IRL: Indy 500: History read to be made

History ready to be made at 87th Indianapolis 500. INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 28, 2003 -- The potential for an unprecedented addition to the fabled history of the Indianapolis 500 is one of the many highlights of the 87th running of the ...

History ready to be made at 87th Indianapolis 500.

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 28, 2003 -- The potential for an unprecedented addition to the fabled history of the Indianapolis 500 is one of the many highlights of the 87th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" this year.

In the 86 years that a "500" has been contested, none of the 680 drivers that have started the race have been able to accomplish what Helio Castroneves can do this year in the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25. Opening Day is Sunday, May 4.

Castroneves will attempt to become the first driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500 three consecutive years. Only four other drivers, Wilbur Shaw (1939-40), Mauri Rose (1947-48), Bill Vukovich (1953-54) and Al Unser (1970-71) have won consecutive races, but none managed to win three years in a row.

Castroneves, who drives the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Toyota/Firestone, has driven a Dallara chassis in the first three IndyCar Series events this year but participated in a private test April 22-23 at the Speedway with a Panoz G Force chassis. The team has entered both chassis for the "500," and Castroneves could end up driving either one of them on Race Day.

Penske Racing, the team for which Castroneves drives, also would gain a three-peat at Indy if Castroneves wins. Team owner Roger Penske has won 12 "500s"and won consecutive races four times (1984-'85, '87-'88, '93-'94 and '01-'02), but has never won three races in a row. Only owner Lou Moore has won three in a row, winning in 1947-48 with Rose and in 1949 with Bill Holland.

While Castroneves and Penske have a chance to put themselves in the record books, certain names that are carved in Indy history will be at the Speedway this May.

Of those names, none are bigger than Andretti, Foyt and Unser. The Indianapolis 500 entry list will feature all three of those famous names for the first time since 1993.

The Unser banner is being waved by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who will attempt to qualify for his 16th Indianapolis 500, driving the No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. It was 20 years ago that Unser started fifth and finished 10th as a rookie at Indy. Since then, in addition to his two wins, he has scored seven top-five finishes at the Brickyard.

One of the drivers that will challenge Unser is rookie A.J. Foyt IV, driver of the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone and grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. The younger Foyt, who will turn 19 on Race Day, won the 2002 IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship. If Foyt qualifies, he will be the youngest driver in the history of the race.

Michael Andretti, driver of the No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, has led 398 laps in 13 races at Indy, the most of any driver without a victory. Andretti co-owns his team, Andretti Green Racing, and would like nothing better than a victory in his final race before retiring as a driver.

Andretti Green Racing fields cars for Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and rookie Dan Wheldon, driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Franchitti will miss the 87th Indianapolis 500 after he suffered a fractured back while riding his motorcycle April 4 in his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. Robby Gordon, who competes full time in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, was named April 25 as a replacement for Franchitti. He will drive the No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Gordon will attempt to compete in the "500" and the Coca-Cola 600 Winston Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., on the same day. He pulled off "the daily double" last year, finishing eighth at Indianapolis and 16th at Charlotte. Tony Stewart also did both races in the same day in 1999 and 2001, and John Andretti was the first to achieve the feat in 1994.

Kanaan suffered a radial fracture in his left arm in an accident while racing for the lead with Scott Dixon in the Indy Japan 300 on April 13, but team officials are hopeful that he will be able to qualify for the race on Pole Day, May 10.

Another huge story for May 2003 is the depth of the field. Drivers entered in the 87th Indianapolis 500, have accounted for 159 IRL or CART wins, 12 IRL or CART championships and eight Indianapolis 500 wins. Teams that have entered cars for the "500" have tallied 19 Indianapolis 500 wins and 27 IRL or CART championships.

Besides Castroneves and Unser, former winners include 1990 and 1997 winner Arie Luyendyk, driver of the No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, 1999 winner Kenny Brack, driver of the No. 15 Rahal/Letterman/Miller Lite/Pioneer Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier, driver of the No. 91 Hemelgarn/Life Fitness/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

This will be Luyendyk's first IRL IndyCarTM Series start since he finished 16th in the Michigan Indy 400 in July 2002.

