Thursday, May 21, 2015

INDY 500: Who's Really Had the Most Entries at Indianapolis?

The late ex-Ferrari F1 driver Michele Alboreto at the wheel of one of Team Scandia's IRL racecars at Las Vegas Speedway, circa 1996; Photo by David Taylor. (Image source:
Did I really only enter five cars or was I-T six? 'Whale Dooze Yuh Feel 'Rucky Mikey A', Dooze Yuh?

While Cliff Durant was the first to enter five cars twice, circa 1923-24, and Lou Moore put together his four car Blue Crown Spark Plug team,  capturing a Hat-trick of Borg Warner trophies between 1947-49, which I labourisly chronicled in;

Nonetheless, whilst Messer Durant may have had eight cars under the Durant Banner (name) in 1923, only five were entered by him and thus, Andy Evans is  the current record holder for single entries by a team owner, a feat which probably won't be beaten anytime in the foreseeable future, if ever...

Longtime CART Team Owner Dick Simon sold his operation to Seattle's Andy Evans during the 1996 season, with Evans Team Scandia setting a record with the most entries ever by a single team, with seven cars making the 80th running of the Indianapolis 500, utilizing a variety of year-old chassis, i.e.; Reynard and Lola's powered by either Ford Cosworth XB's, Ilmor/Mercedes V-8's or the Menard, nee Buick V-6, all three powerplants being turbocharged.

As 1996 was the Indy Racing League's debutant Indy 500, and with TG's insistence of being BOSS! After hastily creating his own series to play in his family's Sandbox, the die was cast for the infusion of new talent in what forever will be known as "The Split!"

Team Scandia's roster was comprised of five-rookies: two ex-Formula 1 drivers, one Sports Car Ace, one ARCA driver with an unique name, one teenage Mexican and one Super Modified star.

The team leader most likely was Eliseo Salazar, better known as "Greazy 'Ol Salad Bar!" As Eliseo and Alessandro Zampedri were the only two "Veterans" on the squad, as Zampedri would finish highest with a fine fourth place finish, while Salazar came  home sixth, the only two Team Scandia drivers finishing in the Top-10.

Yet since I didn't watch the race, vehemently Boycotting 'lil Napoleon, aka Tony George and his infamous 25-8 rule, being a CART Diehard, I had NO idea that apparently Team Scandia team-mates Zampedri and Salazar, along with Roberto Guerrero were involved in a last-lap crash which caused  Zampedri to suffer serious injuries!

No. 7, Eliseo Salazar; No. 8, Alessandro Zampedri;  
No. 22, R-Michele Jourdain, Jr.; No. 33, R-Michele Alboreto; No. 34, R-Fermin Velez; No. 43, R-Joe Gosek; No. 90, R-Racin Gardner.

For '97, Team Scandia slimmed down to only five entries before silently leaving the sport after '98, before another team would pick up the mantle of routinely entering five cars at Mother Speedway.

Michael Andretti and his Andretti Green Racing (AGR) squad first accomplished running five entries at Mother Speedway in 2006, with Michael coming out of retirement to race with his son Marco, making his rookie debut at the Brickyard, along with team regulars Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan. Where Marco almost made history with that electrifying runner-up finish!

For '07, Michael made his final drive at the Speedway, before retiring permanently from the cockpit. With son Marco, Franchitti and Kanaan along again with new team member Danica Patrick replacing Bryan Herta.

As how can Y'all forget Ashley Judd skipping to her... Down Pitlane to greet then Hubby Dario in victory lane, scoring Andretti Green Racing's second Indy 500 win,  after the late Dan Wheldon's first triumph in 2005.

Then five years ago, in 2010, AGR's "Fab-5' consisted of Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay and John Andretti in the Richard Petty racing alliance.

Twenty-twelve's five car armada was actually a three team, or was it two team affair, as the now renamed Andretti Autosport ran its three primary cars of Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. While AFS/Andretti had Sebastian Saavedra and Andretti Conquest had 'BIA, aka Ana Beatriz in single team entries.

For the first time in eternity, Andretti Autosport's quintet included reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay sporting the No. 1 plate, with EJ Viso, Marco Andretti, rookie R-Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe as his "Wingmen." As the soft spoken Columbian Munoz was an electrifying runner-up en route to winning Rookie Of the Year (ROY) honours.

Last year, the B-I-G' NEWS at AA was the addition of 'RASSCAR's BAD BOY Kurt "F BOMBS R-US" Busch, who'd ultimately be named ROY with his fine sixth place finish. While the rest of the team remained intact with RHR, Marco Andretti, Munoz and thee Mayor 'O Hinchtown (Hinchcliffe) rounding out this gaggle 'O Andretti cars, with Ryan Hunter-Reay securing Michael Andretti's third Borg Warner trophy in that most exciting last lap pass!

And as Y'all surely know by now? This year's Indy 500 field will see Andretti Autosport once again lead the way with five entries for: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and part timers Simona de Silvestro and Justin Wilson.

Then in the race to lock-up Chevrolet's last engine Dealio, as both GM and Honda will only supply 17-engines apiece for this year's Indy 500. Surprisingly 'Cheep! (Ganassi) outflanked Kevin "Smiley Face" Kalkhoven and "Top Jimmy's" (Vasser) push for this final turbo 'lump... As Ganassi for the first time ever will run five cars at Mother Speedway, with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Sage Karam and Sebastian Saavedra.

As apparently Chip has decided to one-up his fiercest competitor El 'Capitano, nee Roger Penske, who As we all know has bulked up to four full-time entries for the first time ever in Team Penske's storied history.

Hence, seemingly now, three car teams have become de riggour for the Month 'O May, as the likes of 'Ol SuperTex (A.J. Foyt) Dale Coyne, the "smiley-Jim Alphabet Soup Kalkhoven-Vasser conglomeration, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and CFH Racing teams all feature three cars apiece for the 500-race.

While Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will campaign a somewhat paltry two car squad at Indianapolis, with Bryan Herta Autosports, Dreyer & Reinbold and Lazier Partners Racing being the only single car entrants.

As the one-car teams seem somewhat quaint in this era of multi-car teams, which benefit from extra Data acquisition and economy of scales, as I'm not sure when the last true one-car operation won the Indy 500?

As even though the economy's improving, right? Nevertheless, I don't expect to see anybody, even Mikey A' daring to break Andy Evans record of seven entries at Mother Speedway anytime soon! Although I believe this will be the first time ever two teams have entered five cars apiece...