The 101st Indianapolis 500, one of America's greatest sporting events, comes your way from Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday at noon ET. For 200 laps on Memorial Day weekend, 33 racers will circle the Brickyard at speeds exceeding 200 mph in an attempt to take the checkered flag and earn a nice, cool bottle of milk at race's end. What's more American than that?
But what can we expect from this most American of races? Here are five things to watch for this Sunday in Indianapolis.
Fernando Alonso runs his first Indy 500
The most intriguing storyline of this year's Indianapolis 500 is the IndyCar debut of Fernando Alonso. But Alonso is not your typical rookie. He's been in auto racing for nearly 20 years, mostly on the Formula One circuit, amassing 32 wins so far in his career. His experience on road courses won't help him on the Indy oval, but he's still regarded as one of the favorites at +800. And even with his inexperience on the oval, you can't count out a great such as Alonso.
"I'm not in my comfort zone here, because I'm racing against drivers that are the best on oval racing -- the specialists in oval racing -- so I have a lot to learn, a lot to improve," he said, according to Sports Illustrated. "But at the same point, when you close the visor, you are a competitive person and you want to win."
Scott Dixon is favored from the pole position
Although a lot is being made of newcomer Alonso's chances to win, the favorite this year is pole-sitter Scott Dixon (+600). The New Zealander has held the pole twice in his Indy 500 career. He won the race from that spot in 2008 and finished fourth from it in 2015.
And more than any other racer, Dixon will be buoyed by his performance in qualifying. Dixon had both the fastest lap and fastest four laps average in 21 years. It was a qualifying run for the ages, but fans rarely remember qualifying times, even historic ones like Dixon's. They remember who drank the milk.
Pole position isn't always what it's cracked up to be
Sitting on the pole, Dixon will have to overcome a bit of recent history for racers from the top spots. Dan Wheldon is the most recent driver to start from the top three rows and go on to take the checkered flag when he won in 2011. Helio Castroneves was the last racer to win from the pole itself in 2009. If the recent past is any indicator, the winner on Sunday will come from a bit farther back in the pack.
Will Power seeks his first Indy 500 win
In his 10 years in the IndyCar circuit, 2014 champion Will Power has won 28 races, most of which have come on road and street courses. But a win in the Indy 500 has eluded him thus far. Luckily for Power, he's on the best team to get him that win. Team Penske has won 16 Indy 500s, and Power comes into the race as the fastest qualifier for Penske. He will start ninth.
If Power wins, he'll be the 12th different racer to win the 500 for Team Penske. And despite his shortcoming in the race in the past, how can ever you count out a guy whose name is literally willpower?
Marco Andretti and the Andretti Curse
If you know even the smallest bit about auto racing, you know the name Andretti. For three generations, the Andrettis have been the first family of auto racing. But they've somehow managed to win only one Indy 500 in nearly 50 years, patriarch Mario Andretti's win way back in 1969. The Andretti Curse has been the one of the biggest talking points of Indy 500 weekend pretty much ever year in that span. But Marco, who will start from Row 3, doesn't buy it.
"I don't believe in curses," Andretti said, according to ESPN. "When you look at that place as a whole, it's been one of my better places. I don't think it owes me anything. I don't think it owes the family anything."
Superstition or not, it's been a long time since an Andretti has won at Indy, and history seems to be stacked against Marco. But if the Chicago Cubs can vanquish the Curse of the Billy Goat, anything can happen.
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Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.