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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis 500 might be over, but the race for the IndyCar Series championship is just heating up.

“I think the fire to win the championship is burning stronger than ever for me,” Indy 500 runner-up Marcus Ericsson said.

The calendar has turned, and so have the driver’s attentions, away from the Indy 500, and onto Detroit and the race for the series championship. The Motor City’s race will be different this year, returning to downtown for the first time in over 30 years.

“The fan turnout at Belle Isle was always fantastic. Moving it properly into downtown is going to be amazing,” Alexander Rossi said. “Certainly new races are exciting for us. It levels the playing field. Everyone starts from scratch, essentially. Last time was Nashville, which was actually fairly recently, but before that, I don’t think we’ve ever been to a track that no driver had been to before, so I’m very excited.”

“I think it will be spectacular. We’re back in downtown Detroit, which I’ll miss Belle Isle, but I’m sure this one will be as cool,” Rossi’s Arrow McLaren teammate Pato O’Ward said. “Just looking forward to a new circuit. I’m curious to see that double pit lane, which we’ve never had. I think they’ll be some very good challenges, and we’re ready.”

Detroit will be a major change from the IMS oval, but just as important to win in the fight for the series championship. A mere 37 points separate the top four drivers. A win in Detroit is a 51-point boost, which could mean another standings shakeup.

“What we want is the championship, right? But there’s a long way to go,” O’Ward said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been contenders every single weekend so that’s a lot of things that we can be proud of.”

“Going to Detroit is definitely going to be fun. I’m going to try to get that win in Detroit this weekend, and then go and get that championship,” Ericsson said. “A lot to play for still. We’re excited. We’ve had a great start to the year, so we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and we’re going to be right there in the fight.”

Eleven races left in that fight.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Ground has officially broken for a brand new billion-dollar home for the Indy Eleven. Some of the biggest names in Indianapolis gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the next step for Eleven Park.

The development brings a state-of-the-art stadium for the Indy Eleven, restaurants, housing, and much more to the old Diamond Chain property next door to Lucas Oil Stadium — all with community, commerce, and entertainment in mind.

“It’s so much more than a dream come true for soccer fanatics and for citizens whether they live on Lake Michigan or the Ohio River, border to border for the state of Indiana,” Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said.

“It’s just going to give the fans a great place to enjoy and interact with the team,” said Patrick Talty, the president of Indiana Sports Corp. “I think it’s going to grow the game of soccer within Indianapolis, and it’s going to continue to put Indy and Indiana on the map as a sports capital.”

“As an athlete, you always want to perform at the best venues, and in my opinion, in the USL, this is going to be the best venue,” Indy Eleven midfielder Bryam Rebellón said.

At 20,000 seats, Eleven Park is set to be the second-biggest stadium of any team in the USL Championship League. In fact, it will be bigger than eight MLS stadiums. But this is more than just about soccer.

“This really does check every box in terms of ‘live, work, play, study, stay,'” Holcomb said. “It’s an amenity that every capital city, every city strives for, is to have that vibrant attraction, and this is one in a full house in terms of holding a strong hand.”

“The more venues that we can have to go out and pitch when we go out and look for events, that’s really what makes us separate,” Talty said. “We’ll be able to go after events that we haven’t been able to before. This is a perfect place for Final Four, college football playoffs, things like that for people to come down and celebrate in the plaza before they go into Lucas Oil Stadium.”

The developers hope to have the stadium built by the summer of 2025.

“I just can’t wait to go from groundbreaking, to the ribbon cutting, to the first goal. It’s a win-win-win across the board,” Holcomb said, with the hopes of more Indy Eleven wins inside.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — It’s been a rollercoaster of a May for Graham Rahal — to put it mildly. First, not qualifying, then switching teams to get back in the race, only to start with car trouble.

“To start that way was a bummer,” Rahal said. “When I put it into gear, the whole car shut off on a faulty battery, then we got it to repower cycle, tried it again, and the whole car shut off again. We had to go back and replace the battery. I thought after that, we were actually hanging right with that lead group for most of the race. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the yellows that we needed to get our laps back. We got one back, but needed another. It never really fell appropriately.”

The first caution came in Lap 91, when rookie Sting Ray Robb hit the wall after racing with Rahal.

“Just got caught out racing with someone I thought didn’t stand up to the stereotype, but I guess, you know, it’s there,” Robb said after leaving the infield care center.

