Who Can Win “The Most Important Race In History”?

SPEEDWAY, IN: Featuring the tightest field ever, the 2011 Indy 500 may well be “The Most Important Race in History”. But, who are the true contenders for victory?

Row 1
1. Alex Tagliani: Due to the IRL/CART split, this fast French-Canadian didn’t make to Indy until 2009. That’s a shame, because many of us felt that “Tags” would really light-up the old Speedway if ever given a chance. It may well be that his time has come to do just that this Sunday.

2. Scott Dixon: Probably the man to beat, Dixon dominated in 2008, and appears to be poised to do it again. If he jumps out in front at the start, look out. Everyone else could be in for a long day.

3. Oriol Servia: Finally; Mr. Servia has a car worthy of his talents. Smart and savvy, Oriol is probably the best dark horse pick in the field.

Row 2
4. Townsend Bell: Another great dark horse choice, Bell should be doing this full time. Perhaps, after Sunday, he will be.

5. Will Power: Is Power ready to win on an oval? Oh, hell yes! Probably should be considered co-favorite along with Dixon.

6. Dan Wheldon: Our 2005 Indy winner seems to have a special flair for the Speedway. Should run with the leaders all day.

Row 3:
7. Buddy Rice: Is the 2004 “500” champ a bit rusty? Maybe, but it would be a big mistake to write him off. A great long shot bet.

8. Ed Carpenter: The Speedway seems to be Ed’s best track. Should be in the lead pack, with a podium finish a definite possibility.

9. Dario Franchitti: Can Dario win his third Race from ninth? Absolutely! Betting against him could be expensive.

Row 4
10. Takuma Sato: This F-1 vet has had a rocky start to his IndyCar career. But this time things could be different. He’s a true racer.

11. Vitor Meira: Here’s a guy that’s paid his dues. He’s had a great month, and may be ready to give AJ the day he’s been waiting for.

12. JR Hildebrand: A rookie with a strong Indy team, JR will be going to school for 500 miles on Sunday.

Row 5
13. James Hinchcliffe: There seems to be something special about this rookie. If he ends up running with the leaders, don’t be surprised.

14. Bertrand Baguette: Probably no one was expecting his stellar performance this month. Better keep an eye on him Sunday.

15. Davey Hamilton: The “old man” should be the field’s sentimental favorite. If anybody deserves a good day, it’s Davey. It could happen.

Row 6
16. Helio Castroneves: Helio hasn’t shown much this month. Is there a problem? If he can find the lead pack, he should contend for victory.

17. John Andretti: What a great guy. And what a great chance he’s given himself to have a big day Sunday. This could become a really big story.

18. EJ Viso: This guy is a loose cannon. But, every now and then, even a loose cannon fires a straight shot. A true long shot.

Row 7
19. Justin Wilson: This great road racer is due to have a great oval performance. A top five is a real possibility. But, don’t bet the farm.

20. Jay Howard: The 2008 Indy Lites champ appears ready for his first “500”. Getting off to a good start will be key.

21.Tomas Scheckter: Talk about promises unfulfilled. Tomas is an old school leadfoot, and could have a big surprise ready for Race Day.

Row 8
22. Tony Kanaan: Like Scheckter, TK will be charging. Watching the two of them in the early laps should be worth the price of admission.

23. Simona de Silvestro: If a lady ever wins the “500”, my money’s on Simona. Maybe not this year, but someday. A very brave human.

24. Paul Tracy: Paul’s Indy career has been, well, weird. When he’s hot, he’s hot. When he’s not, it can get ugly. Who knows?

Row 9
25. Danica Patrick: Danica will need some luck to get to the front this year. With NASCAR calling, will this be her last “500”? Stay tuned.

26. Ryan Briscoe: After his Pole Day crash, Ryan could be on “double secret probation” with Team Penske. He better get it right Sunday.

27. Marco Andretti: The world has been waiting a while for a stellar showing from Mario’s grandson. Here’s another chance to impress.

Row 10
28. Charlie Kimball: Rookie Kimball has the might of Team Ganassi behind him. Is it enough? Probably not.

29. Graham Rahal: A true talent, Bobby’s kid has a big hole to dig out of on Race Day. But, this guy may provide a big surprise.

30. Alex Lloyd: A great performance on Bump Day got him in the field. Alex surprised with a 4th place in 2010, and should be fun to watch.

Row 11
31. Pippa Mann: An obvious talent, this lady rookie has a lot of potential. The learning curve is steep, but she can do it.

32. Ana Beatriz: Ana has shown flashes of brilliance, but she has a hard day at the office in front of her Sunday. Maybe next year.

33. Ryan Hunter-Reay: Bumping Bruno Junqueira out of his Foyt ride is not the way earn a Indy 500 starting spot. Hang your head, Ryan.

For the first time in years, there seems to be a good chance that 2011 could be the year of the “Big Upset”. If it happens, it should be just what the doctor ordered to focus more attention on the Memorial Day Classic. As one of our heroes, Chris Economaki,once said, “I just hope we see a good race”.

Here, here.

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