IRL: Indy 500: Thirty-five entries set for May event

Castroneves, Unser, Penske Aim For More Glory at Indianapolis Thirty-five entries, 67 cars set for 88th Indianapolis 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 7, 2004 - Helio Castroneves and Al Unser Jr. will attempt to become members of an elite club...

Castroneves, Unser, Penske Aim For More Glory at Indianapolis
Thirty-five entries, 67 cars set for 88th Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 7, 2004 - Helio Castroneves and Al Unser Jr. will attempt to become members of an elite club during the 88th Indianapolis 500 - three-time winners of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Castroneves and Unser are the former winners among the 25 drivers named to the 35 entries filed for the Indianapolis 500 on May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those entries include 67 cars. The 10 entries without drivers are expected to be filled as May approaches.

The 88th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. (EST, local time) Sunday, May 30 and will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. Opening Day is Sunday, May 9, with Pole Day Saturday, May 15.

Gil de Ferran won the race last year for Marlboro Team Penske in his final Indianapolis 500 start, as he retired after the Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series season.

Castroneves or Unser can become just the ninth driver in the history of the race, which started in 1911, to win at least three times. Castroneves won in 2001 and 2002, while Unser captured the Borg-Warner Trophy as winner in 1992 and 1994.

2003 MBNA Pole winner Castroneves will drive the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone for Marlboro Team Penske. He has finished first, first and second in his three career Indy starts since 2001, all with Penske.

Unser will attempt to make his 17th start at Indianapolis in the No. 20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. It will be his first start of the season and first in the IndyCar Series for Patrick Racing and team owner U.E. "Pat" Patrick.

Patrick-owned cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982 with driver Gordon Johncock and in 1989 with driver Emerson Fittipaldi after a stirring duel with Unser.

While Patrick Racing will aim for its fourth victory at Indianapolis, Penske Racing looks to continue its recent dominance of the event and extend its all-time mastery of the historic 2.5-mile oval.

Penske Racing has won a record 13 Indianapolis 500's, including the last three in a row. In fact, Marlboro Team Penske has won the last five Indianapolis 500-Mile Races in which it has competed - 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Roger Penske also is attempting to become the first team owner to win the race four consecutive years.

Marlboro Team Penske entered six cars this year, with two Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entries for Castroneves, two Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entries for teammate and two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and two Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone entries for a driver to be named later.

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing and Team Rahal also each entered six cars spread over three entries. This is the largest Indy entry ever for Team Rahal, co-owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal and late-night television icon David Letterman.

2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter will drive the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for Panther, with rookie Mark Taylor as his teammate in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. A driver will be named for the No. 44 Pedigo Chevrolet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entered by Panther.

Buddy Rice leads Team Rahal's charge into Indy, driving the No. 15 Rahal-Letterman Argent/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone. Roger Yasukawa will drive the No. 16 Rahal-Letterman Racing Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, while a driver will be named for the No. 17 Rahal-Letterman Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone.

Andretti Green Racing entered eight cars over four entries, more than any team this year. Current IndyCar Series points leader Tony Kanaan will drive the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing, co-owned by former Indianapolis 500 standout Michael Andretti.

Also driving for Andretti Green are Bryan Herta in the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 2003 IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Dan Wheldon in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone and Dario Franchitti in the No. 27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon leads defending series entrant champion Target Chip Ganassi Racing into Indianapolis. Ganassi won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 with current Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel.

Dixon will drive the No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, with rookie Darren Manning as his teammate in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Dixon is one of four IndyCar Series champions named to drive entries this year at Indianapolis. Others are Hornish (2001-2002), Kelley Racing's Scott Sharp (1996) and Access Motorsports' Greg Ray (1999).

Other interesting storylines this year include the return of another team with a rich history at Indianapolis, a wide-ranging rookie class and introduction of new engine and aerodynamic rules.

Newman Haas Racing will compete in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 1995, fielding a single entry of two cars. The driver will be named soon.

The team, co-owned by Carl Haas and Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman, has competed in 13 previous Indianapolis 500-Mile Races with such drivers as Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Paul Tracy.

Five rookies were named to entries.

2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Taylor and Red Bull Cheever Racing's Ed Carpenter both have experience racing at Indianapolis, as they competed in the inaugural Futaba Freedom 100 last May. Carpenter won the race, while Taylor finished third.

Marty Roth will climb from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series to make both his Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series debut in the No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Roth, 45, is the oldest rookie in the field and will attempt to become the second-oldest rookie to start the race.

Roth also plans to race in the Futaba Freedom 100 on Saturday, May 22, becoming the first driver to compete in two races in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Other rookies named to entries are Manning with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Kosuke Matsuura with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing.

The rookies will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program on Monday, April 26 at the Speedway.

New engine and aerodynamic rules for the IndyCar Series will be introduced at the Indianapolis 500. The new aero package, featuring a quarter-inch center-line vertical wicker bill, a reverse quarter-inch wicker on the bottom side of the rear wing and curved skid plate on the cars, and smaller, 3.0-liter engines will reduce speeds and enhance safety.

There is excellent balance among the three IndyCar Series manufacturers among the entries, as 22 cars have Toyota power, 21 will use Chevrolet engines, and 20 will have Honda engines. The engine selection for the remaining four cars will be named later.

Indianapolis Star Opening Day for the 88th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 9. IndyCar Series practice continues daily through May 14, with MBNA Pole Qualifying on Pole Day, Saturday, May 15. Second-day qualifications take place on Marsh Second Day Qualifying/Armed Forces Day, Sunday, May 16.

There will be no track activity May 17-18, but practice will resume Wednesday, May 19 and continue through Saturday, May 22. Bump Day, the dramatic final day of qualifications, is scheduled for Sunday, May 23.

No track activity is scheduled May 24-26, but 500 Festival Community Day and the popular public track laps, garage tours and drivers autograph session are scheduled for Wednesday, May 26.

Miller Lite Carb Day, the final day of track activity before Race Day, is scheduled for Thursday, May 27. The crucial two-hour final practice for the starting field will kick off the day, followed by the Checkers/Rally's Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge. The Miller Lite Carb Day Concert - free with Carb Day admission to the track - will take place that afternoon with Blues Traveler as the headline act.

The public drivers' meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 24, followed by the 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis.

The 40-lap Futaba Freedom 100 is scheduled for Saturday, May 22 for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Practice for the Freedom 100 takes place Thursday, May 20, followed by practice and qualifying Friday, May 21 and the race at 1 p.m. (EST, local time) May 22.

Tickets: Tickets are available for the 2004 Indianapolis 500 on May 30. For information, log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or call the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske