The 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 is back in its traditional Memorial Day Weekend position. Last year’s race, won by Takuma Sato (17-1), had to be moved amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Who will take the checkered flag this weekend? Senior writer Ryan McGee, fantasy’s Mike Clay and editor Scott Symmes offer their best bets.
Odds from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Best bets for the Indianapolis 500
Colton Herta 7-1
Symmes: Dixon’s biggest threat? A lot of observers would say Herta, who was really the only driver in Dixon’s zip code during pole qualifying. Herta’s Indy 500 career started in disaster with a last-place finish in 2019. Things improved for him last year when he came home a solid eighth. This year could be the big breakthrough for Herta, whose Honda will roll off second. Already a proven winner, the 21-year-old has the potential to be the next American IndyCar star. A victory on Sunday would accelerate that rise.
Pato O’Ward 9-2
Symmes: It could easily end up being a Honda show on Sunday, with pole sitter Dixon likely setting the pace, but one of the Chevy drivers to watch is O’Ward. He won the most recent oval race (May 2 at Texas) and had a strong maiden Indy 500 last year with a sixth-place finish. He’s starting 12th — the past four winners all started in the top five — but O’Ward appears to have the car to make headway. He has already shown he has the talent.
Alexander Rossi 12-1
McGee: The favorite is Scott Dixon and rightfully so. He might be the best there’s ever been in an IndyCar, and he laughed good-naturedly when I talked to him Monday about being “only” a one-time Indy 500 champ. But the numbers are what they are, and since his win from the pole in 2008, the pole-sitter has won this race only twice and just once since 2009. Parity is fun for us, but bad for the guy starting up front. So I am looking a little farther back. Rossi has been the story of this race, win or lose, since he upset the world with his 2016 victory. With any luck, this super-aggressive Californian would have won at least two more since then.
Clay: The former F1 prospect stunned a sell-out crowd with a victory in his first Indy 500 to secure 2016 Rookie-of-the-Year honors. He’s been a regular contender ever since, having led double-digit laps in four of five starts at the Brickyard. He had a strong early showing in 2020, but his day ended in frustration when he got loose and found the wall while fighting to make up spots following a pit-lane blunder. Speaking of making up spots, Rossi completed 321 passes in his charge from 32nd to fourth in 2018. Sunday won’t require nearly as much effort. Look for him to quickly improve upon his third-row starting position.
Tony Kanaan 14-1
McGee: Kanaan has been the most popular driver at IMS for so long that we keep writing retirement pieces, yet he still keeps coming back. His latest resurrection has him in the best 500 car he has piloted in five years, back with Chip Ganassi to drive Jimmie Johnson‘s ride on the ovals. When he finally won it in 2013 after a dozen tries, the people of Speedway, Indiana nearly burned down the grandstands in excitement. He’s easily one of my favorite athletes I have ever covered. So, a second win and a ride into the Brazilian sunset would be A-OK with me.
Symmes: Fans are back at Indy, and crowd favorite Kanaan has a legit chance to become one of the race’s oldest winners. The 46-year-old has turned back the clock this May, displaying the type of speed that made him a perennial favorite from 2002-09, when he never qualified worst than sixth. Back in a Chip Ganassi Racing Honda for the first time since 2017, the 2013 winner appears poised to be a force on Sunday. Kanaan qualified fifth — his best starting spot since 2015 — and has been mostly exceptional in practice. His 20th — and possibly last — Indy 500 could be one to remember.
Takuma Sato 17-1
Clay: A late bloomer at Indy, Sato waited until his age-40 season to kiss the bricks as the first Japanese-born winner of this race. A fuel gamble one season ago placed him among legends as he became the 20th multi-time Indy 500 winner. He enters Sunday with podium finishes in three of his last four attempts. He will roll off from the fifth row, the same spot that positioned him to capture a third-place result in 2019.