Why she'll win: Patrick is well positioned to make history on Sunday and become the first female to win America's most important race. She's on an elite team (Andretti-Green Racing), her teammates are as open and sharing as any in the sport, and Indy is absolutely her best track on the circuit. Expect her to pit out of sequence near the middle of the race and try to reach Victory Lane on a fuel mileage gamble.
Keep an eye on: Scott Dixon -- Dixon, who starts from the pole, has been the series' most dominate driver this season. Though he only has one win, he's had the fastest car in three races. Plus, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon's team, has been at the top of the speed charts all month long.
Don't expect much from: Anyone who didn't qualify on Pole Day -- When the top 11 spots on the grid are determined. Mark it down: The winner of this race is going to come from the top 11 qualifiers. After all, this is where all the drivers from the sport's three power organizations -- Andretti Green Racing, Target Chip Ganassi, and Team Penske -- will be starting.
My Pick: Helio Castroneves
Why he'll win: He's on top of the standings right now, and he's the only driver in the field with more than one Indy 500 title to his credit. He should dance his way to the checkered flag.
Keep an eye on: Danica Patrick -- She's got some major momentum coming off of her win in Motegi, Japan, and besides ... if you don't keep your eye on her, you'll be about the only one. If she wins, it will be, for better or worse, a huge, huge deal.
Don't expect much from: Marco Andretti -- Patrick's teammate has been frustratingly inconsistent this year, following up good performances with bad ones. Well, he was fifth his last time out, which doesn't bode well for Sunday. The 21-year-old phenom is going to win Indy someday. Just give him a few years.
My Pick: Scott Dixon
Why he'll win: The 2003 IRL Champ and '08 Indy pole-sitter has yet to win the sport's biggest race, but this year looks to be his time. Dixon's practiced well throughout the month of May, and after two consecutive fourth place finishes in '06 and '07, he's learned how to come close at this speedway. Now, it's time to learn how to win.
Keep an eye on: Helio Castroneves -- The two-time Indy 500 winner made waves this week when a story came out he was looking at moving to NASCAR -- a story he quickly denied. But one thing you can't deny is that the Penske cars are bad fast at Indy again -- and after a few years of sour luck, Castroneves is ready to make news on the track as well as off it.
Don't expect much from: Champ Car stars -- None of them qualified in the top 10, and drivers like Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson are still getting adjusted to life on ovals once again. The merger may be a great thing for the sport, but it's going to be another year or so before we see the new teams on a level playing field with the old.
My Pick: Dan Wheldon
Why he'll win: The 2005 winner has been focused and fast all month, unlike last year when he peaked in the first weeks and fell into frustration. He says his team is more focused than any he's ever seen one, even counting the Andretti Green Racing outfit that helped him drink milk the first time. He'll start second and finish first, just ahead of Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon.
Keep an eye on: Ryan Briscoe -- The much-traveled Australian earned his spot at Penske Racing this season by starting seventh and finishing ninth last year in a one-off Indy 500 for Luczo Dragon, owned by Jay Penske, Roger's son. Now he replaces former Indy and Indy Racing League champ Sam Hornish Jr. Not a bad deal.
Don't expect much from: Danica Patrick -- Yes, she finally won an IRL race. Yes, her 2005 gender records for top start and finish -- fourth -- might portend well. But her AGR team just doesn't seem like it can keep up with Ganassi and Penske.
My Pick: Scott Dixon
Why he'll win: Talented driver from Auckland, New Zealand who drives for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing is primed for his first win in the Indianapolis 500. In last year's 500, Dixon joked that he and Dario Franchitti "Invisible Men" of the Indy 500. Franchitti won the race and Dixon was second. After winning the Indy 500 pole for the first time two weeks ago, Dixon has become a "huge blob" on the radar screen. He has been fast all month and sho
Keep an eye on: Tony Kanaan -- Another driver who has yet to win the Indianapolis 500, Kanaan dominated last year's race and was the leader when the race was stopped because of rain after 113 laps. Kanaan has led all six Indy 500s he has raced in and has been in front 202 laps since his arrival in '02. All Kanaan needs to do now is be the leader on the 200th lap.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Briscoe -- He has all the Penske power behind him to get into victory lane but he has to break his streak of bad luck that tends to follow him in the IndyCar Series. The Kansas race last month was the only IndyCar race of the season where he did not make contact with the wall. He was involved in crashes the first two races of the season, although the season-opening incident was not his fault. Briscoe finished fifth at Indy last year driving for Roger Penske's son, Jay. Now that he has moved up to race for Penske, the pressure to produce has also increased.
My Pick: Helio Castroneves
Why he'll win: Castroneves has the speed and, combined with the Penske Racing braintrust led by Tim Cindric, the savvy to deliver the team's 15th Indy victory. The 500 is about execution, too, with its seven pit stops, particularly in a race where every driver will have a Dallara-Honda-Firestone package. Castroneves won back-to-back in 2001 and '02 and was second in '03 to teammate Gil de Ferran. Last year, he had the fastest car on the track at the end of the race, which was ended prematurely by rain. Castroneves will not only climb the fence Sunday, he'll dance as he drinks the milk in Victory Circle.
Keep an eye on: Danica Patrick -- She's broken one barrier this season with her win at Motegi and she has a solid record at Indianapolis -- three top-10s in three starts -- including fourth as a rookie in '05. Patrick has proven she can go the entire 500 miles and now she's got a healthy dose of experience to help her fine tune the car to the ever-changing track conditions at Indy. Plus, she's the fastest qualifier for Andretti Green Racing, one of the race's top-three teams.
Don't expect much from: The 10th row -- Mario Moraes, Enrique Bernoldi and Jaime Camara: None of these drivers or teams have experience in the 500. They're three rookies driving for teams that came over from the Champ Car World Series. Moraes and Bernoldi have two oval starts in their careers, both this year in IndyCar. Camara won at Indy in the IRL's development Indy Lights, but this will be his first IndyCar race. They'll do well to finish without hitting the wall.
My Pick: Helio Castroneves
Why he'll win: Castroneves can more than just dance. He's the only driver in the field with two Indy 500 victories, he's leading the standings and he drives a car owned by Roger Penske. Penske has won this race 14 times.
Keep an eye on: Dan Wheldon -- If Wheldon can avoid the accidents that knocked him out of the Indy 500 early in '03 and '07, he'll likely compete for the win. In between his wrecks, he finished third, first and fourth.
Don't expect much from: The other women -- Danica Patrick has the experience and a strong enough car to compete, but fellow female drivers Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno are facing an uphill battle. Fisher is underfunded and looking for more sponsorship money while Duno just doesn't have enought seat time behind an Indy car.
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