"Get your 14-inch cooler ready: May is here and it’s just about time to head to the track to watch teams and drivers prepare for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500. With only one new name joining familiar veterans and all entries running identical Honda engines in the same Dallara chassis they’ve used for several years (except for a couple Panoz chassis in the lineup), it might appear that there’s nothing new to see. But despite the potential for new speed records, there will still be plenty of heat generated on the 2.5-mile oval this year.
Race month kicks off on May 6 with A.J. Foyt Opening Day, marking the legendary four-time winner’s 50th year at the track. May 6 also begins the two-day Rookie Orientation Program.
This year’s rookie crop is a field of one: Milka Duno, Venezuelan sportscar driver, in the CITGO Racing entry. Duno’s resume includes an impressive list of accomplishments, most recently driving a Daytona Prototype in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. Having already made history as the first woman to win overall in a major international sportscar race in North America, Duno will again rewrite the record books when, for the first time ever, three women compete together in the Indy 500.
In addition to the three-way female brawl between Duno, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick, other on-track battles to watch unfold include a repeat of the father-son inner-team rivalry between Michael and Marco Andretti; boys from Brazil Tony Kanaan (Japan race winner, second in the points standings*) at Andretti Green Racing and Team Penske’s fence-climbing Helio Castroneves (St. Pete winner); and Target Chip Ganassi Racing stablemates, series points leader Dan Wheldon and third-place Scott Dixon.
Penske driver Sam Hornish could surprise with a repeat victory and AGR’s Dario Franchitti has the ability, if seldom the luck. Dark horses include the tempestuously talented Tomas Scheckter in one of Vision Racing’s four entries; Delphi Panther’s demure Vitor Meira; journeyman Darren Manning in Foyt’s lone entry; perennially predictable Scott Sharp for Rahal-Letterman Racing; and Dreyer & Reinbold’s all-American Buddy Rice.
Think you could do better? Slide into the cockpit of an IndyCar Series car with Sinden Racing’s Indy Racing Experience for a dose of reality. Be a passenger in the two-seater or take the wheel in a genuine single-seater car. Both are available May 14-15 and 21-22. Call (888) 357-5002 for more information about the drive-around program.
*Editors note: This article went to press before the Kansas race; therefore, points standings may have changed.
Rookie Orientation: May 6-7, gates open 9
Practice: May 8-10, gates open 9
Fast Friday Practice: May 11, gates open 8
Pole Day: May 12, gates open 7
Qualifying: May 13, gates open 8
Practice: May 16-18, gates open 9
Qualifying: May 19, gates open 9
Bump Day: May 20, gates open 7
Community Day: May 23; gates open 9; driver autograph session 3
Carb Day: May 25, gates open 8; pit stop challenge 1:30, Kid Rock concert 3:30
Race Day: May 27, gates open 6