The 2021 Indianapolis 500 is now just one day away. Defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been the favorite to win this year’s event since the first set of odds dropped. However, with qualifying having been done for some time now, the market behind New Zealand’s finest has most certainly shifted. We go over some options for race day plays from each third of the field.
You can find our gambling picks from multiple sports here.
First Third of Field
Alexander Rossi was a late-race incident away last year from starting off his Indianapolis 500 career with five consecutive top-10 results. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner starts this year in tenth and sits at +1000. There may not be a better outright play in this entire field, to be quite honest. Passing is expected to be easier in this year’s 500, which helps his chances. Rossi is close to a must-play if you do not like the value of Dixon at +350. It’s a great value for one of IndyCar’s best.
Along with Dixon, one of his front-row mates could also prove to be a viable play. Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing is off to a great start to his 2021 season. The Dutchman sits at +1500, picked up his first-career win on the Indianapolis road course a couple of weeks ago, and sits sixth in points. Now he finds himself on the front row of the biggest race in motorsports in just his second 500 start. Also, the driver who qualified in third has won twice in the last three years. Maybe that’s a good omen for VeeKay. VeeKay’s boss Ed Carpenter at +2500 and starting fourth is another solid option. As is Colton Herta starting second at +750.
Top Pick: Rossi (+1000)
Middle Third of Field
While getting to the front from midfield or the rear is not impossible at Indianapolis, take this stat into account: The worst qualifying spot to win in the last decade was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 (19th). With that said, a good midfield play could be IndyCar rookie Scott McLaughlin coming in at +3000. While he’s a new face on the American racing scene, McLaughlin is nothing short of an icon Down Under. A former three-time V8 Supercar champion in Australia, the 2019 winner of The Bathurst 1000, and 56 races. In McLaughlin’s first two oval starts in IndyCar, he sported finishes of second and eighth. He most certainly can hang with the top guys.
Last year’s race winner Takuma Sato starts this year’s Indianapolis 500 back in 15th this year and carries +1500 odds. The 44-year-old native of Japan looks to pull off an unprecedented run of three Indianapolis 500 wins in five years. For what it is worth, he finished sixth on the speed charts in the practice session following qualifying last Sunday. Also from a historical perspective, Sato has only ever finished outside the top-10 or on the podium in his 11 career 500 starts. For better or worse, you know what you are getting with him.
Top Pick: McLaughlin (+3000)
Final Third of Field:
Not a whole lot of realistic plays this far back, but the most realistic one available is probably Will Power. The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner starts second to last and is set at +2500 this year. Going from the back to the front is not as doom and gloom as it sounds. In 2018, Rossi came from 32nd to finish fourth that year, for example.
Team Penske (and Chevrolet as a whole) has not looked the best in the lead up to this year’s 500, so keep that in mind. If Power’s abysmal performance in qualifying is enough to scare you off, a couple of other options could be Marco Andretti at +4000 or Juan Pablo Montoya at +3000. They will be starting in 25th and 24th, respectively.
Top Pick: Andretti (+4000)
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
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