of three cars will squeeze onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and begin to accelerate down the front straight for 200 laps and a chance at immortality.

If you win the 91st running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," your name and likeness are forever enshrined on the Borg-Warner Trophy. You are seen on every television station and highlights of your win are seen around the world.

Last year, Sam Hornish Jr. won the race to highlight his career. Yes, he had already won two IndyCar Series championships, but it wasn't until he won Indianapolis that his resume was complete.

The victory by Hornish Jr. wasn't assured until he crossed the finish line.

Hornish Jr. got past Michael Andretti and on lap 198 of 200 and took a shot in turn three for the lead. But rookie Marco Andretti got to the corner first and Hornish Jr. fell back about six lengths.

"I thought that it was over when I didn't get by him in (turn) three," said Hornish Jr.

The three-time IndyCar Series champion gathered up his Penske Honda and made one last effort. He closed onto Marco Andretti's bumper as they entered the final two turns. Marco was still ahead as they came out of turn four and could see the finish line and the last "yard of bricks."

Hornish Jr. made one last move on the inside and got alongside Marco Andretti as they neared the checkered flag. Hornish Jr. edged Marco to the finish line and earned his first Indy 500 victory.

"I thought I had it," said a disappointed, but proud Marco Andretti. "I don't know where that speed came from, I guess they were saving it."

"He (Marco) had a heck of a ride and no matter what happened he should be proud of that," said Hornish Jr. of the 19-year-old Marco Andretti.

Its now one year later and hopefully this year can be just as exciting.

This year it appears that three teams have cars good enough to win the race.

Certainly Dan Wheldon and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team have the speed. The Englishman has already won twice this year and led a total of 483 out of 700 laps. Wheldon's teammate Scott Dixon is second in the standings with two second and two fourth-place results.

In third place is two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. He owns a win at St. Petersburg and four top-10s. His teammate and defending champion Hornish Jr. is sixth overall.

Last year Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi dominated the series winning 12 of 14 races and combining for 47 top-10s.

The newest challenge to their dominance is from Andretti Green Racing. After a relatively non-competitive 2006, the team is rebounding well and has been right in every race.

Dario Franchitti is fourth in the championship which includes three top-fives. One of his teammates at AGR, Tony Kanaan, is fifth in the standings and won at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Kanaan is the same driver that dominated the series in 2004 winning three times, collecting 16 top-10s (out of 16) and completed every single lap. So the talent behind the wheel is still there. Danica Patrick is the third member of the team and eighth in the championship. The fourth and member of AGR is of course Marco Andretti. They also have a "one-time only" member for this race - owner Michael Andretti.

Michael still dreams of winning the "500" as a driver. He has won it as an owner, but the "driver" it him believes he can still win the one title that has eluded him.

"I'm really excited about our chances," said Michael Andretti, who will compete in his 16th Indy 500.

Since Mario Andretti won the "500" in 1969, members of the Andretti family including his son, Michael and grandson Marco, have had 50 unsuccessful tries at winning the title.

"In 1992 I think I led 170 laps and with 10 laps to go the drive belt on the front engine broke and that was it," Michael Andretti said. "I was just cruising, I was literally coasting, trying to bring it home. I had a lap lead. It wasn't my day."

Maybe this Sunday will be Michael's day.

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

Kanaan is ready to win first Indy 500
May 25, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Tony Kanaan can't be bothered with the past. He just wants another shot at winning the Indianapolis 500.

``I don't want to waste my time thinking what can go wrong,'' Kanaan said Friday after leading the traditional one-hour ``Carburetion Day'' practice with a fast lap of 225.467 mph. ``I'd rather think about what I can do to have the best race I can have.''

Kanaan will start between pole-winner and countryman Helio Castroneves and Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti in the front row Sunday, and he's considered by many the best of at least 11 top contenders in the 91st edition of the 500.

``You have to just try to be there at the end,'' the former IndyCar Series champion said. ``We have a good car, but it's a long race.

``Winning might happen, or it might not happen. That won't be the end of my life. If it happens, fine. If it doesn't happen, how many drivers can say they almost won this race?''

That includes Kanaan, who after crashing out in 2002, finished second in 2004 and third in 2003. He added finishes of eighth and fifth the last two years.

