IndyCar racing is just a shadow of what it once was. The Indy 500 is still a magical race, though, so even people who don’t care about the sport most of the year will be interested in who drinks the milk on Sunday afternoon.
This year’s race will have extra emotion as last year’s winner, Dan Wheldon, was killed in a race in Las Vegas in the fall. Hearts will be heavy this Sunday, but all 33 drivers in the field will be looking to win. That means that there are going to be some good betting opportunities.
If you aren’t as up to date with the sport as you would ideally be, here’s a look at seven drivers who matter (all Indy 500 odds are from Bovada):
Ryan Briscoe (15/4)
He’s not a household name outside of the IndyCar world, but Briscoe is the clear favorite in this race.
He earned the pole through a strong qualification process, and he clearly has his car ready to go. He was incredible in 2009, but he has been more potential than accomplishment since. Briscoe hasn’t been better than 15th in this race. His Penske team has won the last two times they claimed the pole in Indy, though, and since 2001 they haven’t gone more than three years without a win — their last was in 2009.
He’s a fitting favorite, but he’s far from a lock. My inclination is to look for someone who can beat him.
Will Power (6/1)
The driver with one of the best names in all of sports is the third betting choice in this race. He is red-hot with wins in three straight races and 14 wins in the last three years, though everything is different in this one because it’s on an oval.
Power has had terrible luck on ovals recently, including a tire issue in the pits last year that cost him his race. To bet on Power you need to decide whether momentum outweighs racing style.
Helio Castroneves (11/2)
The best dancer in car racing is also the most successful Indy racer in this field. He has won the race three times, and he won the pole four times, include back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. He is a Penske teammate of both Briscoe and Power, so it’s clear which team has the best shot of winning it all here.
Despite his career success, though, Castroneves is a bit under-the-radar here because Briscoe qualified so well and Power can’t lose lately. He’ll handle the pressure of this race better than those two, though, so he is definitely dangerous.
James Hinchcliffe (17/2)
As a Canadian I have a soft spot for any of my countrymen — especially since Greg Tracy was robbed of his win in 2002. Hinchliffe absolutely doesn’t lack for confidence or swagger, and he’s driving well right now — as his spot in the front row attests.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year has yet to show that he can handle the most intense pressure, though, and the only time he started in the Indy 500 he wrecked. We also don’t know how well he can last through a 500-mile race because he has yet to finish a race this long.
He certainly has a chance — a pretty good one — but he’ll need everything to go his way on the day.
Dario Franchitti (9/1)
These odds are proof of Franchitti’s star power — and how much people like his wife, Ashley Judd.
He won the race in 2010 so he is obviously capable. His year has been underwhelming, though, and he doesn’t seem to be rounding into form lately. There are reasons to question his equipment, too.
At 20/1 I’d be interested, but this price just doesn’t make sense — at least not if you like value.
Marco Andretti (9/1)
Andretti has had a lousy racing year so far — he sits 19th in points — but he has looked like a whole new guy since arriving at Indy, and he is suddenly looking fast and strong. He seems to do well every other year in this race — a second and two thirds — and he’s due to continue that trend this year.
At this price he’s definitely one to watch. He’s not the most likely winner, but he could be the best bet.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (12/1)
It seems like Hunter-Reay has been cursed at Indy. The question is whether that curse will continue or if his solid form from this year will continue.
He has made the podium twice this year, and he lost a third podium finish on his last lap. The last three times at Indy he has been 32nd, 18th, and 23rd, though, and has made some bad mistakes each time. If he can get his head together he would be interesting, but there are definitely other drivers I like better.
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