Indy 500 Preview & Betting Tips 2021: Great Scott

Scott DixonPole sitter Scott Dixon is the bookmakers’ favourite for victory but there are some other compelling candidates to come out on top in the world-famous Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday (Race: 4pm BST / 11am ET; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).

Dixon topped the timesheets in the Fast Nine qualifying session on Sunday to claim his fourth career pole position at Indy. After both qualifying and finishing second last year, he’ll be looking to go one better this time around for the 2021 renewal and add to his one previous win back in 2008.

The Chip Ganassi driver is a worthy favourite. He was quickest in the first qualifying session on Saturday and then again when it counted on the Sunday, and Ganassi also look to have a strong race car. Not only is Dixon joined in the top nine by all three of his teammates, but Ganassi cars filled four of the top five spots in the post-qualifying test session in race trim.

The IndyCar Series has been nothing if not unpredictable so far this year, with five different winners from the five races to date, and with a strong 500 field that including Dixon features nine previous winners, he certainly isn’t the only viable victor.

Four more of those previous winners start in the top 10: Dixon’s Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan (5th); Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (7th) and Alexander Rossi (10th); and Helio Castroneves (8th), the three-time winner again hoping to equal the all-time record of four wins at the 500, held jointly by A. J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears.

Of those, Rossi, the most recent winner in 2016, is most favoured by the bookmakers, and that is probably a fair reflection of reality.

Rossi is the last American winner of an event that has been dominated by overseas drivers since the turn of the millennium. In that time just four of the 21 Indy 500 winners have been American, while drivers from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Great Britain, Japan and New Zealand have shared the other 17 wins.

This time around, 22 of the 33 starting drivers, including six of the top nine and both rookies – Pietro Fittipaldi and Scott McLaughlin – are non-Americans. Dixon, from New Zealand, is the favourite, but Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward and Rinus Veekay, all of them winners in the five races in the series so far this year, feature in the top 10 favourites with most bookmakers, as does Takuma Sato, who last year took his second win at Indy.

Both Palou and Veekay were unable to match their strong qualifying performances on race day last year, but they have both again qualified very well, with Veekay third and Palou sixth. Like all the Ganassi runners, Palou looked strong through all of last weekend and he wouldn’t represent a bad outside wager to put together a surprise winning run on Sunday.

O’Ward could also be one to watch, even if his starting position of 12th may mean victory is a stretch too far. He qualified 15th and then put together a strong race to finish sixth for Arrow McLaren last year in his debut at the 500, and a similar drive through the field to a top five or six finish could be on the cards.

So who is the great American hope? Colton Herta, the young and the very quick son of former IndyCar driver Bryan Herta, who himself on the podium at Indy back in 2005.

Herta qualified fifth at Indy in his debut year in 2019 and then produced a solid eighth-place finish from 10th on the grid last year. He was disappointed to miss out on pole for this year’s race, with Dixon pipping him at the last minute, but on reflection his starting position of second gives him a very good shot at victory. Each of the last three winners of the 500 have started on the front row of the grid.

Ed Carpenter is the next American on the grid in fourth. He has qualified on the front row at Indy five times in the past, including three pole positions, without yet recording victory on race day. It is hard to gauge if he’ll have the outright pace in race trim to compete this time around.

This preview has already mentioned six of the previous nine winners in this year’s field, and while the other three are unlikely to be in the victory hunt due to low starting positions, they are still worth looking out for. Two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya starts 24th for Arrow McLaren, while 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud and 2018 winner Will Power start 26th and 32nd respectively for Team Penske.

As for the Indy 500 betting tips for this preview, Just Bookies would suggest backing both a favourite and a relative outsider for Sunday’s race: