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Indianapolis 500 Preview: Michel Jourdain

Photo via Michel Jourdain Jr. Twitter

#30 Office Depot Dallara-Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Born: September 2, 1976

Home: Mexico City, Mexico

2011 RESULTS: RLLR ran two cars in last year’s Indianapolis 500. Jay Howard finished a disappointing 30th when he crashed out after 60 laps, but Bertrand Baguette remained up front, leading 11 laps and fighting for the lead until he had to pit with three laps to go. He finished seventh, a career best. Jourdain, however, hasn’t competed at Indianapolis since 1996.

CAREER BEST: RLLR won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Rice. Jourdain finished 13th in his lone Indy 500 start.

OUTLOOK: Here’s a strange combination. Rather than run Luca Filippi, their rookie driver who had been set to debut at Indianapolis, RLLR will allow Jourdain to make a return to open-wheel racing. Jourdain last competed at Indianapolis in 1996, in American open-wheel (in Champ Car) in 2004, and in any form of open-wheel in 2007 (driving for Mexico in A1GP). But he returns to the sport where he made his name at Indy, bringing with him the Office Depot backing he had while finishing third for Rahal in the 2003 CART standings.

Jourdain may thus be the biggest wild card in the field. Most recently, he’s been running limited rally events after a failed transition to NASCAR in the mid-2000s. RLLR has always built fast racecars, with Baguette’s performance last year and Takuma Sato’s runs this year a testament to that. But it’s hard to predict how a driver who’s spent a decade and a half away from Indianapolis is going to perform. Expect a top 20 finish based on the caliber of the team alone; anything more will be up to how quickly Jourdain finds his groove again.

– Chris Leone

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