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Betting the Indianapolis 500: Favorites, Past Champs, and LongShots

Felix Rosenqvist

Felix Rosenqvist

© Kristin Enzor For IndyStar-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500, highlights a sports-filled Memorial Day weekend. Sunday on NBC, 33 drivers will compete in the 107th running of the iconic race. Coverage begins at 9A ET on Peacock with race coverage shifting to NBC at 11A ET.

From A.J. Foyt to Rick Mears to Helio Castroneves to the Andretti and Unser families, the Indianapolis 500 has catapulted the world’s best drivers to stardom. Who will be the best in 2023? How should we bet The 500?

Let’s dive into the markets and odds for Indy. Knowing the race is about surviving the first 450 miles before truly racing for the checkered flag, cashing tickets is challenging and requires a bit of luck. That said, we can use the history of this storied race to make an intelligent wager or two.

Indy Polesitter and IndyCar Points Leader

The 33-car field this year will be led to the starting line by the hottest driver on the circuit Alex Palou of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team. The polesitter and 2021 IndyCar Champion will be joined on the front row by Rinus VeeKay out of Ed Carpenter’s garage.

Palou (+550) is the favorite. The polesitter, Palou has yet to win the Indy 500 but has finished Top Ten the last two years (2nd and 9th respectively). As noted, he posted the fastest qualifying time and as a result, the best driver this season in the fastest car will be a tough out. History concurs as the Indianapolis 500 has been won 20 times by the polesitter. That is the most wins from any starting position.

(Watch More: The Irresistable Appeal of the Indianapolis 500)

As noted, Rinus VeeKay (+1300) starts alongside Palou. The Dutch-born driver has one win in his young career, but that one win was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. No, it was not the fabled 500 but his win at the GMR Grand Prix in 2021 is an experience from which he can draw plenty. Starting on the outside of Row 1 is Felix Rosenqvist (+1300) who currently sits 13th in the IndyCar standings. The Swede led a blistering first day of qualifying for the 107th Indianapolis 500, posting at the time the third-fastest four-lap qualifying run in the history of this storied event. The driver starting on the outside of Row 1 has won this event 13 times more than all other starting spots other than the polesitter.

Those starting behind this trio face steep odds. Row two starters have finished first a total of 20 times while row three starters have combined for just nine wins in the race’s illustrious history. It is no surprise to learn that Positions 13 and 15 in Row 5 are the only starting spots to produce more than three wins from the race’s final eight rows.

Past Champions in the 500

The odds correctly reflect the difficulties a driver faces who does not start in the Top 6. Navigating your way to the front of the race demands experience. As a result, let’s look at the nine former winners on the starting grid at The Brickyard in 2023. The list of past champions includes 4-time winner Helio Castroneves (+4000) who starts 20th and 2-time champion Takuma Sato (+1000) who will start in the middle of Row 3. Alexander Rossi (+1200) will start on the inside of Row 7. Scott Dixon (+850), Tony Kanaan (+2000), Ryan Hunter-Reay (+6600), Will Power (+1700), Simon Pagenaud (+6000) and Marcus Ericsson (+1300) are the other former winners spread throughout the field this year. These drivers will be the first to note a driver can only lose the race in the first 450 miles and avoiding trouble is vital for the first 90% of the race.

(Read More: The Full Field for the 107th Indianapolis 500)

Rookies at Indianapolis

It is rare, but drivers running in their first Indianapolis 500 have won, though. Alexander Rossi back in 2016 was the last rookie to win the Indy 500. He is one of only five rookies to kiss the bricks. There are four rookies in this year’s field. Benjamin Pederson (+6000) of A.J. Foyt Racing qualified 11th. No doubt his inexperience at The Brickyard factored into his odds despite his start from the middle of Row 4. The other rookies in the field are Agustin Canapino (+35000) who will start 27th in the 33-car field, R.C. Enerson (+25000) who qualified in the 29th position, and Sting Ray Robb (+30000) who had to survive Last Chance Qualifying to earn the 32nd starting spot.

There is one female in the field. Katherine Legge (+35000) of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Team qualified 29th in the field. For the history buffs, there is also an Andretti in the race this year. The grandson of the legendary driver Mario Andretti and son of long-time driver and team owner Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti (+5000) will start on the outside of Row 8.

Best Bets for the Indianapolis 500

Our money this year is on the following three drivers:

Felix Rosenqvist (+1300) – Can the team get even more speed out of this car that was so fast on Day 1 of qualifying?

Takuma Sato (+1000) – A 2-time winner who is an expert at surviving early and thriving late.

Benjamin Pederson (+6000) – A rookie but it has been a magical week for the AJ Foyt Racing Team.

The pageantry and drama at The Indianapolis 500 fail to disappoint annually. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is just that. Enjoy the full day of racing on Peacock beginning at 9A ET with the race starting at 11A ET on NBC.

Enjoy the race and enjoy the sweat.