What’s in a number: Six past winners go for another win in this year’s Indy 500

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It goes without saying that much of the Indianapolis 500 is predicated upon numbers.

There’s the fastest speed, the quickest time, how many hundreds of thousands of fans are in the stands and so much more.

As qualifying for the 102nd Running of the Indy 500 takes place this weekend, there’s one other key number for fans to keep in mind: the number “six.”

As in the number of past Indy 500 winners likely to be part of the 33-driver field for the May 27th Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Consider this: nearly one-fifth of the lineup for next Sunday’s big race has previously reached victory lane, drank the celebratory bottle of milk, wore the horseshoe of flowers around their neck and became members of arguably the most exclusive club in motorsports: Indy 500 winners.

And some more than once – as many as three times, in the case of Helio Castroneves, who makes his ninth consecutive try to tie A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for the most career Indy 500 wins (four).

Each of the other five former 500 winners in this year’s race have won it only once.

However, here’s another key number to keep in mind: 8, the number of combined wins by the six drivers in the last 17 editions of the 500, nearly a 50 percent showing.

And if you add the number of combined runner-up finishes between the six prior 500 winners, it’s six – meaning these six drivers have either won or finished second in 14 of the last 17 500s.

Who will potentially add to that win or runner-up total in this year’s race?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the six former 500 winners and their history in the big race:

Helio Castroneves

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 3 (2001, 2002, 2009)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 17 (2001 through 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 2nd (2003, 2014 and 2017)

Takuma Sato

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 1 (2017)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 8 (2010 through 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 13th (2013 and 2015)

Alexander Rossi

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 1 (2016)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 2 (2016, 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 7th (2017)

Ryan Hunter-Reay

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 1 (2014)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 10 (2008 through 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 3rd (2013)

Tony Kanaan

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 1 (2013)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 16 (2002 through 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 2nd (2004)

Scott Dixon

* Number of Indy 500 wins: 1 (2008)

* Number of total Indy 500 appearances: 15 (2003 through 2017)

* Next-best Indy 500 finish: 2nd (2007, 2012)

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