Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who will win the Indianapolis 500 pole?

I'm not going to make any predictions.

That's because I'm usually wrong and in trying to pick a pole-winner since 1978 (when I was a smart-alec kid in high school), I've only got about three or four right. No use in trying to look foolish here.

In some ways picking the pole sitter for the Indianapolis 500 should be easy--think Penske or Ganassi, but once in awhile a real dark-horse comes through--think Teo Fabi in 1983, however watching the run for the pole is anything but dull.

As of this afternoon, the fastest on the track has been, surprise, a Penske-owned car, but it wasn't two-time race winner, one-time dance king and current IRS champion Helio Castroneves. It was his new teammate, Australian Ryan Briscoe in a Dallara-Honda, and he clocked in at a 225.981 clip around the famed two-and-a-half mile oval.
But Castroneves, driving the sister car was just a tick behind at 225.438 mph.

Put don't put your money on those two just yet. As if it couldn't get any more fun, two former champions are third and fourth with 2007 champ Dario Franchitti third fastest and last year's milk drinking Kiwi, Scott Dixon fourth.

Everyone's favorite Go-Daddy girl and Kathy Ireland wannabe, Danica Patrick is out to try and make history by being the first woman on the Indianapolis 500 pole and she's got a great chance to do so as she had the fifth fastest speed at 224.755 mph.

Still care to make a prediction?

Not me, especially when you have seven more drivers who worked the track in excess of 224 mph. This bunch included the grandson of 1969 champ Mario Andretti (Marco), another former Indy 500 winner with Dan Wheldon, and the heir-apparent to the late, great Lloyd Ruby in that he should have won at least won race, Tony Kanaan. Throw in Graham Rahal, the son of 1985 champ Bobby Rahal and you have the makings for one of the more exciting pole runs in recent seasons.

And for good measure lurks one guy who said he was robbed of victory in his last outing, who wants to make amends. Paul Tracy, the thrill from West Hill, Ont. is making his Indianapolis 500 comeback, seven years after he took a controversial second place behind Castroneves at the 2002 race.

Tracy is never one to be shy about his status and is unquestionably the Ric Flair of the IRL.

"(The fans) either love me or hate me. I have a polarizing effect on people," Tracy said. "But there was a lot of fan support today, a lot of well-wishes, a couple birds, but in general it was 98 percent to the good, so I was happy about that."

Or maybe with the weather conditions being so unpredictable in Indiana (especially in May), there could be that unknown driver who has the qualifying run of his life. Could someone like Mario Moraes, Raphael Matos or E.J. Viso become the next Teo Fabi?

Don't bet against it.

I won't, but then again I won't be betting for someone either. This isn't Vegas, it's Indy, and even when I'm in Vegas, I don't bet. Instead I'll just sit back at the Speedway press center and watch.

And let you guys make the predictions.

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