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Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Those who cheer for the best story in a given sports event will be solidly on the side of Helio Castroneves on Sunday, as the Brazilian driver seeks to with the Indianapolis 500 for a record fifth time.
If you’ll recall, Castroneves joined the four-victory fraternity two years ago, and he’s driving for the same Meyer Shank Racing team that sent him to Victory Lane in 2021.
The problem? In the run-up to the foremost spectacle in racing, Castroneves hasn’t shown the speed necessary to compete with front-row qualifiers Alex Palou, Rinus Veekay and Felix Rosenqvist.
Starting 20th, Castroneves was more than 2 mph slower than Palou in qualifying. But in the Indy 500, reliability wins more races than raw speed, and if Castroneves can survive to the end, he may have a shot.
Obviously, he’s been there before, and at +4000 via DraftKings Sportsbook, he’s a great long-shot bet if you’re looking deeper in the field than the first three rows.
Alex Palou already has won at Indy this season, albeit on the 2.439, 14-turn road course as opposed to the 2.5-mile oval that hosts the Indianapolis 500.
Nevertheless, Palou’s victory in the May 13 GMR Grand Prix vaulted him to the top of the IndyCar standings, six points ahead of second-place Pato O’Ward.
Palou followed that triumph with a pole-winning effort for the Sunday’s Indy 500, and he’ll lead the 33-car field to green at 12:45 p.m.
Pole-winning speed, however, does not guarantee success in the 200-lap, 500-mile race. In fact, only one polesitter has kissed the bricks at Indy in the last 13 years. That was Simon Pagenaud in 2019.
We also think Palou is a better bet on road courses than he is on ovals, and we’re reluctant to put our money on the pole winner at the short odds of +600 via DraftKings.
First, the disclaimer. No driver has won consecutive Indy 500s since Helio Castroneves pulled off the feat in 2001 and 2002.
Why, then, are we picking Marcus Ericsson to defend last year’s victory?
First, it’s about time someone did it. Second, the Swede drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, a team that also fields cars for pole winner Alex Palou and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, who also has six series championships to his credit.
Ganassi’s cars have speed this year, and we like Ericsson to duplicate his win from 2022, when he beat Pato O’Ward to the checkered flag by 1.793 seconds.
Another reason we like Ericsson: he’s offered at +1100 by DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s a generous price for a defending winner.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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