Memorial Day weekend brings about barbecues, parades, good times with family and friends but most importantly taking time to remember the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation’s name. It also brings about a Christmas in May of sorts for motorsports fans. Formula One kicks the day off (9 a.m. ET; ESPN) with the 77th running of the Monaco Grand Prix. ABC will also be airing a replay of the race at 3:30 PM ET. The longest tradition in racing belongs to the Indianapolis 500, which will have it’s 103rd running at 12:15 p.m. ET. NBC takes over as Indy’s television partner from ABC, who broadcasted the 500 every year since 1965, and will begin pre-race coverage at 11:00 AM ET. The final portion of the Sunday racing triumvirate will commence at 6 p.m. ET on FOX with NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Monaco Grand Prix
Of all the forms of motorsport to wager on, Formula One is often the toughest in which to find value because the chalk reigns supreme more often than not. Qualifying (Saturday at 8:55 AM ET on ESPN2) is way more important than in other forms of racing since this is Grand Prix style racing on road and street circuits and you don’t have near as much overtaking for positions on the race track that you will in the latter two races of the day.
Probably the best approach if you are going to wager on F1 is to place a pre-flop wager prior to qualifying especially on one of the tighter and more narrow circuits in the series here at Monaco. All five of this season’s races have been won by the Mercedes AMG-Petronas Motorsport team (3 by Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, China and Spain and 2 by teammate Valtteri Bottas in Australia and Azerbaijan). Mercedes has won five straight championships and look well on their way to their sixth straight which is why Hamilton (11/10 at Westgate SuperBook USA) and Bottas (5/2) are the favorites. As if Mercedes didn’t have enough motivation, the organization experienced a massive loss earlier this week with the passing of three-time F1 World Champion and racing legend Niki Lauda, who served as the non-executive chairman of the team.
If you are not one to take the favorites, then arguably the best value down the board looks to be four-time world champion and two-time Monaco winner Sebastian Vettel at 12/1. He’s started no worse than 3rd in all five races this season and has sat on pole here before and could give a boost to his all-time winningest F1 team Ferrari, who has been looking at Mercedes rear for the last several years.
Arguably the most wide-open race of the day is at the old brickyard. The current co-favorites at 7/1 are last year’s winner Will Power and this year’s pole sitter Simon Pagenaud, who is trying to duplicate his teammate Power’s feat last year of sweeping the Indy Grand Prix road race and the 500 in the month of May. They are followed closely in the market by fellow Team Penske compatriot Josef Newgarden at 8/1. Helio Castroneves (14/1) is also chasing history for Penske, the winningest team in Indy 500 history with 17 dating to 1972, and still trying for that elusive fourth 500 win (Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser are currently the only four-time winners).
Perhaps the biggest challenger to the favored Penske team is Ed Carpenter Racing, led by its namesake (10/1) who starts on the front row with teammate Spencer Pigot (12/1) and also has Ed Jones (20/1) starting in the 4th position. They’ve been fast all month and a win by this team, particularly Carpenter, would be very popular in Indianapolis. Carpenter, the stepson of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman Tony George, has had several close calls at the brickyard.
Other former Indy winners in the field also include 2016 champ Alexander Rossi (8/1), 2008 winner Scott Dixon (10/1), 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (20/1), 2017 winner Takuma Sato (25/1) and 2013 champ Tony Kanaan (30/1). Of those former champions, Dixon, in spite of now a decade drought at Indy, looks the best bet to win again. He’s the defending IndyCar Series Champion and widely regarded as the smartest and most technically savvy drivers in the sport when it comes to avoiding incidents, managing tires and saving fuel.
If you’re a fan of narratives, then perhaps Marco Andretti at 20/1 could be for you. This year is the 50th anniversary of the first and last time that an Andretti reached victory lane at Indy as a driver when grandfather Mario won his lone 500. While Marco only has two IndyCar wins, he has finished 4th or better five times at Indy and knows how to get around the place.
2019 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been mainly about Joe Gibbs Racing as the team has won seven (Kyle Busch - 3, Martin Truex Jr - 2, Denny Hamlin - 2) of the 12 races. Kyle Busch (3/1) and Truex (6/1) head into qualifying as the top and third choice respectively with three-time 600 winner Kevin Harvick (9/2), who would be my choice, sandwiched in between and still seeking his first win of the season.
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski (7/1) and current series points leader Joey Logano (8/1) each have a pair of wins and look to give Roger Penske a real shot at accomplishing something he has yet to do: winning the 500 and the 600 on the same day. This duo has also won three of the four races this season on the cookie-cutter 1.5-mile tracks.
In two of the last three 600s, the pole sitter has dominated. Last year, Kyle Busch led 377 of 400 laps but that romp was actually outdone back in 2016 by Truex, who led 392 of 400.
If we are judging by the performance of the new aero package this season, we could be in for another race lacking drama. Don’t look to last week’s All-Star Race as an indicator to handicapping this race since the cars last week ran a test package for the Gen-7 car that will debut in the 2021 season.
Sunday will have 1,261 miles of racing over three races which is a lot for non-regular race fans, but this writer who grew up a couple stones throw from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has only one thing left to say.
“Gentlemen. Start your engines!”