The 500, Run on the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S.
heartland, is a uniquely American event unapologetically billed as
"The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and this year the famed Brickyard
is poised to deliver on the high-octane hype.
While the Monaco Grand Prix may be the most glamorous race, the Indy
is the most heart-stopping with 33 cars cheered on by nearly 300,000
spectators and charging at hair-raising speeds around an oval that
could hold Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman
Colosseum and still have room to spare.
On Sunday, the Brickyard will serve as the first leg in a dizzying
motor-racing doubleheader that will see Busch take on two of the
most treacherous circuits in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and
Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The 2004 NASCAR Cup champion's day will begin with a 500-mile dash
at the Indy followed by a flight to Charlotte for a 600-mile stint
behind the wheel in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.
Only four drivers have attempted the treacherous high-speed
endurance test and Tony Stewart is the only one to complete the
1,100-mile Memorial Day double having finished sixth at the Indy and
third in Charlotte in 2001.
"It's not like I'm putting my career or my credentials on the line
to prove anything," said Busch, who qualified a respectable 12th on
the grid and is the first driver to attempt the double since Robby
Gordon in 2004.
"This is a moment to moment to check off something on my bucket list
but also challenge myself to see where I can end up in this open
wheel rank at one of the most difficult races in the world."
Jacques Villeneuve has won just about everything there is to win in
an open-wheel race car, including the 1997 Formula One drivers crown
and the 1995 Indy 500, but it has been nearly two decades since the
Canadian blitzed his way onto Victory Lane and he returns to the
Brickyard searching for a bit of Indy magic.
Villeneuve will be joined on the starting grid by Colombian F1
alumni and 2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, defending
champion Tony Kanaan and three-time winner Helio Castroneves, the
latter who is bidding to become part of the Brickyard's most
exclusive club - four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500.
Membership is made up of the three giants of American motor sport -
A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears - and would welcome its first new
member since 1991 if Castroneves can find his way to Victory Lane on
Sunday and chug on the traditional of quart of cold milk that goes
to the winner.
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"Just thinking about it, joining the club only three guys, it's a
dream," said Castroneves.
Last year four women featured on the 500 starting grid but there
will be a noticeable lack of girl power on Sunday when the green
Danica Patrick, the only woman to win an IndyCar race and lead a lap
at the 500, has long departed for NASCAR while Switzerland's Simona
de Silvestro is testing with Sauber and poised to make the jump to
Others like Brazil's Ana Beatriz, Britain's Katherine Legge and
Venezuelan Milka Dunno have simply fallen by the wayside leaving
Pippa Mann to carry the woman's standard.
"It's actually a little strange, I'm use to seeing a few other women
out here," said Mann, who will be participating in here third Indy
500. "From that respect it's a little odd, a little strange but once
we put the helmet on we're just another driver out there."
Local boy Ed Carpenter will start from the pole for the second
consecutive year driving a car sponsored by another Indianapolis
sporting great in former Masters and U.S. Open champion Fuzzy
Zoeller and his company Fuzzy Vodka.
Starting alongside Carpenter on the front row will be Canadian James
Hinchcliffe and Australian Will Power.
Castroneves will launch his bid for a fourth Indy 500 win from
inside Row Two alongside Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, a winner of the
inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix earlier in the month, and Marco
Andretti, who will try to become first member of the Andretti clan
to win here since his grandfather Mario in 1969.
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