“I’ll talk to him. I think he needs to learn how to race around Indy,” Rahal said. “If he has choice words, I think he needs to learn how to race in Indy.”

Rahal just couldn’t escape the bad luck. With three laps to go, he got caught in another wreck, this one ending his race early. Despite everything, Rahal still managed to finish 22nd.

“I’m very proud of everybody here at Dreyer and Reinbold Racing with Cusick Motorsports. I thought they did a wonderful job, and the CareKeepers car,” Rahal said. “I thought we were getting into a better zone today, It’s just a shame, you know.”

When asked what he took away from this year’s Indy 500, Rahal responded, “I’ll go to Detroit, and I’ll be there in three days.”

A disappointing ending for an forgettable month.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There might be nine former winners running in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, but the five fastest drivers in the starting grid are still trying to get their face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“I love that I’m a part of the new youth wave that’s coming into IndyCar,” said Pato O’Ward of the Arrow McLaren team. “We’re obviously here and competitive, so it’s great to mix it up with the older guys.”

“I get close every year,” said Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who will start in Position 2. “We’ve missed it all in the race every time. We’re looking to finally do it. I think I’ve got the experience and so does the team to do it now.”

“It’s really close and really competitive nowadays. We’ll see what happens,” polesitter Alex Palou said. “Hopefully we have the experience that we need. I’m sure we will have the speed on the car. We will give everything that we have to get the win.”

Benjamin Pedersen is the only rookie in the top 12, recording the fastest single qualifying lap in Indy 500 history. He gives all the credit to the IndyCar feeder system.

“I think it’s just a testament to how good the junior formula ladder system is,” Pedersen said. “The next generation coming into this, we’re very quick. The transition series is great. The NXT car is great for that. I just feel very, very comfortable in the car.”

“I think the future’s great,” Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist said. “Every year it gets tighter and tighter, and there’s new guys coming in but the veterans keep performing and that’s why you have such a big age range in IndyCar, so I think that’s awesome. The series is going in a good direction, and the competition is higher than ever.”

Will there be another first time winner heading up to Victory Circle? The drama will unfold Sunday.

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — It’s being considered the toughest field in history.

Nine former winners will drive in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday. That’s the second most in Indy 500 history — the record being set in 1992 with 10 former champions.

“Every year it gets more and more competitive, right?” said Alexander Rossi, who won in 2016. “We saw the fastest field in Indy 500 history last weekend. The closest front row in Indy 500 history. It’s hard to win these races. It’s hard to start up front.”

“Fields extremely deep,” said Will Power, the 2018 winner. “There’s so many guys that can win. So many really good teams. You have more of a chance with a repeat winner with nine winners in there. It’s a pretty good era for IndyCar.”

Helio Castroneves was the last driver to win back to back, winning in 2001 and 2002, but that was 21 years ago. Defending champion Marcus Ericsson is ready to change that.

“I mean it’s about time, right? It’s about time!” Ericsson said on Media Day. “It’s going to be tough. It’s a very stacked field this year. So many cars and drivers, but I do feel like us as a team, we’ve been very strong again this month.”

Ericsson gained a lot of confidence after winning “the greatest spectacle in racing last year.”

“I don’t need to prove anything. I have the confidence, and I know what I need to do to win again,” Ericsson said. “I feel its only positive pressure that I have, that I can do it again. I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get out on race day, and just go out and perform.”

“It’s playing a game. It’s tactical. It’s very tactical, and you have to have a big overview of the game as you play it,” 2019 champion Simon Pagenaud said. “To me, those are doors that I did not open in the past, and now I feel I’m in a different spot, and all that experience is helping me to take advantage of that experience.”

While most fight for their second win, Castroneves has a chance at a historic fifth.

“I don’t feel any pressure, but I tell you, if it happens, pressure gets the best out of me at this place, and I really enjoy it,” Castroneves said. “I feel strong. I feel great. I do know the team that I have. We’ve done it before. We have all these components helping you or in your favor, that helps you to go moving forward. Just have to be patient and make less mistakes than anybody.”

The race is on.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — The world of IndyCar got an up-close look at the Indianapolis 500 Track Rescue teams Monday, when Stefan Wilson and Katherine Legge crashed in Turn 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But what fans might not realize is how many women respond to those wrecks.

