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Franchitti, Castroneves seek Indy 500 history

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Follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Both are shooting for fourth victory

Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 1:33 am

INDIANAPOLIS -- Veteran racer Dario Franchitti understands the concept, once made famous by actor Clint Eastwood, that a man has got to know his limitations.

Veteran racer Helio Castroneves understands the power of humor and sex -- or, perhaps, the lack of sex.

Such are the possibilities of Sunday's potential history making Indy 500.

Let's start with limits.

Franchitti is big on the history of auto racing in general, the Indy 500 in particular. He understands the advantages today's cars have over roadsters from 50 years ago, when speed and death battled for front-page news.

Racing legend A.J. Foyt, when asked about the possibility of Franchitti and Castroneves joining him, Rick Mears and Al Unser as the race's only four-time winners, said that the younger drivers wouldn't last five laps driving a roadster, a front-engine car that thrived at the Indy 500 during the 1950s and '60s.

“I'd like to see one of them drive a roadster and win a race, and then we'll see what we have in common,” Foyt said with a smile.

“They're good racecar drivers with the equipment they're in. They need to get in a roadster with cement tires and see how good they stick in a corner.”

Franchitti wasn't about to argue.

“It's a completely different skill set to drive a roadster than what I have,” he said. “I have total respect for anybody who drove one. I have maximum respect. It took some serious (guts) to drive a roadster.”

You might think, with four IndyCar driver titles and three Indy 500 wins, that Franchitti has all the guts he needs.

Not exactly.

“I talked with (1963 Indy 500 winner) Parnelli Jones about racing them,” Franchitti said, “and what he went through with them. About learning to pitch them and race sideways with them. I don't know that I would last five laps in one.”

Flash over to Castroneves, the perpetually smiling Brazilian nearly as famous for the Dancing with the Stars prowess as his racing achievements. He was asked, during a radio interview on Detroit's Stoney and Bill show, if he would give up sex for another Indy 500 victory.

“I think I can handle one year without sex,” he said, “because Indy is Indy.”

So now you know.

This is the first time since 1987 that there have been two three-time winners in the race.

“What an incredible opportunity,” Castroneves said.

Franchitti has won three of the last five Indy 500s, including last year, and one of those he didn't win was because of his one year failed attempt at NASCAR.

Castroneves last won in 2009 to match his efforts from 2001 and '02.

They are, in almost every way, the glamorous face of open wheel racing. Castroneves has that Dancing With the Stars title. He loves to drive very new, very fast, very expensive cars such as Porsche and Lamborghini. Franchitti prefers such old classics from Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. He was married to actress Ashley Judd before the couple divorced earlier this year.

How do Franchitti and Castroneves compare?

“Helio is Helio,” veteran driver Ryan Briscoe said. “How you can compare him to anybody? You can't.

“It's no fluke their both three-time winners here. That's one common ground they have. Their attention to detail is amazing. That's what makes them so good here. They're both so precise. They're great students of the sport. There is something to learn from both of them.

“I wouldn't be surprised it both of them were four-time winners by the end of their careers. Each of them deserves to be in that category.”

Castroneves, who drives a Chevy powered car for Team Penske, seems to have the best shot on Sunday. He qualified eighth at 227.762 mph. He is listed as a 7-1 co-favorite along with Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter, although perhaps the biggest obstacle might be James Hinchcliffe, who has won two of this season's four races.

Castroneves and Team Penske also won Friday's 12-team Pit Stop Challenge, edging Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing 14.475 seconds to 14.854 seconds in the finals. It was Castroneves' sixth Pit Stop Challenge victory and Penske's 14th. Both are records.

Team Penske won $50,000. Ganassi Racing won $15,000.

Franchitti had been concerned that his Honda powered car was so out-matched by Chevy powered cars during last weekend's qualifying. The top 10 cars, and 13 of the fastest 15, all had Chevy engines. He qualified 17th with a four-lap average of 226.069 mph.

But Friday's practice session -- he was the sixth fastest -- left him optimistic. Teams were allowed to switch to fresh engines for the race. Honda engineers worked hard to close the gap with the Chevys. Last year Honda had a similar problem during qualifications, but made up enough ground for Franchitti to win the race.

“Last year we had an even bigger deficit,” he said. “Now we've got a car we can fight with. We're in the fight."

Fight or not, fast cars, Castroneves said, don't always guarantee a victory.

“It doesn't matter if you have the fastest car,” he said “You need everything going right for you.”