Qualifying weekend is over, and the biggest day on the American motor racing calendar is fast approaching. In a field stocked with hometown heroes, old veterans, and Formula 1 ex-pats, only one can go home with a bottle of milk and a Corvette.
It’s certainly one of the more anticipated runnings in recent memory, with a live feed of Fernando Alonso’s testing drawing millions of viewers and a host of old favourites at the front of the grid. Last year, the excitement centred around the 100th anniversary of the race, this year the excitement is all about the race itself.
2017 Indy 500: Odds to Win
Scott Dixon: 5/1
Scott Dixon is obviously in fine form, recording the fastest qualifying time since 1996 and landing comfortably on pole. Pole position isn’t everything in oval racing, obviously; a pole sitter hasn’t won since Helio Castroneves in 2009, but Dixon had a pace above and beyond what any of the others could bring to the Fast Nine.
This will be Scott Dixon’s third start from pole at the 500. In 2008, he was able to win the race, but finished fourth in 2015. Dixon was also robbed in an Indianapolis Taco Bell just hours after qualifying, which raises a lot of questions about his personal judgement and decision-making.
Alexander Rossi: 12/1
The defending champ has high expectations for his second Indy 500. Qualifying at the end of the first row (third overall), Rossi posted an impressive four-lap average of 231.487 mph. Nobody’s repeated as Indy 500 champion since Helio Castroneves in 2002. Helio was also a rookie in his first effort in 2001. Coincidence? Yes.
Fernando Alonso: 14/1
Formula 1 drivers wheeling at the Brickyard is nothing new, but usually we’re talking about guys like Sebastian Bourdais, who was the second-fastest Sebastian driving for Red Bull’s junior squad, and Takuma Sato, who only escaped being the fourth-fastest by not being called Sebastian. It’s something of a departure for a double world champion to skip the Monaco Grand Prix and turn laps on an oval course.
Alonso was quick in practice, posting the fourth fastest time on a thundery Fast Friday, and was potentially held back in qualifying by an overboost issue. Nevertheless, Alonso finished fifth in qualifying and is in a position to contend for the race win.
He’s at a disadvantage in that he’s only spent a few sessions in an Indy car, but he also has a pretty obvious edge in that he’s one of the three or four most talented drivers on the planet right now. All eyes will be on Alonso’s #29 car, and for good reason.
Ed Carpenter: 14/1
The hometown favorite qualified second with an average speed of 231.664, a pace that any reasonable driver would be thrilled to achieve in qualifying. If it weren’t for the mercurial performance of Dixon, Carpenter’s time would be much lauded.
Carpenter, who’s started the 500 every year since 2004, has never won the race. Running without the support of one of the big teams, he has a hill to climb and comes into race day at something of a disadvantage. Yet he’s still one of the fastest drivers on the grid.
Takuma Sato: 20/1
If you’re one of those slightly ghoulish fans that tunes in hoping to see an accident, keep your eye on the #26 car of Takuma Sato. After making a name for himself in F1 for an … “agressive” driving style, Sato brought his talents over the pond to the IndyCar series and changed very little. He’s quick, absolutely, qualifying fourth and just ahead of Fernando Alonso, but that’s four laps on a closed track. Sato’s never managed to finish better than 13th in the full race, and he’s lined up every year since 2010.
2017 Indy 500: Props and Parlays
Odds the winning driver is American: 2/3
Odds Fernando Alonso’s car breaks down again: 1/1
Odds Fernando Alonso wins AND Lewis Hamilton wins the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix: 35/2
Odds the winning driver drinks orange juice instead of milk in victory circle, causes outrage: 24/1