Reynolds: Indy 500 Betting Preview and Value Picks

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: IndyCar driver Scott Dixon

The surest prediction for 102nd Indianapolis 500 is unpredictability. Memorial Day Weekend brings about several annual traditions such as barbecues, higher gas prices, remembrances of our fallen servicemen and women and the running of the Indianapolis 500 (12:19 p.m. ET green flag).

 

Before handicapping the race, there are a few storylines that make this year’s Indy 500 especially unpredictable:

Heat Wave

Sunday’s forecast is calling for temperatures to reach 90 degrees. Only six times in 101 races has the temperature reached the 90s.

Tire Degradation

Drivers have spoken all month about how difficult it is to make an entire fuel run due to the tire wear, and with a hot and slick track on Sunday, you will likely see more pit stops than the usual six to seven. Tires will be the major determinant of fuel strategy.

Chevrolet vs. Honda

The “bowties” had a definitive power edge in qualifying by taking nine of the top 11 spots on the starting grid. However, Honda took three of the top four speeds in Friday’s final Carb Day practice session. Chevrolet has definitely made up ground on Honda’s advantage at IMS the last couple years, but I don’t foresee an advantage for either manufacturer in race trim.

So let’s try to make sense of this race and find a winner.

Will Power: +1132 (Bookmaker)

Having won the Indy Grand Prix on the road course earlier in the month, the Aussie will be attempting to become the first to achieve the May Double at Indy. He’s starting on the outside of the front row, and running upfront this year could be an even bigger edge than normal. The cars have more drag, and passes on the race track will prove to be more difficult than they have been in recent years. Power has won three of the last four superspeedway races in the IndyCar Series. In addition, he and his three Penske teammates all made the Fast Nine to run for the Indy 500 pole.

Scott Dixon: +1205 (Bookmaker)

The Kiwi has been a bit under the radar this month and he and his Chip Ganassi Racing team are off to a slow start this season with only one podium finish in the first five races. However, this is a pretty fair price with, in my opinion, the best driver in the IndyCar Series (fourth all-time in series wins behind A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti). Dixon is also the smartest driver in the series and wins so frequently because he makes the fewest mistakes and adjusts better than anyone to adverse conditions.

He is also the best fuel-saver in the paddock. With the hot weather and tire wear, fuel conservation is going to be even more important for track position. Dixon is the master of saving fuel throughout the race and not just saving when he has to at the end. He also should have the speed to run up front, going second quickly in final practice. On top of that, his crew won the Pit Stop Competition at Friday’s Carb Day, and with more pit stops than anticipated, that could prove to be a major advantage.

Marco Andretti: +1482 (Bookmaker)

The grandson of Mario and the son of Michael has long been dubbed an underachiever in Indy Car (two career wins; last win in 2011), and despite not having a 500 win, he knows how to get around the Brickyard. He’s been in the top three in five of seven practice sessions. Marco has garnered five Top 5 finishes and eight Top 10s in his 12 starts. The “Andretti luck” is legendary in Indy 500 lore with the family winning only one race (Mario, 1969) as drivers. This is Marco’s 13th Indy 500 start and it would only be fitting if he can break the Andretti bad luck with the unluckiest number.

One other factor to consider is that Andretti Autosport has won three of the last four Indy 500s (2014: Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2016: Alexander Rossi, 2017: Takuma Sato).

Carlos Munoz: +2520 (Bookmaker)

The fine Colombian (Steely Dan — “Hey Nineteen”) is racing only a one-off at Indy this year for Andretti Autosport. He’s back with the team where he earned two seconds and a fourth in four 500 starts. He’s always been “racey” here and a very live darkhorse from the 21st position.

Robert Wickens: +6600 (5Dimes)

I have to include a real long shot to finish things off. Wickens has spent most of his racing career in Europe, including a stint in Formula One. The Canadian has adjusted nicely to racing in the United States, including a second-place finish at Phoenix, his first race on an oval track. Unfortunately, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team has had a rotten month as his fellow Canadian teammate James Hinchcliffe failed to make the field of 33. The bad month for the team means he’s going largely ignored, yet he’s been highly competitive all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his way through the field.

Ladies and gentlemen … start your engines!

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