Our Expert Picks The 101st Indy 500 Winner
As Sunday’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 approaches, there is the inevitable attempt to bend the space-time continuum to guess who will win before the event actually takes place. The problem with this (difficulties related to bending the space-time continuum aside) is that I believe no fewer than 14 drivers have a legitimate shot—and there would have been 15 if my real favorite, Sebastien Bourdais, hadn’t crashed on Saturday during qualifying while laying down the fastest speeds we’d seen all month. (Disclosure: My husband works for Dale Coyne Racing, which fielded Bourdais’s car. So yes, I’m biased. But I’m also privy to the fact that the car was crazy good—I mean crazy good—all month, both in traffic and in open air.)
So. How to pick the winner. To start, consider that the Hondas have been faster all May. That gives legit contenders like Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Fernando Alonso, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe an edge. But earlier this month, four Honda engines blew up in a span of six days, and four more have gone poof since—meaning they may not be able to go the duration. That gives an advantage to Chevy drivers Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud. In other words, this information is useless for the purposes of prediction.
Maybe it’s worth considering who among this group has won before: Scott Dixon (2008), Alexander Rossi (2016), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000 and 2015), and Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, and 2009). I mean, these guys know how to get it done, right? Yes. They could definitely win. But all those other guys—they’re hungry. Like, starving. Marco Andretti wants to win so bad he can taste it. So do Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Carpenter, and Takuma Sato. (I’m leaving out Alonso here because he’s a rookie. But that’s stupid. Alexander Rossi was a rookie last year and he won.) So again … a wash.
I suppose starting position could be a factor. Nineteen drivers who started on pole went on to win. So, advantage this year’s pole-sitter, Scott Dixon. Then again, 50 winners rolled off the grid from spots two through nine, 18 from spots 10 through 19, and 13 from spots 20 through 28. As recently as 2005, the late, great Dan Wheldon took the checkers after starting 26th. That’s in the third-to-last row. In other words, advantage everyone else. Not helpful.
I am not a betting person. (Wait. What am I saying? I totally am.) But I checked the line in Vegas on Sports Insights. They put Dixon at 6-1 odds; Alonso, Kanaan, Power, Montoya, and Castroneves all at 9-1; Pagenaud 10-1; Andretti 11-1; Hunter-Reay 12-1; Newgarden 13-1; Hinchcliffe 16-1; Carpenter and Sato 18-1; and Rossi 19-1. But they also think the desert is a nice place to live, so what do they know?
Gun to head, I’d pick Dixon. (Which is funny, because Dixon was robbed at gunpoint Sunday evening at a local Taco Bell. Not that being robbed by gunpoint is funny. It is not.) Starting from the front, he won’t be subject to any mid-to-back-of-pack mayhem. He’s won from the pole before. He’s leading the IndyCar championship. He literally never makes a mistake. And my real favorite, Bourdais, swears he’s from another planet. So yeah. Dixon. That’s my guy. He’s gonna win.