“When I go out in public and I’m wearing anything that says track rescue on it, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re husband’s a member of the track rescue team?’ And I’m like, ‘No I am!'” Amber Hull said.

120 firefighters make up the Track Rescue team for the Indianapolis 500. Only nine are women.

“I got into the fire service about 20 years ago. I wanted to add something new. I decided to go out to the race track and check that out. Fell in love with it, and the rest is history,” Hull said.

“They’re very surprised,” Dana Werle said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Are you the lady that I saw on the track? I told my husband, I knew that was a woman.’ So it’s kind of neat that people recognize that.”

“It’s kind of like an addiction once you get into it,” Paula Cecil said. “The people are the draw. Cars are great, but the people are better.”

Racing history has been made at IMS for over a century. Just like all the legends who’ve kissed the bricks, the women of Track Rescue are making history themselves — and it’s about much more than the race.

“It’s been a struggle off and on, but I hold my weight, and people help you out, and like I said, they look after you and stuff,” Cecil said. “It came from a place where men don’t believe women belong in the firehouse. So it’s been a lot of ups and downs, but it all pays off in the end. It’s an everyday learning process. Always will be. I enjoy it. I’m not going to let anybody scare me out of it.”

Even after 107 runnings of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, you still don’t see many women working in this race. These ladies are hoping to change that.

“I would tell them, don’t let that hold you back just because you’re a female. You do what you set your mind to do, and you can do anything,” Werle said.

“We got girl power in here, so watch out!” Cecil said.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — After 22 years, former Indianapolis 500 champion and IndyCar fan favorite Tony Kanaan will say goodbye to his favorite race Sunday.

“My love for this place is real. Since I was a little kid, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” Kanaan said.

One final turn for TK. The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be the legend’s last.

The most emotional part comes when he walks out during drivers’ introductions for the final time.

“That actually has been the coolest part of my entire career here in this place. Probably that will be the worst time of my career this year, but in a good way,” Kanaan said.

“It’s going to be extremely emotional,” he added. “Your nerves are already so high before the race but I think not a single person here doesn’t know that this is my last one. I’m not sure how much louder they can cheer because every year they make me feel so good but yeah, I don’t want to think about it.”

“We just said ‘You know what, it’s important to take every day, everything that we’re doing and just really soak it up. Really take it in. Really be present for all of those,'” Kanaan’s wife Lauren said. “But on race day, if you ask on race day, ask me again, because I’ll be some kind of mess.”

Kanaan started racing in the US back in 1996. However, he refused to even visit IMS until he was a driver in the Indy 500. 2002 was that year. Eleven years later, he finally got his ride up to victory circle.

“When I was 13 years old, I lost my dad. The day before he passed, he made me make him a few promises, and one of them was to win this race one day, and then that became an obsession, a goal, whatever you want to call it,” Kanaan said. “We had so much disappointment here that some people felt that I had all the rights to hate this place but I never did, but I just said, ‘Well it wasn’t my day, and if the track would choose me to win one day it will,’ and it happened.”

“We had a pact that whoever would get there, meaning win championships and being the big one, we would hire the other one to carry their helmets,” longtime friend and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves said. “Thank God, destiny made us, we didn’t have to hire anybody and we had a long career.”

The moment will mark the end of an era of one of the most beloved drivers to ever get in an IndyCar.

“TK is a person that made me who I am,” Castroneves said. “A driver not only on the track but outside the track, as a man, as a father.”

“He’s definitely a big character, which goes with his very large nose,” Scott Dixon said, laughing. “He’s always a lot of fun. He’ll always make you smile.”

“I think he’s got something planned where he’ll still be in the mix so that’s a good thing because not having TK around at all would make the series far less fun,” owner and driver Ed Carpenter said.

“Oh, he’ll be back. This is just the sixth retirement, right? We’ll see,” Dixon said. “I hope it’s not our last. Obviously, I hope for good things, great things for him. Maybe not to win the race again, but it would be pretty special for him to win and for us to see him again next year.”

Pretty special, indeed.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IndyCar drivers got one more day of practice in before this weekend’s qualifying, but while the drivers were on the track, the team owners were in the hot seat about their driver’s contracts.

“Marcus [Ericsson] has a big future in this sport and I want it to be on this team,” said Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.

While Ericsson works on defending his Indy 500 win, Ganassi fights to keep him on his team. Ericsson is in his final year with Chip Ganassi Racing and said this week he doesn’t want to change teams. Frankly, neither does Ganassi.

