Will either of the offshoots of the two dominant teams – Alex Lloyd in a joint venture between Ganassi and Sam Schmidt, or Raphael Matos in Jay Penske’s Luczo Dragon entry – stun the field? Will anyone beyond the fifth row – Dan Wheldon, perhaps, or Townsend Bell, Robert Doornbos or Scott Sharp – get in position to win?
“There are so many things that can happen,” Castroneves says, still arranging bacon bits on one side of his plate. “There is so much you can do in terms of strategy, yet we’re all in the same equipment. If you’re going to try to save fuel, how are you going to do that effectively if everybody else has the same car and engine? You have to become creative with your strategies. Sometimes being creative pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re fast but conservative, you might run up against the guy that wasn’t as fast but took a chance.”
It’s not likely that Castroneves will be conservative. Since his return to racing after the conclusion of his tax-evasion trial, the Brazilian has been hell on wheels, qualifying eighth at Long Beach in April, then coming from the back of the field to finish second at Kansas a week later. While the numbers point in his direction, so too do the intangibles. As many have said in the weeks leading up to this 500, Castroneves just might be the luckiest man alive.
On Friday, minutes after he’d been told by his sister, Kati, that federal prosecutors had dropped the one charge on which the jury had deadlocked, essentially clearing them both completely, Castroneves strapped into his No. 3 Penske Dallara-Honda and recorded the fastest lap of the day.
“This has been the best month of my life,” Castroneves exclaims. “I can’t begin to thank everyone enough for what has happened this month. I’m blessed in every way.”
If all continues to go his way Sunday, he'll be one step away from Indy immortality.
Jeff Olson is a senior writer for RACER magazine