INDIANAPOLIS - One-for-67. Or .015.
That’s the batting average, if you will, for anyone named Andretti in the Indianapolis 500. That’s Mario (1-for-29), sons Michael (0-for-16) and Jeff (0-for-3), nephew John (0-for-12) and grandson and current hope Marco (0-for-7).
It’s a slump for the record books. It’s even far below the so-called “Mendoza Line,” named for former shortstop Mario (!) Mendoza, who gained fame as a notoriously poor hitter – lifetime average of .215, with a few seasons quite a bit below that mark.
That’s not to say the Andretti family hasn’t knocked it at least to the warning track or had a few home runs taken away. For example:
· Michael led the most laps at Indianapolis with never winning (431); by comparison, Rick Mears led 429 laps in racking up an unsurpassed four victories
· Mario started from the pole and led 170 of the first 177 laps in 1987 before being sidelined by – what else? – mechanical failure
· Michael led late in both the 1991 and 1992 races before being passed (1991) and having his car break down (1992)
· Marco, depending on how you view the finish of the 2011 race, is the only person to be passed for the lead coming to the checkered flag
In the face of all these facts, it would seem prudent to pick someone other than an Andretti to win Sunday’s 97th Indianapolis 500.
Sunday’s race appears to be the most wide open in years. The fact that Ed Carpenter, with his own one-car team, won the pole underscores that.
Still, Andretti, who has his best Indy start at third, is the pick. He usually runs well at the Brickyard – he led the most laps in last year’s race (59) – and appears to have added a larger dose of maturity and a more professional approach to his craft this season.
“Indy has always been an ultimate goal of mine,” Andretti said earlier this month. “I think it's always been a realistic goal. So we just need to capitalize on it.
“Unfortunately I already have a similar record to dad, which is the most laps led for a non-winner. That part of it's frustrating.”
· James Hinchcliffe: Winner of two races this season will use disappointing qualifying result as extra motivation
· Ryan Hunter-Reay: Reigning series champion starting to figure out Indianapolis
· Helio Castroneves: Three-time winner knows time is running out to get record-tying fourth Borg-Warner Trophy
· Scott Dixon: The modern Al Unser: Consistent, smart and runs all day
Wouldn’t be a huge surprise
· Ed Carpenter: Not satisfied with pole; wants victory, too
· Dario Franchitti: Can’t discount him, but has been off since Indy triumph a year ago
· Will Power: Fast in practice, has had bad luck on race day
· Takuma Sato: A.J. Foyt’s best chance since Kenny Brack more than a decade ago
· Tony Kanaan: Along with Carpenter is the people’s choice to win
Could happen, but would need some breaks
· AJ Allmendinger: Fast car, but rookie at Indy
· Graham Rahal: Miserable month but experienced team will help him race day
· Justin Wilson: Good driver, but are team resources stretched too far?
· Josef Newgarden: Has star potential, needs to show patience
· J.R. Hildebrand: Is he the new Scott Goodyear/Roberto Guerrero/Kevin Cogan destined to be haunted by the one that got away?
· Alex Tagliani: Solid driver and team
· Ryan Briscoe: Has something to prove after losing IndyCar ride - again
· E.J. Viso: Fast, but reputation of a crasher
Best of the rest
· Oriol Servia: Solid veteran whose team likely to fold after the 500
· Sebastien Bourdais: Former CART star hasn’t done much since split ended
· Simona de Silvestro: Much expected of popular driver
· Carlos Munoz: Rookie has been big surprise this month with No. 2 starting spot
· Buddy Lazier: 1996 winner remains a fan favorite
· Townsend Bell: Steady competitor
· Simon Pagenaud: Going through sophomore slump after fine rookie season
Rounding out the field
· James Jakes: Steadily improving driver
· Conor Daly: Son of former IndyCar and Formula One driver Derek Daly
· Charlie Kimball: Had some good runs last season
· Sebastian Saavedra: Finished 20th and 26th in two previous starts
· Katherine Legge: Nice job to get last-minute ride into field
· Tristan Vautier: Rookie has shown promise
· Ana Beatriz: Average finish of 22nd in three previous starts
· Pippa Mann: Finished 20th in only other Indy start three years ago
Photo credit: Forrest Mellott/Indianapolis Motor Speedway