Indianapolis 500 preview
The 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 gets underway at noon.
The voice of the race - WTHR's own Sports Director Dave Calabro - reckons there are a solid 14 or 15 drivers who have a strong chance at the trophy today. We asked him about his top three picks on Eyewitness News Sunrise this morning.
"Marco Andretti's kind of become the buzz over the past 24 hours. Everybody's talking about...he's due. The Andrettis are due. It's been 44 years since Grandpa won and Michael of course dominated - he had about three or four chances; he could have won this race, so I would say I like Marco today; Dario Franchitti - everybody's saying they've been sandbagging so Dario, if you're watching, we know you've been sandbagging! We'll see if we can have a four-time winner today. It's been 22 years since we've had a four-time winner," said Dave.
Ed Carpenter on the pole is "fantastic. What he's been able to do, this being his tenth year at Indianapolis and now we'll watch Ed Carpenter charge. Let's hope it's a fast, clean race."
Carlos Munoz, a young, very aggressive driver, starts in the middle of row one, something that Dave is curious to see. "I got a 21-year-old...I know how aggressive he is!" said Dave.
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Harbaugh drives pace car
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has a simple goal for driving the pace car at the Indianapolis 500: Don't screw it up.
Harbaugh will lead the field to the green flag to start Sunday's race, so he's been getting coaching from three-time winner Johnny Rutherford.
It will be Rutherford who gets behind the wheel for all of the in-race cautions.
Harbaugh has a long history at Indianapolis. He was playing for the Colts in the mid-90s when he was bitten by the racing bug, and a few years later helped form Panther Racing. They'll have JR Hildebrand and Townsend Bell in the field on Sunday.
As he heads into his first career Indianapolis 500, AJ Allmendinger is being mentioned as one of the race favorites.
The Indy 500 rookie qualified fifth for Sunday's race, ahead of Penske Racing teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. His car has been so dialed-in that Power even used Allmendinger's setup for his own qualifying run.
Allmendinger left open-wheel after his five-win 2006 season to join NASCAR. He bounced around with a handful of teams before landing last year at Penske Racing in the best job of his life. But a failed drug test got him suspended and Penske fired him. Yet it was Penske who has given him a second chance with this IndyCar opportunity.
Munoz isn't the only young driver looking for a win. Noblesville native Conor Daly is a rookie this year. He starts 31st.
"It's cool. This isn't a support race. This is the big show so I made it here and I just hope I can have many more in the future!" he said.
Conor says he's had "like 20 text messages this morning from everyone saying good luck, we'll be watching from somewhere out there. I know my family's here and a lot of my friends. I just have to thank everyone for coming up and enjoying this greatest spectacle in racing."
Conor is driving for racing legend AJ Foyt.
"He's been awesome. He's a great guy. I've learned so much from him. He's been really supportive of our program throughout the last two weeks. I'ts an honor to drive for him. We'll just have to do everything the best I can at the race and be there at the end."
Also driving for Foyt is Japanese driver Takuma Sato, who is in his first season with Foyt's team. Sato will start on the outside of the sixth row in Sunday's race. And just like the owner of his modest program, Sato has built a rock star following in IndyCar with his dramatic moves, audacious passes and daring mentality.
Lazier's car named "Spirit of Oklahoma"
Buddy Lazier's car in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 has been officially re-named to honor the victims of last week's deadly Oklahoma tornado.
Lazier Partners Racing Inc. says the No. 91 was renamed the Spirit of Oklahoma, paying tribute to those affected by the tornado that killed 24 and injured many more. Team co-owner Bob Lazier says the move was intended to honor the "unyielding human spirit" displayed in Oklahoma this past week.
The team also urged people to donate to the Red Cross. Lazier won the 1996 Indianapolis 500.