Dario Franchitti enters the 2011 Indy 500 as the favorite, and with good reason: he's got two Indy 500 titles already, both in the past four years, and is the defending champion at the Brickyard.
Only Helio Castroneves has more Indy 500 titles than Franchitti among active drivers, and while Franchitti will start ninth in this year's running, Castroneves is 16th.
Franchitti's also won the last two IndyCar Series championships, and three of the last four. And he's already won an IndyCar race this year, claiming the checkered flag at the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Franchitti's always solid, but that reliability and an aloofness from the press makes him seem like a perpetual enigma rather than a dominant champion. That could change: ESPN ran a fun feature on Franchitti's origins in advance of this year's Indy 500, and a third title at the Brickyard would put Franchitti in rarefied air, as one of 10 drivers with three or more Indy 500 titles.
Still, a third Indianapolis 500 win likely won't put Franchitti on the same rung of the endless ladder of fame as his wife, actress Ashley Judd. Something tells me that getting to kiss Judd and kiss the bricks might make that less than important to Super Dario, though.
For more on the race, stay with our 2011 Indy 500 StoryStream. Be sure to head over to Pop Off Valve for all things IndyCar, including the three excellent Indy 500 resources: The Indy 500 experience, Indy 500 traditions and the history of the Indy 500 and the Brickyard.