Cheer On Three Northern California Natives at the Indianapolis 500
Three northern California natives, including 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi, will look to drink the milk in Victory Lane following the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis this Sunday.
Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda), a Nevada City native, will look to repeat his victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval this Sunday. Rossi qualified 32nd and will start in the back of the pack in Row 11.
"The NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Honda deserved to be higher up," commented Rossi after qualifying. "I thought we were fighting for a position in Row 4 and we ended up in the last row. We'll look into it, but that's what makes this place what it is. Starting this far back is a new challenge and a new opportunity to show what we can do. I have a lot of experienced people around me who have had a lot of starts here - some at the front, some at the back, so I'll lean on them and we'll go forward from there."
JR Hildebrand (No. 66 Salesforce Chevrolet) of Sausalito gained national fame after almost winning the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2011 before crashing in the last turn on the final lap. Hildebrand slid over the finish line second and claimed Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors. He has returned to the Verizon IndyCar Series to compete in the famed race and looks for redemption starting in the 27th position in row 9.
"We were way overly loaded up with downforce," said Hildebrand following qualifying. "We need to be able to get some speed out of the car to be able to get the thing wicked up and run laps. If we need to make balance changes to do that, we need to make balance changes to do that. That's for sure how the Penske guys are going out there and running like they are. They're as trimmed as they can possibly be. I'm happy to stick it in the show. The guys on the No. 66 car are awesome to work with. I expect us to be able to get right back in the mix."
Nabbing the best starting position of the Northern California drivers is Santa Clara native and rookie Kyle Kaiser who will start in the sixth row driving the No. 32 NFP / Juncos Racing Chevrolet.
"Overall, I am ecstatic right now," said Kaiser. "I am just so happy with the team and the all the hard work they've done and put in. I am very excited to say that I will be in the Indianapolis 500 this year."
Only four Americans have won the race this century, but it has been more attainable to U.S.-born drivers in recent years Americans have won the Indianapolis 500 two of the past four years, with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning in 2014 and his Andretti Autosport teammate Rossi in '16.
The 102nd Indianapolis 500 is the sixth of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, which concludes at Sonoma Raceway, Sept. 14-16.¬† The Indy 500 will be broadcast live on ABC-TV at 9 a.m. PST as well as the INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Radio (XM Channel 209 and SIRIUS Channel 214). The pre-race show on ABC will begin at 8 a.m. PST.