INDIANAPOLIS — It’s race week in Indianapolis. Sunday’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) should be another thrilling show. After a full week of running last week, it appears that this race should be closer than years past in the sense that drivers can pass much easier for the lead.
The problem is, once you get to spots fifth on back, it still remains to be seen what can happen. Most of the drivers have said that you’re pretty much stuck and that it’s going to take strategy to gain your way ahead of those in front of you if you’re not in the top five.
It goes with the recent theme in NTT IndyCar Series races in general. 11 of the last 15 series races have seen the winner come from a top 3 starting spot including 13 of the last 18. 34 of the last 38 races saw the eventual race winner come from a top 10 starting spot.
The last three Indy 500 winners have all come from the front row.
While there’s some good cars on race trim coming from the back, the best cars all month are still starting up front, which means this could be Chip Ganassi Racing or Ed Carpenter Racing’s race to lose. The only issue with that is, Ganassi hasn’t won an Indy 500 since 2012 and ECR never has.
Combined, Penske and Andretti have won six of the last seven Indy 500’s and have always been the favorites there. This year, they’re not.
Penske drivers will all start mid pack on back and are 0-for-5 this season in terms of victories. They do have four runner-ups, but they don’t look the part so far.
Andretti Autosport has three cars up front on Sunday and have said that they spent a lot of time on race setup last week. They need a big race since this one pays double points and they all sit too far out in the standings to win a championship at this race. But, double points can close that gap which is why they’re hoping to reverse last year’s trend to where they dominated all month only to fail to get a car in the top five in the race.
Since the new car came out in 2018, the “Big 3” have won 42 of the 53 races run (84-percent). Penske has won 22 times with Ganassi (11) and Andretti (9). But, RLL is next best with four victories while no one else has more than three.
RLL says that they have the best cars that they’ve ever had here and they finished first and third respectively last year. They added fourth place finisher a year ago Santino Ferrucci.
So, who wins? Who to bet on?
Scott Dixon (+350)
He’s on the pole, led 111 of 200 laps in a runner-up last year and was eighth, first, fifth, first and fifth respectively in practice this month. Dixon, has two top three finishes in his last three Indy 500 starts.
Pato O’Ward (+1000)
He won a race at Texas earlier this season, has been stout in practice all week and starts 12th. O’Ward was also last year’s rookie of the race here too.
Tony Kanaan (+1600)
He says this is the best car that he’s had here in years. Kanaan, has three top 10’s in his last five Indy tries and was 11th, fifth, first, third and fourth respectively in practice.
Rinus VeeKay (+1800)
Indy is special to him. It’s the spot where he got his first top five, his first podium, his first pole and now his first win. Can he get an Indy 500 win on Sunday? VeeKay, starts third, the place where fellow countrymate and mentor Arie Luyendyk started when he won his first ‘500 in 1990. Also, the last two times that both the GMR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 were both held in the Month of May, the winner of the road course race also won the ‘500 too. They both started on the front row in those victories too. The numbers are aligning for VeeKay.
Ed Carpenter (+2500)
The hometown hero is always good here. He starts fourth and has two top six results in his last three tries including a runner-up in 2018.
Alexander Rossi (+1000)
I put him here and not the favorites list due to the guys above being who I really feel are the best options to win this race. Plus, he’s getting +1000 odds too. Rossi, starts 10th and has four top seven results in his five Indy 500 tries. He’s always good here and hungry.
Alex Palou (+1400)
He started seventh here as a rookie last year. He qualified sixth this year and was eighth, 11th, fifth and first respectively in practice. This is a great option since he’s a Ganassi driver too.
Graham Rahal (+1800)
He’s had a hell of a season thus far with a top 10 in all but one race. He enters with three top fives in-a-row and with a car capable of winning. Rahal, finished third last year.
Marcus Ericsson (+2000)
He joked before the season that an oval would be his first career win at. Indy would be a heck of a place for that to happen. He’s had a quietly strong month so far with being 10th, fourth, eighth, fourth, seventh and second respectively on the speed charts. He qualified ninth.
Takuma Sato (+2000)
He won this race last year, looks good in practice and has the aggression that it takes to win. Why not?
