Southsider Voice correspondent
The field for the 98th Indianapolis 500 is the fastest and closest one ever assembled for the race.
Pole day on Sunday with its Fast Nine qualifying shootout and time trials for positions 10 through 33 produced an average speed of 229.382 mph, breaking the 2002 mark of 228.648.
Only 2.151 seconds separate the four-lap, 10-mile runs of reigning two-time pole winner Ed Carpenter (2 minutes, 35.799 seconds) and the slowest qualifier, 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier (2:37.950). The previous closest field was 2.530 seconds in 2011.
Carpenter is the 11th driver to win back-to-back poles. The front row also features James Hinchcliffe in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, 230.839 mph, and Will Power in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, 230.697.
Roncalli grad in Freedom 100
Beech Grove’s Kyle O’Gara, the developmental driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, will make his second start in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 on Friday.
Competing in the No. 27 SFHRD/RW/Trading Post/FFU entry, the 2013 graduate of Roncalli raced in two Indy Lights events last year and had a top finish of eighth at Fontana, Calif.
Can Busch win 500?
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch has learned fast at the Speedway this month. In attempting to do the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double, he has been fast in practice and qualifying at IMS. Busch starts 12th in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda in his first 500 after averaging 230.782 on his four-lap run Sunday.
Busch and his Andretti team suffered a setback Monday as the car slid up Turn 2 and hit the outside wall. He was not hurt, but his ride was heavily damaged. According to IndyCar officials, the car can be replaced and retain its original starting position.
If all goes as scheduled on race day, Busch would have a three-hour window between the time the 500 ends and the 600 begins. He will utilize a private Cessna jet and helicopters to get from Indy to Charlotte Motor Speedway (North Carolina). He had to shuttle quickly Saturday after qualifying in the early afternoon here before racing in the Sprint All-Star Race at CMS that night.
John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon are the previous drivers to do The Double. Stewart is the only one who completed all 1,100 miles.
Schedule of events
• Today is community day; no race cars will be on the track. Admission is $10; children 12 and under will be admitted free.
• Free admission on Thursday with Indy Lights practice at 9 a.m. and Freedom 100 qualifying at 1:15 p.m. Vintage cars will be on exhibit at 2:30 p.m.
• Coors Light Carb Day runs from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday. Admission is $30 per person, 12 and under free. Final Indianapolis 500 practice is from 11 a.m.-noon; Freedom 100 (40 laps) race at 12:30 p.m.; Pit Stop Challenge at 1:30 p.m.; Sammy Hagar concert at 3:30 p.m.
• Legends day is Saturday, with 1969 winner Mario Andretti being honored; admission $10, children 12 and under admitted free; 500 memorabilia show and vintage race cars; Tyler Farr concert at 5:30 p.m., followed by Jason Aldean; tickets required.
• Race day is Sunday, with concerts beginning at 7 a.m. in the Snake Pit. The Purdue marching band plays “On the Banks of the Wabash” at 10:15 a.m.; LeAnn Rimes sings the national anthem at 11:53 a.m., and Jim Nabors – in his farewell performance – sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” at 12:04 p.m. The race starts at 12:12 p.m. Tickets start at $40; children 12 and under will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult with a general admission ticket.