INDIANAPOLIS — Some of the old drama is back in the Indianapolis 500 for today's 91st running -- assuming it doesn't rain.
Might there be a rematch at the end between Sam Hornish Jr. and Marco Andretti, who last year staged one of the most dramatic finishes in Indy history?
How about Marco vs. his father, Michael Andretti, who senses he can finally win on his 16th and final start here?
Will Danica Patrick, the only one of three women in the race with a legitimate chance to win, get her head shaved in Victory Lane?
Or will her two most boisterous teammates, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti, stow their clippers because one of them has won a duel between the two veterans who have run well here only to be thwarted by bad breaks? (Both of their heads are already buzzed.)
Or maybe Helio Castroneves, starting from the pole, will become the first three-time Indy winner among active drivers.
Even if Dan Wheldon runs away and leaves the field, as he has the last two years, there will be drama: Will he or won't he be bridled by bad luck? Last year he was, by a cut tire. In 2005 he wasn't, and won.
The weather forecast calls for a 70% chance of rain, and if the race is postponed it will be rescheduled for Monday, Memorial Day -- back to the tradition begun in 1911.
But if the race is only shortened by rain, then the elements could help determine the winner. Once 101 of the scheduled 200 laps are completed, the race is considered official.
After that, whoever happens to be leading if a deluge comes is declared the winner.
Patrick, if she had caught a lengthy caution at the right time while leading late in the race in '05, might have won. She says she has her strongest car since then, now that she's an Andretti Green Racing teammate of the two Andrettis, Kanaan and Franchitti.
If she wins here -- or anywhere else this season -- she'll be shorn of her recognizable long, dark hair, the notorious AGR pranksters have vowed.
"She's got this flat spot on the back of her head that she keeps talking about," Franchitti said. "You'll all see it at some point."
Patrick will start eighth, Sarah Fisher 21st and Milka Duno 29th. But Fisher is returning from a two-year absence, having run here five times with a best finish of 21st in 2004. Duno, from Venezuela, is a rookie with very little IndyCar experience, coming out of a lackluster background in sports cars.
Wheldon, who won for AGR in '05 but now drives for Chip Ganassi, knows what it's like to be a target of the AGR pranks, and had some friendly advice for Patrick: submit to the sheering.
"Put it this way: If she doesn't, she won't be considered a team player," Wheldon said. "So I would advise her to."
Plus, "It will help her in the long run," Wheldon cracked, alluding to the past year's subsiding of Danica mania. "Britney Spears did it, and it definitely raised her profile again."
Hornish, who beat Marco Andretti by a car length at the finish line last year, deadpanned that he was just doing his part to support "the lore of the speedway, and all the heritage."
He meant keeping alive the saga of all the Andretti family heartbreak at Indy: 55 starts among five Andrettis and only one win to show for it, Mario's in 1969.
"It's a better story if that continues," Hornish said. "Whatever I've got to do to help out."
Michael Andretti, who finished third last year, says there's no way he and Marco would have lost to Hornish if their cars had been as strong as this year's.
"They've shown some great speeds here this month," Hornish said. In a repeat scenario, "It would be tougher to beat them, but ... "
That was Hornish's polite way of saying the result would be the same.
So there will be plenty to look for when the telecast, on Channel 7, begins at 10 a.m. PDT.
But don't look for one of those big wrecks right after the start that once were entirely possible in the 500.
There will be no reckless abandon getting into the first turn by the front row, pole-sitter Castroneves, Kanaan and Franchitti.
There used to be quite a fight for the first corner at the start.
"Yeah, but then usually they went in there and somebody spun and crashed and hit the wall in the first corner," Kanaan said.
"The pole-sitter has worked hard to be there. He has the right to accelerate before the second guy and the third guy. I'm not going to try to get into the lead on the first lap in the first corner. If I have the opportunity, I'll go get it. But I mean, who's going to remember who led the first corner?"
\o7Ed Hinton covers auto racing for Tribune newspapers.