Red-hot Andretti racing team will be one of the focal points of ABC's Indy 500 coverage

Five drivers in the first nine positions, including Marco Andretti on the front row, have Andretti racing team creating a buzz.

With all due respect to the Daytona 500, Sunday marks the biggest day on the racing calendar with one of America's most traditional events unfolding at one of its most storied venues — the Indianapolis 500 at the world-famous Brickyard.

Perhaps only The Masters comes close in weaving nostalgia and history into the plot as well as Indy.

ABC, as it usually does, crafted a well-designed commercial to get people ready for the race, showcasing past winners such as Nazareth's Mario Andretti and featuring the milk-drinking, the kissing of the bricks and all of the other things that make this race like no other.

It's ABC's 49th consecutive year broadcasting the race, yet another tradition that distinguishes this event.

Yet, once the race begins and "Back Home Again in Indiana" has been sung and "Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines!" has been uttered, the key to keeping the audience through a holiday Sunday that many love spending outdoors, is compelling story lines.

ABC has plenty to work with on Sunday, including the fact that there's an Andretti, Mario's grandson Marco, starting on the front row. But that's not all.

"You've got a great front row with Ed Carpenter on the pole, the first owner-driver to do so since A.J. Foyt in 1975, and then you've got a rookie and the youngest driver to qualify on the front row in Carlos Munoz and then you've got one of the great names in motorsports and Indy history there as well with Marco Andretti," said Rich Feinberg, ESPN's vice president in charge of motorsports production.

Marty Reid will be the lap-by-lap announcer with Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear serving as analysts.

Lots of focus will be on Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves going for their fourth wins, but also a lot of focus will be on the Andretti Autosport team.

"The biggest story we've seen so far is the almost-dominance of Andretti Autosport," Cheever said. "All five of the drivers have been fast throughout the month. They haven't put one foot wrong. They have two of the three drivers on the front row."

The entire Andretti team seems poised for a special day. In addition to Andretti and Munoz starting on the first row, E.J. Viso will be starting fourth, Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth and James Hinchcliffe in the ninth spot.

"They have great chemistry and they're all happy," Goodyear said. "You see them in different cities and you'll see them having dinner together. They hang out and train together. It's the chemistry and focus of getting the job done which is making the race car go fast.

"Michael has done a great job of taking over the team and bringing in the people from an engineering perspective and giving them free reign with what they need to do. There is a change going on right now because of lack of testing and they seem to have dealt with it the best."

Cheever said simply: "They're happy because they're winning and they're winning because their cars are good. There's chemistry because they all have fast cars. If they had the 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 25th place on the grid, chemistry wouldn't be as good. Michael has taken everything he has learned in his career and he's taking advantage. They're very astute and they give everybody exactly the same equipment."

Goodyear noted that this is the second year with the new type of cars and the new cars have brought a new dimension to the race.

"We saw last year with multiple passes and drivers being very comfortable running in traffic that the new cars have made a difference and the drivers are saying the same thing this year," Goodyear said. "A lot of drivers have been running in packs to get prepared for the race, running in groups of 12, 14 and 15 cars. It's very encouraging that we're going to have another tremendous race, much like last year."

Of course, Lehigh Valley natives are going to wonder if the so-called "Andretti Curse" will come to an end.

In fact, Jeremy Schaap will narrate a special piece on the "Andretti Curse" that will air either on SportsCenter or during the pre-race show.

Marco Andretti is having his strongest season on the IndyCar circuit, running second in the points race. He believes he has a great shot at winning.

Danica Patrick, a former Andretti team member, had been the focal point of past Indy 500s. She will still be visible on Sunday, but in Charlotte for the NASCAR race on Fox later in the day.

Is she missed by IndyCar? Yes and no.

"Danica's arrival in IndyCar changed how people viewed motorsports," Cheever said. "So many more people were attracted to racing because a woman was competitive. There are so many good things going on in IndyCar right now. Many people respect what she did, but they have moved on. I think I saw one person in the pits wearing a Danica T-shirt where in other years there was nothing but Danica."

DID YOU KNOW?

Andy Roddick, the former No. 1 men's tennis player in the world, is joining Fox Sports 1, which will be Fox's entry into the all-sports network industry, beginning Aug. 17. Roddick will be a co-host for Fox Sports Live, the network's flagship news, opinion and highlights program.

KEITH'S CAN'T MISS … The 97th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. on ABC. Sometimes the pre-race pageantry is better than the race itself, but the Andretti connection could keep area viewers engaged until the checkered flag.

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