The Indianapolis 500 takes place on Sunday and many eyes in the NASCAR garage will be on the race, which runs before the Coca-Cola 600. One person keeping an eye on the open-wheelers is former Champ Car driver Casey Mears, who will race Sunday night for Team Red Bull. Mears, who had a promising open-wheel career before moving to NASCAR, says that this year’s race is too close to call.
“It’s really hard to say,” Mears said Saturday. “Watching qualifying and how things stacked up, it’s probably tighter than it’s ever been at Indy in a lot of years. I watched carb day and it was amazing how many guys were using up all of practice trying to find absolutely everything they could. In the past, you could kind of get close and be pretty good, but with the competition so good this year, it’s going to be really hard to say who’s going to win.”
One person in the running is Helio Castroneves, who is looking to add a fourth Borg-Warner trophy to his collection. Should Castroneves, who drives for Penske Racing, win, he would join three other drivers as four-time winners of the race AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Rick Mears is Casey Mears’s uncle, and the younger Mears says that Castroneves is a contender this year-and could well become the first five-time winner before his career is over. “He has got a realistic shot for as young as he is to even go on and do more. So it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”
Mears adds that he’d love to race for Bruton Smith’s proposed $20 million bonus to the driver who can win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. “I’d love to!” says Mears, the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 winner. “Indy would have to be with Penske or Ganassi to really have a realistic shot at doing it. I’d love to think that if I could get together with one of them and them come back here and have a shot. I’m not going to do it just to do it. But if I could do it knowing I could be with a Penske or a Ganassi and come back here and be with a competitive team on the Cup side, where we really have a shot, it makes sense.”