IndyCar travels to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 30, for Indianapolis 500. Dubbed as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Indy500 will mark the 105th running of the 500-mile race and one no racing fan should miss.
2021 Indianapolis 500
When: Sunday, May 30 – 11:00 a.m. ET
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 24°C
Indianapolis 500 is one of the most attended single-day sporting events globally and the most prominent race on the IndyCar Series schedule. Thousands of people tune in to watch the spectacle each year for over 100 years, with the audience allowed at the venue this weekend despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, there will be some limitations, with the organizers allowing only 135,000 spectators at the venue, approximately 40% capacity. That however, is no small number and definitely a welcomed change compared to last year, when there were no spectators by the track.
Previous Race – 2020 Indianapolis 500
The 2020 Indy500 was held on Sunday, August 23, 2020, a few months later than initially planned. Despite the postponement, the race did not lack excitement and, most notably, a surprise victory of Takuma Sato, who pulled away from Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal late in the race to secure his second career Indy 500 victory.
Sato’s impressive driving, however, was overshadowed by Spencer Pigot’s crash. He hit the wall with five laps to go, forcing the race under a yellow flag, eventually resulting in the race finishing under caution.
Pigot escaped the horrific crash relatively unharmed and was released from the hospital later that day. Indy500 was also Pigot’s last IndyCar race, and he now competes in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Indy 500 History
Before you can start talking about Indy500 and its next race, it’s only fair to understand where it all began, what makes Indy500 so unique and what has changed throughout the years.
The venue for the race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was built in 1909 in Indiana and is the largest sporting venue in the world. It was the second-purpose-build, banked oval racing circuit after Brooklands, and the first to be named as a “speedway”.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Brooklands are also the two of the oldest permanent automotive race tracks in the world, behind only Milwaukee Mile (1899).
The original track was paved with crushed stone and tar, and was later rebuild with bricks. A total of 3.2 million 4.5 kg bricks were used in the repavement of the tracks, which earned the track the name “Brickyard”. The final brick added to the track was made of gold and laid in a special ceremony by Governor Thomas R. Marshall.
Although the track has been rebuild several times since then, you can still find original bricks exposed at the start-finish line. This is to pay respect the tracks’ history and give it its unique charm.
The first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway happened two years after the track was built, in 1911, when Ray Harroun became the inaugural champion of Indy500. Since then (except for World War I and World War II), the race has been run annually, crowing 71 different champions in the process.
The most race victories held by a single driver is four, which is a record shared between three drivers – A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears. The most successful still-active driver is Hélio Castroneves with three wins, followed by the reigning champion Sato and Juan Pablo Montoya with two apiece.
Penske Underperform During Indy500 Qualifying
There were quite a few surprises that happened during the 2021 Indy500 qualifying, but the biggest one is arguably the underperformance of Team Penske. Their cars looked solid this season and during the practice races – up until the qualifying when all four drivers failed to deliver.
Out of Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Scott McLaughlin, no one managed to finish better than 17th. In fact, it was the New Zealand rookie who qualified the best (17th).
Will Power also came extremely close to crashing his car in the qualifiers but managed to keep his head calm and escaped the disaster. He will start the race from 32nd.
Penske’s poor performance is huge news and quite a shocking one, to say the least. Team Penske rarely struggle at these tracks and usually go toe-to-toe with Chip Ganassi Racing, who, unlike them, had an excellent qualifying performance with all four of their drivers placing inside the top-10.
Indianapolis 500 Betting Picks
The Indy500 will feature a plethora of excellent drivers, each more than capable of finishing ahead. There are a few drivers that stand as clear favourites, one of whom is Scott Dixon. He checks all the marks of a potential winner – strong form, great car, and pole position.
Scott Dixon claimed the pole in the qualifying and looks set to win his second Indy500 of his career, and first since 2008. Interestingly, he won the pole in 2008 and ended up winning the race, suggesting he might do it again this weekend.
This marks Dixon’s fourth pole of the year, which puts him in an excellent position to add his second victory of the season after Texas. Dixon is clearly the biggest favourite heading to Indiana as the most experienced driver in the field.
In his 18 starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dixon has only one win, albeit he has finished on the podium five times (27.8%), and led by 563 laps during that stretch. His average finish at this track is 10.3.
Dixon finished runner-up here last year and third in 2018. What’s more, he seems to be in his prime form and is only one win short of catching Mario Andretti as the second all-time winningest IndyCar drivers.
Prediction: Scott Dixon to win – 4.33 at Bet365
Colton Herta ended second in the qualifiers, losing to Dixon by a slim margin. The 21-year-old is one of the best young drivers in the sport, and he has the numbers to back those claims up.
Herta has four wins, five podiums, and five pole starts in just 37 races. Although he has had a rough start of his career in 2019, Herta still managed to pick up two victories in his debut year and ended seventh in the standings.
Last year, Herta won only Honda Indy 200, but has added six top-5s and ended the season in third with 421 points. This year, he was equally impressive, winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and finishing fifth in the second Texas race.
Prediction: Colton Herta to win EW (1/4, 4 places) – 8.00 at Bet365
Tony Kanaan finished third in the qualifiers yet is still priced as high as 16.0 to win this Sunday. That’s a very generous price for a driver of his calibre and definitely a bet worth looking at.
Kanaan has 16 career victories and 72 podiums from 292 races, but not a single victory since 2014. What’s more, he hadn’t finished inside the top-five since the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 in 2019 when he ended in third.
Despite lacking flashy results, Kanaan is in a great car and has the experience needed to compete at the weekend spectacle. In 19 starts at the Indy500, Kanaan managed one win (2013) and four podiums (21.1%). He has also led for 346 laps and has an average finish of 13.0.
If you’re wondering why Kanaan was so fast in the qualifiers – he is running in Jimmie Johnson’s car, since he is not allowed to race on ovals, as instructed by his wife.
Kanaan might not have won a single race in almost two years. However, he can still drive, is in an excellent car and will start the race from a great position. You don’t need much more than that to win Indy500 or at least compete for a strong finish.
Prediction: Tony Kanaan to win EW (1/4, 4 places) – 16.00 at Bet365