Best Value Picks For Longer Odds
Ryan Hunter-Reay (+2200)
You’re giving me a past ‘500 champion, a guy with three straight top 10’s here and starting seventh for these odds?
Helio Castroneves (+3000)
He’s a three-time winner. He’s less than a second away from being a five time winner. Castroneves is at his best at Indy and with a new team with Honda power and starts eighth.
Juan Pablo Montoya (+3300)
A two-time Indy 500 champion, who’s won for two different teams, driving for a third, with a great race car and he’s +3300?
Conor Daly (+5000)
This is the best car he’s ever had. Daly, has literally been in the top five of every race practice speed chart.
Ed Jones (+6000)
He starts 11th, has been solid all month and finished third here as a rookie in 2017.
Marco Andretti (+5000)
One-off entries like Andretti’s are uncommon to winning here. The last time it happened, was 2011. The last time before that was 2001. It happens every 10 years it seems. Plus, the last time it happened, it was this same No. 98 Honda.
There’s also this, Johnny Rutherford started on the pole for this race in 1973 and didn’t lead lap. The next year, he started 25th and won.
Marco Andretti started on the pole last year and didn’t lead a lap. This year, he starts 25th. Does history repeat itself?
Santino Ferrucci (+6000)
He finished seventh in 2019, fourth last year…first Sunday? Numbers say, yes. His team owner says these are the best cars they’ve ever had and two of the three guys to beat him last year drove for his team now that he’s since joined.
Drivers To Avoid
Colton Herta (+650)
He starts second. But, he’s been up and down this season, hasn’t been better than 10th in any race day practice session and his best finish in two tries here is eighth.
Josef Newgarden (+1400)
Coming into the month he was my pick. But, Newgarden hasn’t looked great. He was 14th, 30th, fourth, 22nd and 26th respectively in practice. He qualified midpack and has scored just two top fives in eight tries here.
Simon Pagenaud (+2200)
Can he pull a rabbit out of his hat? Pagenaud is a past winner here but was only sixth, 28th, 23rd, 30th and 28th respectively in practice. His race car is good, but it was hard to pass last year and they’re saying the same this. If he had a better starting position I’d take him.
Will Power (+2500)
He has a good race car in traffic, but he starts 32nd. The worst starting spot in the previous 104 years of this race? 28th.
Simona de Silvestro (+50000)
She’s a great story but starting last. See stat above.
Max Chilton (+50000)
He’s never won an Indy Car race and hates racing on ovals. Not a good combination.
Felix Rosenqvist (+5000)
He starts 14h but he’s never had a top 10 here and ovals are his strongsuit.
James Hinchcliffe (+6000)
He finished seventh last year but only starts 16th this year and has been battling his car all month.
Jack Harvey (+6600)
Not one of his better tracks on oval configuration and has a midpack starting spot.
Sage Karam (+10000)
For the fourth time in eight years, he starts 31st. I don’t see it happening in 2021.
Stefan Wilson (+15000)
A great story, but I just don’t see him winning due to him starting in the back.
There’s been three rookie winners here since 1967. The last coming in 2016 on a fluke fuel call. Avoid Scott McLaughlin (+3300) and Pietro Fittipaldi (+15000) because of that.
AJ Foyt Racing
They’ve not won at Indy since 1999. They’ve not won an Indy Car race since 2013. I don’t see it out of them this year either so don’t take Sebastien Bourdais (+10000), JR Hildebrand (+20000), Dalton Kellett (+50000).
Head To Head
Pato O’Ward (-137) vs. Alex Palou (+105)
Palou has been in the top 10 all month and start sixth. He has a good car with Ganassi and getting + money
Pick: Palou (+105)
Honda and Chevy is the key battle to watch. Chevy had the preferred power in this race in 2018 and again in 2019. They’ve swept the front row both years. In 2018, they led nearly 150 of the 200 laps run. 2019, they combined to lead 155 of the 200 laps.
Honda put 8 cars in the Fast 9 at Indy last year, swept the top 4 finishing spots and led 180 of 200 laps. At Texas in 2020, they had two cars in the top four and combined to lead 159 of 200 laps that night too. They dominated Race 1 at Texas earlier this month and have 10 of the top 13 starters on Sunday.