clear
Tuesday June 27th, 2017 10:11AM

Young drivers could create changing of guard at Indianapolis

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles walks a fine line each May.

Like many longtime Indianapolis 500 fans, Boles reveres the history of the race. As a promoter, he also understands the series needs new blood to expand the fan base and help the 500 keeps its title as the world's largest single-day sporting event.

So as the 2.5-mile oval revs up for its second century of racing, it may the perfect moment to transition from familiar fan favorites to the next generation of winners.

"What makes this place special is the history and the tradition. But what will make it better going into the future are the future winners and a lot of them are young," Boles said last week. "The young drivers are our future."

There are plenty of reasons to catch the new wave.

Alexander Rossi, age 25, is trying to become the first American to win back-to-back 500s since Al Unser in 1970-71.

At age 26, American Josef Newgarden might have his best shot at reaching victory lane. He's coming off a career-best finish of fourth in the points in 2016 and has teamed up with three-time 500 champion Helio Castroneves, defending series champion Simon Pagenaud and 2015 Indy pole winner Will Power on Roger Penske's powerful team. Newgarden already has won at Birmingham this season.

James Hinchcliffe gained some new fans from his offseason appearance on "Dancing With The Stars" but would prefer to complete his comeback from a life-threatening injury two years ago with a win at the Brickyard.

Marco Andretti will again try to break the family's Indy curse. His father and team owner, Michael, led more laps than any other non-winner of the race. The 30-year-old's grandfather, Mario, won once in 29 starts, in 1969.

Graham Rahal has two top-five finishes in nine Indy starts, and a victory would allow the 28-year-old to join Unser and Al Unser Jr. as the only father-son winners of the race. Rahal's father and team owner, Bobby, won in 1986.

Even the 32-year-old Pagenaud, the current points leader, is a relatively new face to IndyCar fans. He's only had five full seasons in the circuit and will try to defend s IndyCar Grand Prix title in Saturday's race.

Boles has his own personal connection with his 25-year-old stepson, Conor Daly, trying to make his fourth straight 500 start.

It's a crucial month for the IndyCar Series, one that could signal a changing of the guard.

"It could be," Boles said. "It's the young drivers that connect you to race fans. But it's a fine line to walk."

Here are some other things to watch this month:

ALONSO BUMP

Race organizers found the perfect solution to re-create the energy surrounding the 100th race — adding two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso to the lineup for No. 101. Alonso passed his rookie test last week then returned to his native Spain where he is scheduled to race this weekend in F1. When the 2.5-mile oval opens for practice Monday, Alonso, will be back in town, chasing the second jewel in racing's triple crown. He can't wait.

"I remember coming here, I think it was 2004, the first year that I raced here, and, yeah, I was taking pictures of the entrance for the Speedway. You know capital of the world, motorsport," Alonso said. "So it's a special place for motorsport in general. To race here in May on the Indy 500, it feels quite a big thing."

SIX PACK

Andretti Autosport is really pushing the limits in Gasoline Alley. In addition to the team's four full-time drivers — Rossi, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato — Michael Andretti has added Alonso and Jack Harvey of Britain to compete in the May 28 500. The biggest challenge may be finding pit crews and spotters for all six cars.

MILESTONE MOMENTS

Castroneves, of Brazil, will make his eighth attempt at a record-tying fourth 500 win. His current drought is the longest of Castroneves' Indy career. He won his first two races (2001 and 2002), finished second in his third (2003) and won again in 2009. New Zealand's Scott Dixon, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, has quietly moved into fourth on the series' all-time victory list. If he sweeps the two Indy races, he'll tie Michael Andretti for No. 3 in career wins (42).

TICKET SALES

Boles said tickets are selling at the second-best pace the track has had in 20 years, trailing only last year's historic race. Nobody expects another sellout, but Boles believes the fans who attended last year's centennial race were so impressed that many are coming back.