``Really, the only near miss I had was in 2002, though, when I was in the lead and gone, and I spun in (Bruno) Junqueira's oil when they didn't throw the yellow fast enough,'' said Kanaan, making his sixth start on the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

``The other ones, I was in position and I had a bad stop and they didn't, or I went through traffic a little slower than they did. That's just facts. You can't blame anybody.

``You try to learn, but there's so many things that are not under your control that it doesn't matter.''

Two-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves said he believes his old friend will finally get that big victory soon.

``I always want to beat him, and, if I don't win, I want my teammate to win,'' said Castroneves, referring to Sam Hornish Jr., who gave Team Penske and owner Roger Penske his record 14th Indy win last May. ``But, I want Tony to win, too. He deserves it, and he's probably going to be one of the drivers who will be there at the finish.

``There are drivers here at Indianapolis who just don't seem to get the luck, like Michael Andretti. But you never know when it will be your day, and you have to just keep making your chances.''

All 33 starters made it onto the track Friday, with Franchitti a distant second to Kanaan on the speed chart at 223.807, followed by Andretti at 223.575 and Castroneves at 223.527. Hornish was seventh.

Among other top contenders, Scott Dixon and 2005 Indy winner Dan Wheldon were sixth and 13th, while Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti were eighth and 11th.

``Speed wasn't that important today,'' Wheldon said. ``You just need to do a systems check and make sure everything is OK. You can't really make substantial changes from this point on. It's just a matter of fine-tuning what you've got.''

The slowest driver in the final practice was rookie Milka Duno, one of a record three women in the field. Her fast lap of 211.658 was nearly 6 mph slower than the next slowest car of Roberto Moreno at 217.133.

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Re: INDY 500 News and Notes

Andretti-Green Paces Carb Day
Pete Pistone
Managing Editor

INDIANAPOLIS - If there was any doubt about who the powerhouse team is at this year's Indianapolis 500 was, Friday's final practice session should answer those questions.

The Andretti-Green Racing Team swept the top three spots on the speed charts with Tony Kanaan the fastest of all during Carb Day final practice for the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan was nearly two miles per hour faster than anyone else Friday, with his AGR teammates Dario Franchitti and Michael Andretti rounding out the top three.

The top spot of the day made Kanaan a happy man.

"Because I'm a fan of the speed," said Kanaan, after running a 225.467-mph fast lap. "The speed will bring the spotlight."

Kanaan's AGR teammates weren't too shabby.

Franchitti turned a lap of 223.807 and Andretti, the co-owner of the Andretti-Grean Racing operation who came out of retirement again this year to run the 500, was next at 223.585.

Kanaan believes Friday's performance is another example of his team's strength.

"We work really well together," Kanaan said, "and it's being proven."

Teammate Franchitti was pleased with the day's outcome, which for the most part was a quiet warm-up for Sunday's race.

"For us, it was a very uneventful Carb Day," Franchitti said. "We'll have a good day for most of the month and Carb Day will throw us a curveball and we'll have to start changing the car. But not this year, it was a very good Carb Day. The car feels good and runs quick so I'm very happy with that. If I can do my job on Sunday, I'll be quite happy."

We still feel like we've got a good race car and feel like we have a good starting point for how we need to be on Sunday," Andretti said.

Polesitter Helio Castroneves had the fourth best time of the day at 223.527 mph.

Jaques Lazier rounded out the top five at 223.468 mph, a great sign for the low-budget Playa Del Racing team.

"We don't have the budget the bigger teams have for wind-tunnel testing as well as other forms of testing, it's three times the budget ours is for the month of May," Lazier said. "We have the potential for a strong race but luck has to go our way. If everything goes our way, our equivalent of drinking the milk would be a top-10 finish."

Last year's winner Sam Hornish Jr. was seventh at 222.981 mph with Danica Patrick next at 222.862 mph.

Hornish looks for back-to-back wins on Sunday.

"I feel pretty good about the race setup on the car," Hornish said. "In final practice today, we were able to run in traffic and now we just have to see how things play out during the race. There are a lot of fast cars out there but I'm excited for the race and I think we have a definite shot at earning a second Indy 500 win.

"It's not always the fastest car that wins the race, it's the driver who plays it smart and brings it home at the end."

Sunday's 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 will take the green flag at 12 noon ET.

www.racingone.com

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