“Yeah, I want him to stay,” Ganassi laughed. “I’m working hard to do it. We just need to finalize some sponsorship and away we go. Marcus is valued. All the drivers are valued pieces of the team, and I want them all here today, tomorrow, next week, and next year.”

Ericsson’s contract wasn’t the only hot topic of conversation on this Fast Friday morning. Bobby Rahal had to volley questions about his own son Graham’s future in this car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. As far as Bobby is concerned, he doesn’t want to see Graham leave.

“I’d put Graham up against anybody on race day,” Rahal said. “I don’t think anybody wants to see him go anywhere else. I will tell you that any of these guys, when you’re a driver, you want to go somewhere where you can see the commitment, and as I said, I think our commitment is obvious.”

Commitment tangibly seen in the brand new multimillion dollar facility in Zionsville.

“If anyone ever questions our commitment to motorsport, not just IndyCar, but to motorsport, I think that building would soundly answer that concern,” Rahal said. “We didn’t build that building just to play in racing. We built that building to give us an environment to excel. Our goal is to be one of the best teams out there on a consistent basis.”

As far as this year is concerned, four drivers have a chance to take RLL to victory circle next Sunday.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — After 10 years away, Katherine Legge returns to IndyCar for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Why? She has no idea.

Jokes aside, the British driver comes back to a race she ran in 2012 and 2013, pushing to finish better than her best — 22nd — from 2012.

“I want the shot that I had in 2013 when I had a really good car. I want that feeling again, only I want to make no mistakes, and I want to have a genuine shot at the 500,” Legge said. “It’s like it’s got it’s own personality, and it’s own vibe and I think it’s almost like an addiction where you just want to come back.”

Legge will drive the number 44 car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

She’s been behind the wheel of sports cars for the last nine years. Her first time back in IndyCar was just over a month ago for a test drive on the Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“I was like ‘Holy moly, this is so fast,'” Legge said. “Especially at Texas. Texas is stupid fast as it is. It was a shock to the system. It felt like an elephant sat on my head and was pushing me down. It’s been 10 years since I experienced that. It came back relatively quickly, but the first laps I was a little bit trepid going flat on the gas pedal.”

“I was really impressed with how quick she got up to speed,” said Christian Lundgaard, Legge’s teammate. “She hasn’t been in a one-seater in a long time. She just got in and got on with it. I’m proud of her for doing that.”

Despite this being the 107th running of the Indy 500, Legge is just the ninth women to ever run this race — the first in four years. That rarity isn’t lost on Legge, but she’s not focused on it.

“I never think of myself as any different than anyone else. I’m just a race car driver. The car doesn’t know the difference,” Legge said.

“I almost can’t believe that statistically actually,” said Jack Harvey, another teammate at RLL Racing. “I guess in my mind I couldn’t think about the amount of many of the women we have raced with since I’ve been doing this. It’s just crazy that it’s only been nine really. Hopefully in the future that changes.”

“When there’s nine female drivers in the race, that would be really cool,” Legge said. “But I’m just out here being me, being Katherine, and trying to drive the 500. Hopefully, there are more coming through, and we can change the perception a little bit.”

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — One Indiana Pacers player got to take the ride of a lifetime Saturday.

Forward Aaron Nesmith spent the morning with Pato O’Ward and Arrow McLaren, learning all about IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was Nesmith’s first trip to the track. He was blown away by the layout and how many fans fit in the stands. IMS is expecting over 300,000 people on race day for the 107th running of the Indy 500 at the end of the month.

The highlight of the day for Nesmith was the ride around the road course in a two-seater IndyCar. O’Ward didn’t drive, but he did give him a little bit of advice before strapping into the seat.

“Just flow, bro,” O’Ward laughed. “I told him to just enjoy it. I told him at least he fits. It’s a great place to do it at. Long straightaways, heavy braking, he’ll get a good idea of what the Gs feel like. Hopefully he comes back for the 500. I told him he can’t miss that.”

Nesmith says he hates roller coasters, but going 180 miles-per-hour around the road course? He would definitely do that again.

“As soon as I got to the car, and they strapped me in, and they put me in real tight, it got real real quick,” Nesmith said. “As soon as we took off, my head lifted off, I felt like I was flying. Head was flying back and forth when we hit the turns. It was a lot of fun.”