2021 Indianapolis 500 Odds Breakdown: Pre-Qualifying

Indy 500 Pre-Qualifying odds

The start of Indianapolis 500 qualifying is now just days away. IndyCar’s brightest are well into their prep for this year’s edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Oddsmakers have already made their feelings known, with race odds already available for some time now.

With a bulk of practice sessions in the books, here is where last year’s winner Takuma Sato and series champion Scott Dixon stack up amongst the field.

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***Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of May 16***

Historical Notes

There are a few things to keep in mind from a trend’s standpoint as race day gets closer. First, since 2005 there have been four drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 from the pole position. They are Sam Hornish Jr in 2006, Dixon in 2008, Helio Castroneves in 2008, and Simon Pagenuad in 2019.

Excluding those four instances, seven times the winner has come from one of the first three rows (first through ninth). The great Dario Franchitti and Sato have both done it twice. 2007 and 2010 for Franchitti and 2017 and 2020 for Sato. Will Power did it in 2018, as did the late Dan Wheldon in 2011. Since 2005, the lowest an eventual race winner has qualified was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 (19th).

Additionally, only one time in the event’s history has a rookie driver won the event. That was Alexander Rossi back in 2016.

Finally, the last two instances of drivers winning in back-to-back years were Castroneves in 2001 and 2002, and prior to that Al Unser accomplished the feat in 1970 and 1971. It has happened five times total in over a century and only twice since 1955.

Anything can happen in motorsports, but these are all things to keep in mind if you are planning to put some coin down.

The Favorites

We start off with the defending six-time series champion Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing. He sits atop the board, listed at +500 before qualifying weekend. He has won the event twice (2008 and 2012) and has been the bridesmaid three times, including last year. Since 2017, Dixon has three oval race wins and sports an average finish of 6.07 over 13 races. There are certainly better value picks on the board, but The Iceman should be on your radar. There is a very real argument to be made there is not a better race car driver on the planet.

2019 series champion Josef Newgarden sits at +700. He started out his Indy 500 career rather shaky but has stabilized as of late with three consecutive top-10 results. In addition, Newgarden has been one of the best drivers in IndyCar since moving to Team Penske in 2017. On ovals his last three years, the Hendersonville, TN native has four wins and an average result of 4.07 in 13 starts. On value, he is a slightly better play than Dixon, but he also has a better track record at The Yard of Bricks.

The third favorite would be one Patricio O’Ward. The Arrow McLaren SP driver is relatively new to the IndyCar scene, currently in just his second full year. However, he is well on his way to being a mainstay in the sport, and his Indianapolis 500 odds reflect that, sitting at +800. O’Ward recently picked up his first career win at Texas Motor Speedway and has an average result of 6.14 in seven career oval races. If his odds drop post-qualifying, O’Ward should absolutely be on your radar.

Former Race Winners

The formerly mentioned Power and Pagenaud of Team Penske sit at +900 and +1200, respectively. They hold a combined three oval wins over the last three seasons, with Pagenaud accounting for two. Power has been shaky in recent years on ovals, having six sub-top-10 oval results since his last win. Just like with Newgarden, it might be best to wait and see if you can find him at a better set of odds. Pagenaud at +1200 is the better of the two here but wise to also wait on him until after qualifying.

2016 race winner Rossi with Andretti Autosport sits at +1000 currently. Save for last year’s 27th-place result in Indianapolis (where he wrecked in the final quarter of the race), has been fantastic in the 500. Rossi has finishes of first, seventh, fourth, and second in his last four starts, and was leading in last year’s race at the halfway mark. Despite some less than spectacular oval results in recent years, Rossi always brings his best for the biggest race of the year. +1000 may be the best his odds could be, depending on how qualifying goes.

Now for last year’s winner in Sato. It was certainly a shock to see him at +1800 when odds opened. Like Rossi, his oval results are so-so, but he raced his way to podium finishes in three of the last four 500s. If his odds drop into the +2000’s, Sato may become the best play in the race.

Finally, to Juan Pablo Montoya, Castroneves, and Hunter-Reay. Not the drivers they used to be, but all three have the experience to perhaps make a race-winning run. Montoya at +2200 may not be as desirable as Hunter-Reay and Castroneves at +3000, but all are around fair value.

Value/Longshot Picks

Indiana native Ed Carpenter starts out this final segment. At +3500, the 40-year-old driver/owner is a bit enticing as of now. On one hand, he has qualified on pole three times since 2013 and finished runner-up in 2018. On the flipside, he has been plagued by in-race accidents during that span, suffering four sub-top-25 results. However, at +3500 with his Indy speed in years gone by, that can be looked past.

20-year-old Dutchman Rinus VeeKay is next, currently sitting at +4000. He notched his first career win on the Indianapolis road course over F1 veteran Romain Grosjean in the most recent Indy Car race. His oval results have steadily improved since last year, and may be a good play based on where he is right now. Just be sure to check on how he qualifies first.

Lastly, The Mayor of Hinchtown James Hinchcliffe comes in at +5000. Despite missing the 2015 race due to a life-threatening practice crash, and outright failing to qualify in 2018, Hinchcliffe has been respectable at Indianapolis. When not caught up in wrecks, Hinchcliffe tends to finish rather well but has never cracked the top-five. At +5000, though, and with him being back with Andretti Autosport, he sits as one of the top longshot picks.

Be sure to check in after qualifying this weekend to see how much the drivers’ odds have changed.

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