This year’s Indianapolis 500 will be the first since 1987 that will have two drivers — Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske — try to become four-time winners of the world’s greatest race. But one of those competitors, Franchitti, insists that the chance to make history isn’t causing him or his Honda-powered team to sweat.
“There’s no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field,” the defending “500” champion said on Friday, which saw him post the ninth-quickest time at 227.080 mph in the final practice session before tomorrow’s Pole Day activities (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).
“Doesn’t make you any faster. Doesn’t make the team work any harder. It’s simply, right now, about the mechanics trying to put ourselves in a position to challenge on Race Day — trying to make sure the Target car is fast [and] consistent. And then try and qualify well, ourselves — as I say, when we put ourselves in that position, go race and see how it all works out. Do the best job we can on that day.
“There’s no more pressure. It’s a great position to be in, trying to win that fourth one.”
Franchitti has already cemented himself as one of the greatest to ever run at the Brickyard, but as he tells it, the more often he competes in the “500,” the more it means to him. As one of just 67 winners in the race’s history, he recognizes the special tradition of the race and the enormity of being alongside the likes of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Rick Mears as past Indy champions.
In summary, the experience never gets old for him.
“Each time you come back here you just — it gets deeper, deeper,” he said. “It’s such a great event. You think what a challenge it is to race here, to try to win. People take most of their life to try to compete in this race. It means so much to all involved. It’s a special place.
“It’s a great, great feeling to win it. It hurts like hell when you don’t.”
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.