The ultimate viewing experience for auto racing fans takes place this Memorial Day weekend with up to nine hours of action on Sunday.
Beginning at 5 a.m., start your day with an espresso and watch Formula-1’s Monaco Grand Prix, then upgrade to Bloody Mary’s at 9 for the Indianapolis 500 and then take it up a notch even further at 3 p.m. for NASCAR’s longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Betting is available on all three races at most sportsbooks, but the NASCAR event will be the most wagered by far. The 100th running of the Indy 500 still has the most prestige just because it’s been so interwoven into the fabric of America, but the fledgling Indy Racing series has lost the attention span of viewers dramatically over the past 20 years.
Part of the reason is because NASCAR has found its niche in the mainstream that Indy Racing used to own, especially in the Midwest. Most people identify better with the NASCAR drivers and the colorful sponsors, and the series is much more competitive. NASCAR is also easier to find on television – are you surprised to know that five Indy races have already been run on the season?
I’m the perfect example of an older auto racing fan that has lost some luster for the Indy cars. I followed it religiously since I was a kid. I love anything with a motor that races fast and I like betting on just about any series, but they lost me somewhere in early 1990’s after CART and Indy Racing split. Yet I still followed it just to post odds for my sportsbook.
Sure, I’m going to watch Sunday just because it’s tradition and I’ll have a small wager on it, but I won’t be extending my bankroll like I do for a NASCAR race just because I’m no longer as smart with it. Still, it’s must-watch TV.
A Chevrolet has won all five races this season with Team Penske winning four. Simon Pagenaud has won the past three races – all of which were on street/road circuits. The only oval-type track raced on so far was the flat 1-mile layout at Phoenix, won by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who won the 2008 Indy 500 and is the Westgate SuperBook’s 5-to-1 favorite.
My angle this week is to stay with Team Penske’s power, an organization that has won the Indy 500 a record 16 times. The owner with the next closest wins is Lou Moore with five, the last coming in 1949. Yes, Team Penske knows how to get around this track and all their money and technology coming into each season is geared toward winning the race with the biggest purse. Juan Montoya won it last season, 15 years after winning there for the first time while driving for Ganassi.
Westgate’s odds for the Penske quartet have Montoya and three-time winner Helio Castroneves at 6-to-1 followed by Pagenaud and Will Power at 8-to-1. The one long shot I’ll take a small flyer on is Andretti Motorsport’s Alexander Rossi at 100-to-1, who showed speed during practices and starts 11th.
For NASCAR’s event we’re going to look back at what happened in the previous four races on 1.5-mile tracks with an emphasis on Atlanta and Texas results because the two tracks run most similar to Charlotte.
Last week’s All-Star Race was also run at Charlotte, but between the randomness of the rule changes, the results don’t tell the whole story. Kyle Larson was very fast in the All-Star and we should expect another good run Sunday.
Kyle Busch has never won at Charlotte in any Cup points race or the All-Star, but he’s the only driver to finish in the top-five in all four races on 1.5s. He’s also won the past two races on them (Texas, Kansas).
The best value of the bunch might be Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also surprisingly has never won a points race at Charlotte (32 starts). The reason Junior should be looked at seriously at 15-to-1 odds is because of runner-ups at Atlanta and Texas this year. He’s also starving for a win this season.
As for the Formula-1 race at Monaco, a place Montoya also won when he drove in the series, we have to starts with Nico Rosberg who won the first four races and then also look at 18-year-old Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Lewis Hamilton, winner of the 2008 Monaco GP, has yet to win this season and it’s a good spopt and price just because of teammate Rosberg dominating. Let’s go with Hamilton to get his first win.
Enjoy the day and remember to take some Advil and drink water before calling it a day.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected]