Memorial Day Weekend is always a great day to reflect on our fallen soldiers, spend time with family and celebrate the fight for our freedom won and maintained throughout America’s history.
For the motorsports enthusiast, it doesn’t get much better than Memorial Day because it begins and ends with racing.
Beginning at 9 a.m,, just after breakfast, is the start to the Indianapolis 500. A few hours after the 500 is over, and you’re done cooking the hot dogs and burgers, NASCAR begins its longest race of the season – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
What we have seen over the last few years is a switch in allegiance and priority from the Indy 500 to NASCAR’s event at night. The ratings are still there, and part of the reason the IRL still have a contract with ABC. However, Indy has fallen considerably from where it was just 10 years ago.
Currently, IRL races other than the Indy 500, can be found on VS (Versus network). That’s VS, – the Hunting Channel that shows some hockey in some markets.
The IRL has also shortened its season and makes it hard for many casual race fans to follow because they don’t know when or where an event is going to be, let alone be able to find it on TV.
Between the beer companies alone with their little schedule handouts at all the convenience stores, NASCAR has done a better job at keeping the public informed and aware of where and when one of its events is going to be run.
The IRL has been attempting to shove its popular and attractive female driver, Danica Patrick, down the racing public’s throats. What it has become is more like unsubstantiated hype because she doesn’t win races.
NASCAR really doesn’t have to promote its drivers much because somehow, we seem to know quite a bit about some of them just from watching the race each week.
In this major change in popularity between the two racing leagues, this is likely where NASCAR has done so much better than the IRL. In a weird twist that NASCAR now seems to be getting away from with severe fines and penalties, the personalities of the driver is what has allowed NASCAR to topple and surpass the Indy Car Series.
Now just because one may appear better than other from an interest standpoint doesn’t make the other unwatchable. It’s quite the opposite because of the betting factor.
You can go to any Nevada Sports Book and make a wager on the Indy 500, and some even make driver vs. driver matchups along with some propositions. If sleek machines going around at 222 mph that handle like a video game doesn’t get your blood flowing, a few bucks on some of the top drivers may help it get interesting.
The favorite to win this year’s Indy 500 is last winner Scott Dixon at 4-1. Sitting right next to Dixon on the odds chart is Helio Castroneves, who is a two time Indy 500 winner but may be more popular with his "Dancing With The Stars" success than as a driver.
Castroneves is finally relieved of the IRS tax issues that plagued him prior to the start of the season and could use some good news. So he went out and set the fastest time in qualifying and is on the pole.
Dixon and Castroneves are the short favorites because they are the class of the field. However, there may be a few worth taking to win and in matchups. We’ll begin with each of their teammates.
Ryan Briscoe runs a Penske car with Castroneves, and with Dixon, they have continually been the fastest in most practice sessions. Just behind them is former Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti, a Ganassi teammate with Dixon.
Briscoe can be found in the 7-1 area while Franchitti is 8-1.
After that, it’s pretty much a long shot. Even the Andretti team has dropped a level in production with Tony Kanaan being their best representative at 10-1.
The team I think many will be rooting for and hoping to see do well is Graham Rahal driving for Newman/Haas. Rahal has had some good times in practice and Paul Newman will be rooting from above. Rahal is 20-1.
The best long shot of all is Mario Moraes who drives for KV Racing and has been extremely fast in all practice sessions including the quickest one time. Moraes is listed in the field at many books, but does have value at over 20-1.
The Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte will look somewhat similar to last week’s NASCAR All-Star race. Tony Stewart? Wow! It was also nice to see the Roush Fords look like they are ready to compete on these type of tracks again.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts