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Now What? The Indianapolis 500

Nick Laham

With the Bruins leaving us all hungry for a little more in the way of sports right now, we reached out to some experts on sports that are still going on. Here is frequent commenter Arenacale, giving us the low-down on IndyCar racing:

So the first thing you have to know about the Verizon IndyCar Series this year is how absurdly competitive it is right now. 4 races, 4 different winners (for 4 different teams!), and a bunch of missed opportunities for guys who dominated early in races and then had various maladies occur to them. Much of this is due to how even the Chevrolet and Honda engines are, two race winners have had Chevies, two have run Hondas.

It occurs to me at this point that some hockey analogies are in order to get everyone familiar with the notable teams and drivers. Points leading Aussie bloke Will Power is kind of like our own Jarome Iginla - a sublime talent who's always at the top but has never brought home the big prize. He's been second in the championship 3 times and is rebounding from a decidedly down 2013. He drives for Team Penske, kind of the Detroit Red Wings consummate powerhouse that also hasn't won the big one in some time. Second in points is Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2012 champion, American hero, the Indy version of Zach Parise. His team is Andretti Autosport, a Penguins style team loaded with talent and run by a legend in the sport. In third is Simon Pagenaud, a fully French Patrice Bergeron with skill, smarts, and personality. He runs for the comparatively small Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, a team that, like the Avalanche, punches far above their supposed weight class. In fourth, again for Penske, is Brazilian Helio Castroneves, the wily, gregarious veteran everyone loves, think Jagr with fewer quirks and more dancing. Rounding out the top five is New Zealand's Scott Dixon, the stone cold killer who makes it look way too easy, kind of like Pavel Datsuyk. He drives for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, usually a steam roller of a program like the Blackhawks have been as of late.

I can go through the rest of the top 10 in the same way - Mike Conway (Ovechkin - he only plays one part of the game), Marco Andretti (Paul Stastny), Justin Wilson (Doan), Tony Kanaan (Selanne), Sebastien Bourdais (Gretzky with the Rangers), and, well, you get the point.

The next race for the series is the biggest of them all, the granddaddy, the motherlode, the Indianapolis 500. It's super intriguing this year for several reasons. The last 2 years at Indy have been NASCAR-style slingshot wars, since the wide haunches of the current car make huge holes in the air to draft in. This has meant ridiculous amounts of passing and winners decided in the last few laps. Then there's the eccentric one-offs that come in to try their luck. 1995 winner and 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve is back in an IndyCar for the first time in 19 years. Former full-timers JR Hildebrand (the crashed in the last turn in the lead guy), Alex Tagliani and Townsend Bell are all back and looking very fast. And there's this Kurt Busch guy who may have won the Sprint Cup in 2004 who is trying to run both the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 in the same day, something that's only been done by 3 other drivers. But most exciting is just how wide open the field is. Through practice so far, there are no clear favorites, and much of the field has had their moments at the top of the speed charts. Literally any of these guys could end up drinking the milk on Memorial Day Eve.

After Indy the series returns to it's usual eclectic self, a wild mix of ovals, street circuits, and road courses that challenges drivers like no other form of racing on the planet. 2 in Detroit (street), Texas (oval), 2 in Houston (street), Pocono (oval), Iowa (oval), 2 in Toronto (street), Mid Ohio (road), Milwaukee (oval), Sonoma (road), and finally Fontana (oval) to close it all out. If you don't like the type of race you're watching just wait a week - it will be something different.

Finally, what makes IndyCar great for the scorned hockey fan is the scheduling - all of those races are in the span of 3 months! The series ends Labor Day weekend, which is just in time to start focusing on training camp and preseason games. Just be prepared - NHL hockey is going to seem kind of slow after watching cars scream around California Speedway at 220 MPH.

Thanks for the heads up, Arenacale!