The Indianapolis 500 has a rich and proud heritage of being an international event.
It's a reputation that dates back to the Indy 500's inaugural running in 1911, when it was promoted as the "International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race" and attracted European drivers and car manufacturers. Frenchman
For most of the 20th century, American drivers dominated the Indy 500, in both victories and starting positions. They won every race from 1921 to the final pre-World War II race of 1941.
Their presence enhanced the 500's reputation and stature on the global stage. They became the standard by which
Fast forward to Sunday's 94th Indy 500. There are nine Americans in the starting lineup of 33 cars, an all-time low. There were 11 last year. They've become a vanishing breed, a trend that can be traced to Brazilian
American drivers have won only seven of the past 21 Indy 500s. Is this a sign that American drivers simply can't compete with the rest of the world anymore?
The answer is a resounding no.
Penske's teams have a staggering 15 wins at Indianapolis, five in the past nine years and three by this year's polesitter, Brazilian
Briscoe was driving for Penske's sports car team in 2007 when he finished fifth at Indy with a team owned by
Ganassi, a five-time Indy starter who ran competitively in the very competitive '80s, has three wins as an owner at Indy, with Fittipaldi in 1989,
Who among the nine Americans have legitimate shots of winning this year's 500?
Bell, 35, finished fourth at Indy last year in a one-off for KV Racing Technology. His only race of the season, Bell was the highest finish in that category at Indy since
Bell, backed by his sponsor Herbalife, has moved to an entry fielded by Ganassi and Firestone Indy Lights team owner
This will be Bell's fourth Indy and he was 10th in 2008 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and 22nd in 2007 with Vision Racing, both midpack teams.
Bell is a former Indy Lights champion and also has driven in the FIA International F3000 series, then Formula 1's top development series, CART's Champ Car and IndyCar. Indy would be his first win in any of them, but it's happened before, notably
Andretti Autosport has four Americans with
"I think we have a really good chance," Carpenter said. "I've been fifth and eighth and we're running with the team that finished second in the past two years. Even though it's a one-off, I have a comfort level with the people involved."
Like every driver, Carpenter wants to win for himself, the team, his sponsors. But he would also like to win for his country.
"Indy racing is home for Americans," Carpenter said. "You want to win for your country. But we have the best drivers in the world who come here to race. It's everyone's main event."