The best day of the year for motorsports fans is this Saturday with a fantastic triple header that kicks off with the Monaco Grand Prix early in the morning, followed by the Indianapolis 500 and closing with the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte.
It’s got a little of something for everyone, intertwining history and name recognition of the three most popular racing organizations.
You may not bet the Formula-1 races weekly, or you may see Lewis Hamilton as the 4-to-7 favorite to win and figure it’s not an attractive venture, but the sights and sounds of racing on the streets of Monte Carlo are one of the best in all of sports.
It is one of those F-1 races I always try to wake up early for even without having wager on anyone.
Then there is the Indy 500 which has been running since 1911. It‘s an epic brand and one that has kept the fledgling IndyCar Series afloat. The race itself has more meaning to me than any other just because it brings back so many fond memories of family from the past, where the Indy 500 was always on television with the traditional Memorial Day weekend family gatherings.
I have kept that tradition going strong, and it’s never about who is racing, but rather about what the brand itself is all about. To me, there aren’t too many things more American than the Indy 500, and I bask in the flag each year as I celebrate not only America, but past family members who died for our country.
My late Grandfather served in World War II and Korea, and he got this whole thing started for me at the earliest of age, and while we saluted his cousin Bob Roberts who died in the Bataan Death March or my other Grandfather Paul Kukich who was stranded on Guadalcanal, the Indy 500 was always right there with us.
I’m a little more excited for this year’s race just because of a couple new drivers participating. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indy 500 in 2000 (we called it correctly), and after taking off for Formula-1 – where he happened to win at Monaco – and then raced in NASCAR from 2007-2013, he’s come full circle to be driving for Roger Penske in his first Indy 500 since winning.
The Columbian is one of the best drivers in the world, but what I like most about him is his swagger. He knows he’s one of the best in the world and oozes confidence.
Montoya is always thrilling, but I’m even more excited for another driver. Kurt Busch will attempt to race in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 later that night. Two races at two different tracks 580 miles apart, and doing within hours of each other.
That’s pretty awesome stuff, and it’s even better that he grew up in Las Vegas. He’s one of our own which makes the rooting easier. He’ll be driving a car for Michael Andretti that he showed some great speeds with practices. But because of his inexperience in the Indy cars, you can get 30-to-1 on him at the LVH Super Book.
My favorite to win is three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves at 6-1. He showed throughout practices last week that his Penske car will be one of the fastest on the track. Between his experience and horsepower, he is definitely the driver to beat.
Tony Kanaan (15-1) won last year’s race and proved that a team not backed behind the power names of Andretti, Ganassi or Penske can win. Kanaan drives for Ganassi this year, but candidates to win that shouldn’t be discounted because of who they race for include Simon Pagenaud (20/1) and pole sitter Ed Carpenter. Because Carpenter is on the pole, his odds have dropped from 20-1 down to 7-1.
Between the three races on Sunday, the Coca-Cola 600 will get the most attention from bettors and the drivers to key on in the longest race of the season are the ones that have fared the best on the three 1.5-mile tracks this season.
Joey Logano (8-1) and Jeff Gordon (9-1) have looked the sharpest so far between Las Vegas, Texas and Kansas, but with the extra distance here, it’s not a bad idea to take a long look at a few other candidates.
Kasey Kahne is a four-time winner at Charlotte and finished second in the two races there last season. He’s been showing a little more speed in practices lately and looks close to breaking through for a win. He loves this track, so getting 10-1 or higher on him might not be a bad investment.
Jimmie Johnson falls into the same category as his teammate Kahne. He’s yet to win on the season, but that can’t last, right? He’s a six-time winner at Charlotte, and because of his mini-struggle this season, you can finally get decent odds on him. Getting 7-1 odds on Johnson over the past decade at Charlotte was impossible, but not this time around.
Brad Keselowski won the fall race at Charlotte last season and also has the Las Vegas win to his resume this year making him a great candidate to win at 10-1 odds.
If the sports books had a pick-3 for the day (they don‘t), I would take Hamilton to win at Monaco, Castroneves at Indy and Keselowski at Charlotte.
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. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].