Big races make for huge day

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Today is auto racing’s biggest day of the year with Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Here is a look at both races:

INDIANAPOLIS 500

SITE: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Ind.

TV: Noon, ABC-Ch. 6

FORECAST: Temperatures are expected to be near 90 at race time, according to weatherchannel.com. No rain is predicted.

WIDE-OPEN: There are no clear favorites. The front two rows for the start of the race are stacked with drivers from Penske Racing and Andretti Autosport, so it could very well be a shootout. Penske has Ryan Briscoe on the pole, with Will Power and three-time race winner Helio Castroneves in the second row. Andretti has spots two through four with James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the front row, and Marco Andretti in the second row. The nod should go to a Penske driver, though: The team is undefeated so far this season, with four wins and five poles.

REMEMBERING WHELDON: Dan Wheldon raced to an improbable victory when leader JR Hildebrand skidded high into the wall on the final turn. Wheldon, also the 2005 winner, was killed in a crash in the season-ending race at Las Vegas in October. Indy has many special tributes planned. His wife, Susie, participated in Saturday’s drivers meeting, and will attend various events this weekend with her two young sons.

COCA-COLA 600

SITE: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

TV: 5:30 p.m., Fox-Ch. 54

FORECAST: Temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-80s at race time, according to weatherchannel.com. There is a 30 percent chance of rain.

STARTING UP FRONT: Richard Petty put both of his cars in the front row, a huge boost for the organization. But neither pole sitter Aric Almirola or Marcos Ambrose was among the top 10 in the early practice runs.

Ambrose had the 11th fastest lap in Saturday’s morning session and 13th in the afternoon. Almirola was 15th fastest in the morning and 34th in the afternoon.

Denny Hamlin was the fastest driver in the morning practice turning a lap of 186.239 mph, while Brad Keselowski was the fastest in the heat of the afternoon at 183.692.

JOHNSON’S OTHER CAR: Jimmie Johnson, one of the pre-race favorites, will drive a different car than the one he won the Sprint All-Star race in last Saturday night.

“It’s hard not to bring back a car you just won with,” he said. “(But) with the short time frame and checking in and not getting the car back until Tuesday, it just wasn’t possible.”

Johnson has won nine times at the 1.5-mile track, three 600s, three of the 500-mile fall race and three All-Star events.

According to the Glantz-Culver line, Johnson is the 6-1 favorite. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are next at 8-1.


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