Time to go racing

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The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 happens Sunday at the most famous track in the world and if you do a double take at the calendar to verify it’s not Memorial Day weekend, you’re not alone.

Since the first Indy 500 was run on the bricks in 1911, only two World Wars have stopped the annual race from happening on Memorial Day weekend, a total of 103 races.

But COVID-19 is a formidable adversary in 2020 so the thing to do is race the Indy 500 in August with no fans in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s stands that usually seat up to 400,000 each year.

The NTT IndyCar Series has had six previous races this season, four of them road courses, and despite little fanfare or coverage, bettors at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook have shown interest in betting it.

“We’ve been writing more on the previous six IndyCar races than you’d think and we’ve had good volume on the Indy 500 since we reposted it with the new date,” SuperBook manager Ed Salmons said. “It’s become more popular and appears to be picking up steam.”

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Scott Dixon has won three of the races so far and the 2008 Indy 500 winner comes in as the SuperBook’s 9-2 favorite, while 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay is next at 8-1. All other drivers are 10-1 or higher, including last year’s winner, Simon Pagenaud, who is 10-1. Marco Andretti (12-1) will start from the pole.

“I’m not high on Andretti at all, but him on the pole doesn’t surprise me because everything I’ve read from people who know the IndyCar stuff well said that Honda had a huge advantage in qualifying,” Salmons said. “Team Penske didn’t qualify well but they’ll be just fine as the race goes on.”

Salmons has made lines for the Indy 500 for almost three decades. And while his process has changed, his approach to oddsmaking has stayed relatively the same after the Internet era began.

“I look at how the teams have done this year in the previous races, the good teams, and how they’ve also historically raced at Indy,” he said.

A couple of drivers caught Salmons attention who are 30-1 or higher that could be worth a play.

“Two of the drivers that impressed me at Iowa that I think could be contenders here are Arrow McLaren teammates Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew,” he said.

O’Ward, the 21-year-old from Mexico who had the eighth-fastest lap (222.76 mph) in Sunday’s last practice session, is offered at 30-1 odds at the SuperBook. Askew is 60-to-1.

My pick to win? Josef Newgarden. The Nashville native won at Iowa last month from the pole. He’s got 15 IndyCar victories in the bank and he brings a ton of confidence to the Speedway. He’ll start from Row 5 in the 13th position. But that shouldn’t be a detriment.

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