___

More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Auto Racing, Formula One Racing, Indy Car Racing
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Young drivers could create changing of guard at Indianapolis
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles walks a fine line each May
4:11PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Comey sought more Russia probe resources before firing
U.S. officials say that before his firing, FBI Director James Comey told congressional lawmakers he had asked the Justice Department for more resources to pursue the bureau's investigation into Russia's interference in last year's presidential election
3:57PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Pelosi pushes for special panel on Russia probe
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is threatening to use a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote on a bill that would create an independent panel to investigate possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials
3:55PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Los Angeles Olympic dreams might be delayed to 2028
Los Angeles Olympic organizers are putting their plans on display at a time of uncertainty in the race for the 2024 Games
3:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
Wife of ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman dies in crash
The wife of longtime ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman has died in a traffic crash in Connecticut
2:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Ousted FIFA ethics prosecutor: 'Several 100 cases' ongoing
Ousted FIFA ethics prosecutor says "several hundred" cases of wrongdoing in soccer are ongoing
2:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Stenhouse scores 1st career Cup victory with last-lap pass
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used a strong Ford engine to blow past Kyle Busch in overtime at Talladega Superspeedway for his first NASCAR Cup victory
8:34PM ( 2 days ago )
Earnhardt flirts with pole before Stenhouse steals show
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the favorite to win at Talladega Superspeedway and he will start 2nd in Sunday's race
6:33PM ( 3 days ago )
Aric Almirola wins Xfinity Series race at Talladega
Aric Almirola has earned the third Xfinity Series race of his career by holding off a hard-charging pack in the closing laps at Talladega Superspeedway
4:35PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Online Auto Racing
Fugitive Red Bull heir flew to Singapore before court date
Thai authorities who've issued an arrest warrant for Red Bull heir accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident flew from Bangkok to Singapore two days before he was supposed to appear before prosecutors
5:38AM ( 1 week ago )
Bottas beats Vettel in Russian GP for 1st F1 win
Valtteri Bottas claimed his 1st Formula One win on Sunday after holding off a late charge from Sebastian Vettel in the Russian Grand Prix
11:41AM ( 1 week ago )
Bottas beats Vettel for 1st F1 win in Russia
Bottas holds off late charge from Vettel at Russian Grand Prix for his 1st victory
9:57AM ( 1 week ago )
Formula One Racing
Hinchcliffe grabs 1st victory since near-fatal 2015 accident
James Hinchcliffe raced to his first victory since his near-fatal accident in 2015 by hanging on in a three-lap shootout to the finish Sunday on the streets of Long Beach
10:17PM ( 1 month ago )
With Texas changes, 6-time winner not even a NASCAR favorite
Jimmie Johnson says it's like NASCAR is coming to Texas for the first time after track changes
8:12PM ( 1 month ago )
Bourdais wins IndyCar opener in St Petersburg in major upset
Sebastien Bourdais has pulled off a big upset in the IndyCar season-opener
8:53PM ( 1 month ago )
Indy Car Racing
Comey sought more Russia probe resources before firing
U.S. officials say that before his firing, FBI Director James Comey told congressional lawmakers he had asked the Justice Department for more resources to pursue the bureau's investigation into Russia's interference in last year's presidential election
3:57PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Pelosi pushes for special panel on Russia probe
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is threatening to use a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote on a bill that would create an independent panel to investigate possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials
3:55PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Environmentalists triumph as Senate upholds drilling rule
Environmentalists notched a rare win in the Republican-led Senate Wednesday as a GOP effort to reverse an Obama-era rule restricting harmful methane emissions unexpectedly failed
3:49PM ( 29 minutes ago )
'Perfect Storm' ship sunk, becomes part of artificial reef
The ship made famous in the book and film "The Perfect Storm" is about to be intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef
3:43PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Rising political star deals fresh blow to French far-right
France's youngest lawmaker has delivered a fresh blow to the party led by her aunt, failed presidential candidate Marine Le Pen
3:37PM ( 40 minutes ago )