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2017 Indy 500 Preview: It’s Fernando Alonso Vs. The Field

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The 101st Indy 500 is scheduled for Sunday. Thanks to a very competitive field, this year’s race could live up to the event’s nickname: “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Here’s a preview of the action:

2017 Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, IN | Sunday, May 28 at 11 a.m. (ET) on ABC
Steeped in traditions — the singing of “Back Home in Indiana” before the race; the drinking of milk in Victory Circle; the kissing of the bricks on the start-finish line, and the awarding of the Borg-Warner Trophy — the Indianapolis 500 is arguably the most well-known auto race in America. Thirty-three drivers will attempt to become part of the lore of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on Sunday.

The ‘Rookie’ Driver Getting All The Hype: Fernando Alonso

101st Indianapolis 500 - Carb Day
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More than 30 drivers will start Sunday’s Indy 500, but all of the attention seems to be focused on one: Fernando Alonso. The former Formula One champion skipped this year’s Monaco Grand Prix to race in his first Indianapolis 500. Alonso will become the first active F1 world champion to take part in the “Spectacle.” He will start on the second row — in fifth — as he pursues his first Borg-Warner Trophy. Alonso has talent, experience and a beast of a Honda-powered McLaren car around him. To get the win, he’ll have to outrace Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, J.R. Hildebrand, Ryan Hunter-Reay and many other skilled drivers determined to show that IndyCar racing is on par with F1.

The Defending Champ: Alexander Rossi

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If Alonso does reign over Indy, it will mark the second consecutive year a rookie has won the race. Last year, Alexander Rossi became the ninth rookie to win the Indy 500, strategically not pitting — and therefore seizing the checkered flag just before he ran out of fuel. Rossi will start in third on Sunday. If he can win again, he’ll become the sixth driver to win consecutive Indy 500s — and the first since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02.

The Three-Time Winner: Helio Castroneves

Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix
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Speaking of Castroneves, Helio will start in 19th on Sunday as he chases his fourth Indy 500 win. If Castroneves can race past the field, he’ll join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to win four times. Many pundits seem to have ruled Castroneves out due to his age (42), but Helio’s experience could be the reason he gets to drink the milk for the fourth time.

The Polesitter: Scott Dixon

Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix
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Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon seized the pole with a sizzling speed of 232.164 miles per hour. Already an all-time great, Dixon is having another exceptional year; he’s second in points and he always seems to be in the thick of the action. His 39 career wins and four championships serve as their own qualifier. If Dixon can win Sunday — like he did in 2008 — it will give Ganassi its fifth Indy 500 victory. That would tie them with Lou Moore Racing for second all-time in the team standings — still far behind the 16 victories claimed by Roger Penske drivers over the years.

The Points Leader: Simon Pagenaud

Sonoma Raceway - Day 2
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Reigning points champ Simon Pagenaud leads the current IndyCar points race with 191. Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Castroneves and Will Power round out the top five. Pagenaud will starts 23rd on Sunday, so he must navigate, adjust and overcome traffic to notch his second win of the season — and his first Indy 500 victory.

The Darkhorse: Will Power

Phoenix International Raceway - Day 1
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The wonderfully named Will Power isn’t that much of an underdog, but the top Penske driver has a fast car and an experienced team. Power has already won three poles this season, and he won the Grand Prix at the track on May 13. He’ll start ninth, which puts him in prime position to get to the front of the field early and pull away for good.

Full 2017 Indy 500 Field

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