Mentioning ‘500’lacks past interest

May 23, 2006 5:48 AM

Sunday’s 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 looks to be the least anticipated race in its long history.

An institution for generations of families as part of Memorial Day weekend festivities in America, the Indy 500 is now a shadow of its former self.

Just what was it that made Indy must see TV for all of us growing up? We all remember watching at least parts of it at all stages of our lives. One of the main things, and something the IRL lacks, is name recognition.

We grew up with recognized names like Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, and Al Unser. The average medium of motor sports fans know a few names, but they drive stock cars. Not Indy cars.

About the time NASCAR took off in ratings and public interest, Indy cars had the misfortune of breaking their sports up into two un-unified divisions — the Indy Racing League (IRL) and CART. The combination of those two occurrences is why many no longer regard the 500 as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

The race will always have the luster of being major, one of the longest running sporting events in the world. Because of the history and its importance throughout time as an intricate part of American entertainment, this race will always have a spot on my television set the last weekend in May.

There are also plenty of wagering opportunities available for the fans and non-fans alike to make the race a little more appealing. Here’s some advice:

”¡ There are two cars that are a notch above everyone else. The Penske racing cars driven by Sam Hornish Jr and -Helio Castro-Neves are virtually untouchable when comparing against the rest.

”¡ The level below the Penske squad goes to the Ganassi duo of Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. Wheldon won the Indy 500 last season, while driving for Andretti-Team Green.

”¡ The next tier of drivers belong to Michael Andretti and Team Green, led by Brazilian Tony Kanaan. Finally, you’re left with the best of the rest — 27 drivers.

”¡ Of the 27, five have a possible chance at winning. In reality, there’s just two, giving the benefit of the doubt to Kanaan, Wheldon, and Dixon.

The Rahal-Letterman team won the Indy 500 two seasons ago, but has been struggling and not close to showcasing the lap times from the last two seasons. Buddy Rice won Indy two years ago for the team. Last season Danica Patrick stole all the headlines coming into the race. She wasn’t given much of a chance because of being a rookie, who happened to be a woman.

We liked Danica’s chances last season just because of her car’s ability. She ran a great race and surprised a lot of people by being in the lead late in the race. This season, I turn my thumbs down to Patrick, simply based on what her car has produced. She isn’t any better of a driver, but her car doesn’t give her a chance to win. For bettors looking to wager on an over-under finish position on her, I am looking no better than 14.

We’re supporting the Brazilian brigade this week and CastroNeves to win the Indy 500 for the third time. Tony Kanaan, from Brazil, will do well. If any drivers can step up against the top three teams in Indy racing, it may be another Brazilian Vitor Meira from Panther Racing.

There is a prop available asking where the winning driver of this year’s Indy 500 hails from. Brazil is +180 against the Rest of the World (-220). On paper, there are five Brazilians racing in a 32 car field making the favored number appear very light. We think only five cars are capable of winning. Two of those are Brazilian, making the plus money side seem very fair.

If CastroNeves is 3-1 to win, then 9-5 seems like a better deal. You get Tony Kanaan and Meira with a few other scrubs in the deal. Essentially, you have to beat Wheldon, Dixon, and Hornish.

Whatever the case, enjoy the race and may all your wagers be profitable adventures.


Oh yeah,
the Coca Cola!

This little race goes Sunday night in Charlotte and will see more action around the Las Vegas books than Indy. Last week’s All-Star Challenge shed light on some interesting info.

Jimmie Johnson in his Lowe’s Chevrolet is pretty good at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It’s hard to bet against JJ, since he’s won five of the last six point races at Charlotte. It’s tough, though, to settle on a driver to win a NASCAR race at 4-1, which is what JJ should be this week.

The Roush teams, except for Jamie McMurray, have the ability to keep Johnson out of the winner’s circle. Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, and JJ’s teammate, Jeff Gordon will be right there competing for what has become the Jimmie Johnson trophy.