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Indianapolis 500 odds: Preview and racing picks

The 96th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will no doubt be tinged with sadness as the racing world remembers the defending winner, but the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 will go on as scheduled in Speedway Indiana Sunday.

Dan Wheldon, who lost his life in a racing accident last year, will be there in spirit as 33 of the world’s best open-wheel racers vie for the biggest prize in motorsports. With a field full of rookies and seasoned veterans, anything can happen. But look for experience when picking a winner.

Ryan Briscoe (+250) starts on the pole Sunday and, while he delivered the 17th pole for team owner Roger Penske, he’s not presenting the best value in the Indy 500. Not only has he not won an IndyCar race in two years, but Briscoe has struggled at the Brickyard. In six starts at Indianapolis, his best finish is a fifth-place showing in 2007 and he’s crashed out of the race in the past two years. It’s a different story for his teammate Helio Castroneves.

Castroneves has won three Indy 500’s - the last coming in 2009 - and with the power of Penseke (which has 15 Indy 500 wins, five in the last 11 years), he’s the clear favorite. He will roll off in sixth Sunday. Castroneves won the first race of the season in St. Petersburg and could guzzle the milk for the fourth time Sunday.

Another driver with a lot of experience is Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Dario Franchitti. Franchitti is a two-time winner with his last Indy victory coming in 2010. His only handicap is his starting position of 16th, but he has the skill and the equipment to work his way to the front.

Racing fans shouldn’t count out Will Power. He’s never won at Indy but has dominated this season, winning three of the four races. He was 14th last year and has only one Top-5 performance in four starts at Indy. So while he’s not the favorite, he does have a great shot at winning the biggest race of his career.

Head-to-head

Marco Andretti vs. Tony Kanaan: Both are popular drivers with experience, but no wins at Indy. Andretti has three Top-5 finishes while Kanaan has two Top-5 showings and a pole position. So far this season, Andretti has struggled while Kanaan has shown some life in the last two races. Look for Kanaan to finish ahead of Andretti.

James Hinchcliffe vs. Ryan Hunter-Reay: Both drivers will be starting from the front row. Hinchcliffe has one Indy start while Hunter-Reay has four. Neither has a remarkable record at Indy, Hinchcliffe finished 13th last year in his only start, Hunter-Reay’s best finish was sixth in his first start in 2008. But so far this season, both drivers have solid records with each having two Top-5 finishes. However, come Sunday look for the more experienced Hunter-Reay to come out ahead of Hinchcliffe.

Bottom Line

In perhaps the biggest tribute to Dan Wheldon, the new Dallara DW12 chassis will make its superspeedway debut Sunday. The completely redesigned machine, with numerous safety innovations that stem from the fatal 15-car crash at Las Vegas last October, has yet to be raced on an oval. Turbocharged engines have also made their return to the series for the first time since 1996. However, after nearly a month of practice and testing, most drivers agree that Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will be as exciting as always and the changes won’t affect the racing.

Picks

Helio Castroneves (+500)
Dario Franchitti (+1,000)
Will Power (+500)

Check out the opening Indianapolis 500 odds, courtesy of the LVH sportbook, below:

Ryan Briscoe 5-2
Helio Castroneves 5-1
Will Power 5-1
James Hinchcliffe 7-1
Marco Andretti 8-1
Scott Dixon 10-1
Dario Franchitti 10-1
Tony Kanaan 12-1
Ryan Hunter-Reay 12-1
J.R. Hildebrand 40-1
Graham Rahal 40-1
Rubens Barrichello 50-1
E.J. Viso 60-1
Alex Tagliani 60-1
Ed Carpenter 75-1
Oriol Servia 100-1
Sebastian Saavedra 100-1
Ana Beatriz 100-1
Takuma Sato 100-1
Charlie Kimball 100-1
Wade Cunningham 200-1
Justin Wilson 200-1
Mike Conway 200-1
Simon Pagenaud 200-1
Simona De Silvestro 500-1
Field 35-1

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