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A chance at history

Castroneves shoots for third straight Indy win

Knight Ridder Newspapers

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in 31 years, a driver will start the Indianapolis 500 with a chance to make it three consecutive trips to Victory Lane.

Four other drivers had that opportunity in the last 62 years. All four failed.

Helio Castroneves can do what no driver ever has done if he wins the 87th Indy 500 on Sunday. Not only would he become the first person to win three in a row, he also would be the only driver to do so in his first three attempts.

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The effervescent Brazilian will be the first man to go for the Indy hat trick while starting from the pole. He was the fastest qualifier, guiding his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Toyota to a four-lap average of 231.725 mph.

He has the car to do it, he has the team to do it, and he has the skill to do it. But does he have the luck?

A lot of things can happen in 200 laps around The Brickyard.

"I'm trying not to think about it and just enjoy the moment," Castroneves said. "Records are made to be broken, and if it's meant to be, it will be. I really feel blessed to be in this position."

The quest for history has made the 28-year-old driver quite a celebrity. He was in Los Angeles Monday for guest appearances on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and Fox Sports' The Best Damn Sports Show Period. He returned home to Miami last week to appear on the national Spanish-language program Despierta America.

He also was photographed for an article running in this week's People magazine and another that is running this week in TV Guide . Castroneves is featured in the May issue of Vogue Hombre and will be in the June issue of Esquire.

This is the man of the moment in Indy car racing. Talk of the possible triple has overshadowing Michael Andretti's farewell race at Indy. Andretti is completing in his final event, hoping to earn the one major accomplishment that has eluded him.

"Sorry, Michael," Castroneves said with a smile. "I know he will be trying very hard with this being his final Indy 500, but so will we."

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Team owner Roger Penske wants the win as much as Castroneves. Lou Moore is the only team owner to accomplish the feat, winning in 1947 and '48 with Mauri Rose, and again in 1949 with Bill Holland as the driver.

Penske has been the winning team owner 12 times at Indy, including four times back-to-back.

"I think we're going to see a terrific race," Penske said. "We've got some very tough competition this year, the best it has been in a long time."

Penske can make it three in a row without a Castroneves victory. Teammates Gil de Ferran starts 10th and Alex Barron starts 25th. Barron, a contender for the victory last year, was the fastest Bump Day qualifier Sunday when Penske put a third car in the field.

But it's Castroneves who will be the center of attention.

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