Brazilian flavor hits Indianapolis 500

May 21, 2002 9:08 AM
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The country on center stage this weekend is Brazil. With the FIFA World Cup soccer only a week away from beginning, one would think the names of Ronaldo and Rivaldo from the Brazilian national team would be stealing all the headlines, but that hasn’t been the case.

The names of Junqueira, de Ferran, Castro-Neves, Kanaan, and Boesel have been creating a buzz in Brazil as the 86th running of the Indianapolis 500 approaches this Sunday.

Soccer is without a doubt the number one sport in Brazil, but auto racing is easily second. Just as Pele became a legend for Brazilian youth forever, the same has happened with two time Indy 500 winner and Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Helio Castro-Neves (9-2), returns as this year’s favorite followed by his Penske teammate and countryman, Gil de Ferran (5-1).

Sitting on the pole is Bruno Junqueira (7-1), who was being groomed to be a Formula 1 driver, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take over Juan Pablo Montoya’s car for the Target Ganassi team.

Castro-Neves and de Ferran start 13th and 14th respectfully, but joining Junquiera in the Top 5 start positions are three other Brazilians. Raul Boesel (14-1) will be in the third slot driving the Menards/Dallara car that Jacques Lazier was to drive before injury. Coming in at fourth and fifth are Hollywood Mo Nunn teammates Felipe Giaffone (15-1) and CART veteran Tony Kanaan (10-1).

The other Brazilian in the lineup is Airton Dare (30-1) who starts 30th for A.J. Foyt. Dare started from the same 30th position last year and finished eighth, giving the IRL drivers its second best finisher. That’s seven excellent drivers in a field of 33 coming from Brazil, with three from Penske and Ganassi, the most well financed teams in the business.

Two years ago, Montoya led nearly start to finish in the most dominating Indy performance ever. Last season, the Top 6 finishers were all CART FedEx Series Teams, including Michael Andretti (15-1). Only seven CART drivers were entered.

Some of the other teams have closed the gap such as Sam Hornish (7-1) and Panther Racing, but there still is a major disparity in technology.

Station Casinos posted a three-way prop asking which country the winner resides. Brazil is a —200 favorite followed by USA (2-1) and a field option pooling the rest of the world at 7-2. The value is with the USA based on the amount of drivers (17) and probabilities involved.

Former Indy 500 winners Al Unser Jr (15-1), Buddy Lazier (15-1), Eddie Cheever (12-1) and Michael Andretti (15-1) head the list of capable candidates to win. The rest of the world consists of past Indy winners Arie Luyendyk (15-1) and Kenny Brack (8-1), along with Canadian CART standout Paul Tracy (20-1), who lives in Las Vegas. The ace may be Brack, who drives for Ganassi.

Caesars Palace has a prop asking if one of the seven former winners of the Indy 500 will win. They also have several driver match-ups and an over-under of 7½ on how many complete 198 laps.

COCA COLA 600

The NASCAR Winston Cup race at Charlotte this Sunday takes a back seat to the Indy 500 in popularity across the nation, but in Las Vegas Sports Books, NASCAR will write just as many bets.

It is the longest race of the season and by the looks of the last three Coca-Cola’s, Roush Racing seems to be dialed in on what it takes to go the extra 100 miles at Charlotte.

Matt Kenseth (12-1) won his first career race two years ago at Charlotte, sandwiched in between two Jeff Burton (16-1) Coca-Cola wins. Jack Roush drivers have won the past three years.

All four of his cars are in the Top 10 in points, including three in the Top 4. Kenseth and Burton were expected to be there, but Mark Martin (15-1) and Kurt Busch (8-1) were not.

Martin has never won the Coca-Cola 600, but does have three wins at Charlotte in the fall race. Busch has impressed everyone with his hard nose driving and getting everything possible out of his car. He is most consistent on 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4-1), Jeff Gordon (6-1), and Jimmie Johnson (10-1) should give the Chevys a legitimate shot, but let’s go with Roush again and take the Vegas kid.

TOP 5 COCA-COLA 600

 

TOP 5 INDY 500

1) #97

Kurt Busch

 (8-1)

 

1) #6

Gil de Ferran

 (5-1)

2) #48

J Johnson

 (10-1)

 

2) #22

Kenny Brack

 (8-1)

3) #6

Mark Martin

 (15-1)

 

3) #3

Castro-Neves

 (9-2)

4) #24

Jeff Gordon

 (6-1)

 

4) #33

B Junqueira

 (7-1)

5) #8

D Earnhardt Jr

(4-1)

 

5) #17

Tony Kanaan

 (10-1)