Rahal vs. Andretti would be epic

If there's one word for the Andretti demeanor here through the decades, it is subdued. Marco's father, Michael, who wowed the crowds here arguably more than any other driver who never won the 500, always was subdued and often reticent going into this race.

Andretti words have always been softly spoken, even from Marco's more talkative Nonno Mario -- Italian for Grandpa Mario -- who has the family's only win here, in 1969, to show for all that all-out effort, all these years.

The Rahals are water: free-flowing, talking openly, with consistent candor, all these years. The last time they won here, in '04, co-owner David Letterman joined the winners' news conference. That's consistent with the verbal DNA of the team.

And always, the Rahals have had less to lose. When Bobby won in '86, he shattered the rap of being mainly a sports car racer riding business connections into Indy.

Since '69, the Andrettis have come here with the most to lose of anyone -- and have always lost the most.

Same thing this year. Graham will start 20th with his father's team "searching for speed" in his car, he admitted. Marco will start sixth in one of four Andretti Austosport team cars that are by consensus the class not only of this year's field but of the entire series for the past few years.

"Let's be honest," Graham said, as if that preface were necessary. "For me, the last couple of years have been tough. And Andretti as a team has been the dominant team."

Starting positions have meant less here in recent years than historically, largely thanks to technical rules that facilitate drafting and passing. Franchitti won from 16th on the grid in 2012, Kanaan from 12th last year.

Take the Rahals out of the conversation and Marco Andretti will address the Andretti Curse -- at least this year's prospective nightmare in it.

"I can't believe this is my ninth year already," he said. That's how long the curse has had to weigh on him personally.

"I'm not thinking about the curse 24/7, but what I am having a nightmare about is the right position to be in come the end of the race.

"Because lately that's changed. Back in the day it was one or two, and at the max it was three, players at the end of the race. And now it's five or six."

So, with the scrambling in the draft, "and the element of yellows involved" to bunch up the field, "Where do you want to be in the closing laps?"

"Last year I thought we were in an ideal position and it ended up biting us," with Kanaan seizing the lead on a restart and cruising to victory under caution. Marco finished fourth.

"This year, do you want to lead and then have the restart with four guys [who are] gonna pass you? So that's been the recurring nightmare for me."

On the roulette wheel driven by drafts and restarts, Andretti and Rahal have as good a shot at being around at the end as anybody.

Could the resounding duel actually happen?

"For sure," Rahal said. "Anything can happen at any point. You look at the way things have gone. In 2011 I started 29th. That was my worst starting spot. ... And I ended up finishing third."

Where 500 miles are routine in NASCAR, in the more precise and delicate form of IndyCar racing, Rahal said, "Five hundred miles is a long. Long. Time."

And then, "To have Marco and I fighting it out at the end of the thing -- I guarantee you, there'd be a lot of people on their feet."

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