Over the course of the next 26 letters, we'll travel from Moscow to Hinchtown to Toowoomba. Jim Nabors might even moonwalk, you never know.
Gentlemen, start your thesauruses:
A – Aleshin, Mikhail. What, you thought I'd waste the letter A on Andretti? Aleshin is from Moscow, which means he's one of those foreign drivers old-timers get so riled up over. But Aleshin lives in Indianapolis. So he's a Hoosier? Yeah, my man Mik!
B – Buddy Lazier. The one-time Indy 500 winner is 46 years old and starting from the 33rd spot. He'll set reasonable goals, such as finishing in the Top 32 and remembering to disengage his turn-signal blinker. I'm kidding. Lazier is driving in the Indy 500, so he's still cooler than anyone reading this column. Or writing it.
C – Cuban. No, not the country. We're talking Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He'll wave the flag as honorary starter, and then be fined retroactively by former NBA commissioner David Stern for taunting.
D – Davison, James. This rookie from Australia was educated at Scotch College, where, according to his biography, he “coxed the school's winning rowing crew.” So if it rains Sunday, my money's on Davison.
E – Ed Carpenter. For the second straight year, Carpenter is on the pole. I guess you could say Carpenter is “building” his Indy resume, but only if you like bad puns.
F – Females. The lone female driver in this year's race is actually a Mann. Pippa Mann, that is. According to her website, her biggest obsession is “Trying to stop my hair from going green…” If I remember right, Paul Tracy had the same issue.
G – Gone Daddy. After years of sponsorship of Patrick and then James Hinchcliffe, GoDaddy.com stepped away from the IndyCar Series. That doesn't mean they won't air some risqué commercials that will make everyone uncomfortable during a Memorial Day weekend family barbecue.
H – Hinchtown. Every time I hear James Hinchcliffe is the mayor of “Hinchtown,” I get the song “Funkytown” stuck in my head. If you're not old enough to remember it, that's what the internet is for, dude. It'll take you to…Funkytown.
I – Insight. Driver Townsend Bell spends more time offering insight as an NBC analyst than he does driving. So the question is, will he be asking himself questions while driving this year's race, such as “Seriously, did I just get passed in a Hinchtown alley?”
J – Jim Nabors. He'll sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the last time, but the great news is that 50 years from now his hologram will still be handling the job.
K – Kanaan, Tony. He finally broke his Indy 500 curse with the win last year. If Kanaan can win, surely it's time for Marco Andretti to break his family's curse. If Andretti wins, you read it here first. If not, let's not mention this again.
L – Lonely last place. No one remembers who finishes last, at least that's what 2013 last-place finisher JR Hildebrand hopes.
M – Montoya, Juan Pablo. The last time Montoya drove at Indy, in 2000, he came as a CART driver and dominated the race. Too bad he's stuck this year with some fledgling racing team called Penske.
N – Number, Lucky. Is there a lucky number when it comes to the race? The No.3 car has won 11 times, most recently by Helio Castroneves in 2009. He's No.3 again. Next most is No.2, which Montoya drives. Wait, did Penske buy all the good numbers?
O – Oval. This is the first oval race in the IndyCar Series this season. Anyone who forgets and turns right will be in for a long day in the garage.
P – Piles of cash. Yes, Team Penske (Castroneves, Montoya and Will Power) has a chance to win this race again.
Q – Qualifying changes. This year, Indy officials tweaked the format for earning the pole, capped by a Fast Nine Shootout. The wholesale changes shook up qualifying weekend and radically changed everything so much it produced the same pole winner as last year.
R – Rahal, Graham. He currently drives for a team owned by his dad and David Letterman. I'm pretty sure Stephen Colbert does not inherit the chassis next year.
S – Speed. This year's field is the fastest overall in history (229.382 mph). It might have been even faster, but a couple guys got stuck behind Jim Irsay on the way to the track.
T –Toowoomba. No, that's not a 1990s pop band. You're thinking Chumbawamba, best known for its hit, “Tubthumbing.” (It was a hit, I swear.) Toowoomba is the Australian hometown of Will Power, otherwise known as the only Penske driver without an Indy 500 win…yet.
U – “Uh oh.” Probably not the exact words uttered by Kurt Busch when he wrecked his car during Monday's practice, forcing the NASCAR driver to prepare to run Marco Andretti's backup car on Sunday as he goes for the double this weekend. Also, probably not the exact words uttered by car owner Michael Andretti.
V – Villeneuve, Jacques. In 2007, Villeneuve released an acoustic rock album, “Private Paradise.” Alas, he did not record covers of “I Can't Drive 55,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” or “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
W – “Wide World of Sports.” The spot where ABC first telecast highlights of the Indy 500 in 1965. Today, such condensed highlights can still be found, but “Twitter World of Sports” doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
X – Xfinity TV is one way to catch some auto racing, and even if it doesn't lead to the Indy 500, it's close enough for this letter in the A-to-Z rundown.
Y – Youth. Three rookie drivers this season were born in the 1990s, including 19-year-old Sage Karam, who is inside the last row. Buddy Lazier has sponsor-donated polo shirts older than Karam.
Z – Zamboni. No driver has ever won the race driving a Zamboni. That's a fact.