MILLER: Playing the odds

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MILLER: Playing the odds

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MILLER: Playing the odds


Forty years ago, there was a great little casino in Las Vegas called the Barbary Coast. Owner Michael Gaughan sponsored John Mahler’s car at Indianapolis in 1979, and his son Brendan then raced in NASCAR for years. The Barbary Coast offered something few, if any, sports books in town would: a chance to bet on the Indianapolis 500.

Every May on the Monday following the last day of qualifying, general manager Tony Hagler would call and I’d give him advice on favorites, underdogs and maybe a couple of props bets (like over or under 17 finishers) that he would share with the BC’s oddsmaker. It was small potatoes because it didn’t draw a lot of action (the most you could wager was $300 on any driver), and I think Michael just did it because he really liked IndyCar racing.

When CART ran Caesar’s Palace in 1983 and 1984, the vaunted casino was so paranoid about the race being ‘fixed’ it closed the betting windows two hours before the green flag. Aat Groenefelt, who owned the Provimi Veal team, tried to lay $2,000 on Derek Daly at 40-1 prior to qualifying, and they immediately dropped him to 4-1 and would only take $200.

So gambling and IndyCar racing have never been symbiotic. I imagine a WAC football game on ESPN gets 100 times the action Indianapolis garners. But lately, thanks to the emergence of Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Bet MGM, Bet Rivers, Bet America, Points Bet and others, IndyCar racing has a little presence alongside the stick and ball sports. A couple of sites actually line every NTT Data series race, just like NASCAR and Formula 1. Yet none of the three racing series make a ripple in the daily handle.

Still, I’m happy to report that a couple sites already have odds up for the May 30 classic. Of the three popular Indiana sites (Draft Kings, Fan Duel and Bet MGM) only Draft Kings have lined the race, as well as in Antigua.

DraftKings BetOnline
Scott Dixon 5-1 Scott Dixon 5-1
Josef Newgarden 7-1 Josef Newgarden 7-1
Pato O’Ward 8-1 Pato O’Ward 9-1
Will Power 9-1 Alexander Rossi 9-1
Simon Pagenaud 10-1 Will Power 9-1
Alexander Rossi 10-1 Simon Pagenaud 10-1
Colton Herta 14-1 Colton Herta 14-1
Takuma Sato 16-1 Takuma Sato 14-1
Graham Rahal 20-1 Alex Palou 18-1
Tony Kanaan 20-1 Graham Rahal 20-1
Alex Palou 20-1 Scott McLaughlin 20-1
Scott McLaughlin 20-1 Tony Kanaan 20-1
Juan Pablo Montoya 22-1 Juan Pablo Montoya 22-1
Helio Castroneves 30-1 Santino Ferrucci 22-1
Ryan Hunter-Reay 30-1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 25-1
Felix Rosenqvist 30-1 Helio Castroneves 28-1
Ed Carpenter 33-1 Felix Rosenqvist 28-1
Rinus VeeKay 33-1 Rinus VeeKay 28-1
Marcus Ericsson 33-1 Conor Daly 33-1
Conor Daly 35-1 Ed Carpenter 33-1
James Hinchcliffe 35-1 James Hinchcliffe 33-1
Marco Andretti 40-1 Marcus Ericsson 33-1
Sebastien Bourdais 50-1 Marco Andretti 40-1
Jack Harvey 66-1 Sebastien Bourdais 50-1
Sage Karam 150-1 Jack Harvey 80-1
JR Hildebrand 200-1 Ed Jones 100-1
Charlie Kimball 200-1 Sage Karam 125-1
Simona de Silvestro 200-1 Max Chilton 200-1
Dalton Kellett 400-1 Stefan Wilson 200-1
Pietro Fittipaldi 200-1
JR Hildebrand 200-1
Charlie Kimball 300-1
Simona De Silvestro 300-1

Odds correct at time of publication. Odds for some drivers were unavailable.

How often does the favorite win Indy? Well it didn’t happen in 2016, 2017 or last August, when Dixon dominated the race (leading 111 laps) yet ran second and he was 4-1 last year – a prohibitive choice with 33 cars. He’s 5-1 this month, as he should be after watching Texas, but maybe not the clear-cut favorite he was in 2020.

Don’t bother looking for bargains among the youth brigade. Cantrell/Motorsport Images

Newgarden is overdue for his spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy and probably a damn good bet at 9-1 for The Captain, while teammates Power and Pagenaud always figure to be in the hunt.

Rossi’s best drives came after his 2016 victory, and I’m not sure ‘hungry’ is the best way to describe his mindset four races into a miserable season, but he will be a factor (and maybe a bargain at 10-1).

Oddsmakers are respecting the kiddie corp (O’Ward 8-1, Herta 14-1 and Palou 18-1), so you won’t get any bargain basement prices.

But there do seem to be some good buys. Rahal finished third a year ago, was quick in the test at IMS, and looked strong at Texas. He’s 20-1 and Indy fits his style, while teammate and two-time winner Sato is tempting at 16-1.

The Geritol Gang might be worth a parlay since Castroneves (three wins), Montoya (two) and Kanaan (one) certainly know their way around IMS and they’re anywhere from 20 to 30-1.
Hunter-Reay hasn’t forgotten how to drive but that cartoon anvil is getting heavy, and if he could chuck that he’s got a shot at 25-1, while three-time pole-sitter Carpenter seems to be in a bit of a funk but is as fast around the Speedway as anyone so 33-1 seems like a steal.

People might gasp when they see Simona De Silvestro, arguably the finest all-around female racer in IndyCar history, at 300-1. She’s got a car that’s being massaged by Penske’s people, but new teams with rookie crews never fare very well in a race with six or seven pit stops.

Draft Kings will adjust the odds after qualifying but it definitely has some heart, because not only are the odds already posted, but I asked about the most you could bet on a driver to win Indy (thinking it would be $500) and was told $40,000. Damn! That’s big time. So I’m headed for my banker today to get into my 401K so I can lock and load on Dixie and throw another 10 grand on Graham.

And, if I have a bad day, I’ll simply ask The Captain for a job driving the IMS tour bus.