- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Any 500-mile race is difficult to handicap because of the endurance
factor. But the Indianapolis 500 is a case unto itself, because as the
biggest single-day sporting event in the world, the 500 carries much
more pressure than a normal race.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a tricky track to master even with dozens of hours of practice time available, and the venerable old facility takes on a whole new look
when it is packed with more than 250,000 people.
It has been well documented that this year's Indy field is the strongest and deepest in the Indy Racing League era, which began in 1996. Nearly all of American open-wheel racing's top teams are represented in the field, along with an interesting mix of veteran and youthful drivers.
Additional variables that make the 88th running tough to assess are the new 3.0-liter engines and a revised aerodynamic package. Most insiders believe the key to Sunday's 200-lap race will be how drivers get through traffic, as the low-torque 3.0-liter motors will not forgive any loss of momentum.
Five-hundred miles create a lot of opportunity for sleeper candidates to move up through the field, but this year's race is likely to be settled by sheer speed on the track and in the pits. With that in mind, here's how I rate the field for the 88th Indianappolis 500 … for entertainment purposes only, naturally.
DRIVER - Odds
TONY KANAAN -- 3:1. Comment: Honda's favorite driver has to be considered the
HELIO CASTRONEVES -- 4:1. Comment: Always rises to the occasion at Indy, but does Toyota have the horses?
DAN WHELDON -- 4:1. Comment: The IRL's hottest driver could launch a championship campaign with an Indy win.
SAM HORNISH JR. -- 5:1. Comment: Has never led a lap at Indy, but with Penske,
that's certain to change.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA -- 6:1. Comment: Confident, but carrying the weight of Champ Car Nation on his shoulders.
BUDDY RICE -- 6:1. Comment: Pole winner is just three hours away from wrapping
up a magic month.
SCOTT DIXON -- 8:1. Comment: Fueled by a desire to atone for silly late-race spin
DARIO FRANCHITTI -- 8:1. Comment: Performed when it counted in qualifying. Can
he do the same on Sunday?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -- 10:1. Comment: Fast all month, but lack of seat time in the
IRL will hurt his racecraft.
VITOR MEIRA -- 10:1. Comment: Underrated Brazilian could be the surprise
darkhorse of 2004.
DARREN MANNING -- 12:1. Comment: Resilient racer with an uncanny ability to bring a car home.
BRYAN HERTA -- 15:1. Comment: Deserves a good finish after a character-building
month at the Speedway.
ROGER YASUKAWA -- 15:1. Comment: Second-year American driver has impressed team boss Bobby Rahal.
TOMAS SCHECKTER -- 18:1. Comment: Has a tendency to overdrive, which underpowered Chevy could bring out.
KOSUKE MATSUURA -- 20:1. Comment: Rookie is fast and fearless, but sometimes
ROBBY GORDON -- 20:1. Comment: Came close to winning in '99, but competition is
AL UNSER JR. -- 25:1. Comment: Loves Indy, but doesn't have the package to add a
MARK TAYLOR -- 30:1. Comment: Just finishing would boost his confidence after
tough IRL baptism.
ALEX BARRON -- 30:1. Comment: Probably Chevrolet's best hope for victory.
ED CARPENTER -- 33:1 . Comment: Steady month at the family racetrack.
FELIPE GIAFFONE -- 40:1. Comment: Tough month with new team featured two crashes.
SCOTT SHARP -- 40:1. Comment: He'll need lots of luck, but stranger things have happened.
GREG RAY -- 50:1. Comment: Last-minute shoestring effort for '99 IRL champion.
TORA TAKAGI -- 60:1. Comment: Seems to have lost confidence.
BUDDY LAZIER -- 60:1. Comment: The manufacturer era IRL left the '96 Indy winner
JEFF SIMMONS -- 75:1. Comment: Impressive American rookie deserves a full-time IRL chance.
RICHIE HEARN -- 75:1. Comment: Good equipment from Penske, but it takes more than that.
AJ FOYT IV -- 100:1. Comment: Won't deliver Grandpa Indy win #6
LARRY FOYT -- 150:1. Comment: Could upstage cousin A.J. IV.
SARAH FISHER -- 150:1. Comment: No longer America's best female racer. Danica's
ROBBY McGEHEE -- 200:1. Comment: Little guys don't win at Indy anymore.
PJ JONES -- 500:1. Comment: Feel-good retro story but not a threat to win.
MARTY ROTH -- 1 million to 1. Comment: Made the field, now needs to make a
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.
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A.J. Foyt has hired Alex Tagliani as his third driver for this year's Indianapolis 500. Tagliani joins Japan's Takuma Sato and England's Jack Hawksworth as Foyt's driver.
The new aero kits of the Indy 500 were put to the test for the first time on Sunday. Juan Pablo Montoya was the leader on what proved to be a promising day, writes John Oreovicz.
What have we learned so far in the NHRA season? That there are no clear favorites in any of the pro categories, John Oreovicz writes.
Josef Newgarden's first career win in an exciting race at Barber Motorsports Park is a high point of the 2015 IndyCar Series season so far, John Oreovicz writes.
Danica Patrick is marketable, popular and has a huge Twitter following. it doesn't bode well for NASCAR when that's not enough to retain a team sponsor such as GoDaddy, Bob Pockrass writes.
Ron Capps raced to his second Funny Car victory of the season Sunday, beating teammate Jack Beckman in the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals.
Jeff Gordon, who is retiring from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racing after this season, will drive the pace car for the Indy 500 on May 24.
Josef Newgarden held off a hard-charging Graham Rahal on Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for his first IndyCar Series victory.
Conor Daly won't have to endure watching the Indianapolis 500 from a few thousand miles away this year.
Robert Hight worked his way up from the shop floor at John Force Racing to become a dominant Funny Car driver. And he's not taking it for granted, Ryan McGee writes.
Veteran drivers are dominating the top of the IndyCar standings, and Helio Castroneves is only improving with age as he pursues an elusive series title.
Honda's Eli Tomac raced to his third victory of the AMA Supercross season, beating 450SX series champion Ryan Dungey on Saturday at MetLife Stadium.
Rodolfo Gonzalez will make his IndyCar Series debut for Dale Coyne Racing at Barber Motorsports Park.
Scott Dixon may not come to mind as one of the greatest Indy car racers of all time, but with a win at Long Beach on Sunday and another climb up the all-time victories ladder, maybe he should.
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor won the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach on Saturday for their first victory of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.
We still don't know much about the 2015 IndyCar Series. But we do know that Team Penske's domination will likely continue, John Oreovicz writes.
Mario Andretti remains an American racing icon, and his victories at Long Beach loom large in his legendary career.