Brack and Lazier are both IRL IndyCar Series champions, with Brack winning in 1998 and Lazier in 2000.

Other former IndyCar Series champions include 1999 champion Greg Ray, who is entered in the No. 13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone and 1996 co-champion Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Sharp won the Indy Japan 300 on April 13 at Twin Ring Motegi, the last race before the "500." He also leads the IndyCar Series point standings, 106-102, over Kanaan.

Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, is hoping to find success at Indianapolis in 2003 after three years of tough finishes. Hornish has finished 24th, 14th and 25th, respectively, in his three career starts at Indy since 2000.

Hornish will have a teammate for the "500," joined by 1998 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner Billy Boat, who is entered in the No. 98 Pedigo Chevrolet Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Former CART champions in the field include Unser, who won titles in 1990 and 1994, as well as two-time champion Gil de Ferran (2000-01), driver of the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Toyota/Firestone. De Ferran suffered a concussion in March at Phoenix in an accident during the Purex Dial Indy 200. He was replaced at Motegi by Alex Barron, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Co-Rookie of the Year.

Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART champion and seven time "500" starter, was named as a teammate to Brack on April 24. He is entered in the No. 19 Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which won the race in 2000 with Juan Pablo Montoya, has entered cars for Tomas Scheckter, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Co-Rookie of the Year, and "500" rookie Scott Dixon, who won the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dixon and Scheckter will race the No. 9 and 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone cars, respectively.

Dixon, who was involved in an accident with Kanaan at Motegi while racing for the lead, suffered multiple fractures in his right hand. He is expected to drive during the month of May.

Mo Nunn Racing has three cars entered for the "500," one for two-time winner Luyendyk, as well as cars for 2001 IRL Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone and "500" rookie Tora Takagi. Giaffone, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, won at Kentucky in 2002, while Takagi, driver of the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, spent two years competing in Formula One.

The "500" takes place on the same weekend that female golfer Annika Sorenstam will compete in a PGA event against an entirely male field. While new for Sorenstam, it will be nothing new for Sarah Fisher, driver of the No. 23 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entered by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Fisher has competed against men since she first entered the IndyCar Series in 1999 Fisher's teammate and team co-owner, Robbie Buhl, is entered in the No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. He has won two career IndyCar Series events.

Other veteran drivers entered in the race include Jaques Lazier, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. He won at Chicagoland Speedway in 2001. Shigeaki Hattori, driver of the No. 5 EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, made his first "500" start in 2002 and finished 20th.

Rookies eligible for the prestigious Bank One Rookie of the Year title include Wheldon, Dixon, Takagi and Foyt, as well as four other drivers. Vitor Meira is entered as a teammate to J. Lazier and will drive the No. 22 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. He captured the MBNA Pole for the season-ending Chevy 500 in September 2002 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Buddy Rice will drive for Red Bull Cheever Racing, which is owned by 1998 "500" winner Eddie Cheever Jr., who has decided not to participate in the race this year to concentrate on his various businesses. Rice, who finished second in his first IndyCar Series race in July 2002 at Michigan, is entered in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Tony Renna will team with Sharp and Unser to round out a three-car team for Kelley Racing. Renna competed in six races for the team last year, scoring four top-10 finishes, including a career-best fourth at Michigan and is entered in the No. 32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

Roger Yasukawa, driver of the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, will attempt to make his first "500" start with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. Adrian Fernandez, a co-owner with the team, competed at Indy in 1994 and 1995.

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TV, radio: The 87th Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC at noon (EDT), with the pre-race show beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT) May 25. ABC Sports has broadcast the Indianapolis 500 since 1965 and live since 1986. It's one of the longest-running relationships between a sporting event and a network.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, in its 51st year, will broadcast the Indianapolis 500 worldwide to more than 550 affiliates at noon (EDT), with the pre-race show starting at 11 a.m. (EDT).

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Tickets: A limited number of reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Indianapolis 500 remain available. General admission and reserved tickets for practice, qualifications and Race Day can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

-ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Tony Stewart , Tomas Scheckter , Robby Gordon , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Al Unser Sr. , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Chip Ganassi , Bill Vukovich , Roger Penske , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing