Hello yet again friends, race fans, and fans of gambling on sports, we’re back for another edition of the blog, and boy do we have a big one this weekend. It’s the biggest Sunday in four-wheeled motorsport of the year!
Three absolutely massive races in their respective series: F1’s infamous Monaco Grand Prix, the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar, and NASCAR’s lone 600-mile race of the season at Charlotte highlight a can’t-miss Sunday of racing for fans of all disciplines.
Monaco has come under some scrutiny in recent times, by fans and critics who believe the new cars aren’t fit to race around the tight circuit through the streets of Monte Carlo. Despite its modern history of not-so-great racing, watching high-dollar, high-technology cars rip around the city streets of the Principality is still a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning.
Rain is forecast in Monte Carlo for tomorrow’s race, which has the potential to shake the grid up and create some strategy differential. Most importantly, it means more than just the two Ferraris on front row have a shot at winning.
After a dominant performance in qualifying where he only got faster and faster, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc sits at a whopping -280 to win his home Grand Prix. The Monegasque driver grew up on these streets, learned how to swim at the same pool he whizzed by during qualifying, and unlike years past, looks poised to capitalize in front of his home fans.
While rain is forecast, I try not to bet on weather, because weather is not guaranteed. What we can bet on is how each team’s race strategy will affect our final grid. So let’s get to some picks!
Drivers classified over 16.5 +100: While Monaco can be chaotic at times, (just ask Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, and Fernando Alonso who all crashed in Q3 of qualifying) races where points are won and lost tend to restrict how a driver pushes around the track. Making risky passes and risking wrecking and losing all possible points is not ideal, so this is a bet on cars sticking to the racing line.
Charles Leclerc fastest lap +115: The man was almost untouchable on Saturday, and any time a driver set a time close to his, he’d find another few tenths no other driver could. Even in a situation where Leclerc is leading late, I see him carrying pace that other drivers haven’t been able to find this weekend. Not to mention that every point is valuable in a title fight that Leclerc looks to take control of again.
Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas top 10 finish +125: A (2021) Mercedes team bet! On Thursday, Valtteri surprised Lewis with a print of his good side. The former teammates have been battling neck and neck in different cars this year. While seemingly not as quick as he was last week, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to maximize possible points from P8. Valtteri didn’t make Q3, but look for Alfa Romeo to extend his run and to hold onto any potential track position gained.
Fernando Alonso winner without Ferrari, Red Bull, or Mercedes +185: Sure, it’s been 15 years since Fernando Alonso won in Monte Carlo, but he doesn’t have to win here, he just has to be the fastest of the rest. Alonso’s Alpine has looked rapid all weekend, and hopefully a trip into the barricade in qualifying won’t disrupt the car too much heading into Sunday.
Now we head from the streets of Monaco to beautiful Speedway, Indiana, where over 300k people will pack into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 106th running of the Indy 500. The biggest event on the IndyCar and arguably the biggest event on the US motorsport calendar, this year’s edition looks to be the most exciting race in a generation.
The flatout pace of the IndyCars around the rectangular oval this month has been a big surprise, speed trap records, fastest laps, fastest average speed records all falling this month during Indy 500 qualifying. It’s shaping up to be the fastest Indy 500 in more than 20 years.
Maintaining top speed around an oval, and in particular Indianapolis, is an acquired trait in any race car. When Romain Grosjean was in F1, he thought Indianapolis was “guys going flat out and turning left”. Now that he’s been churning out laps around the famous track, he’s seen the true amount of effort it takes to manage a car around the track at an average of 225 miles per hour.
Have I talked enough about how fast these guys are going??? You won’t see an F1 car reach true top speeds around Monaco this weekend. NASCAR at top speeds around Charlotte will still likely be 40+ mph slower than the average IndyCar will be going around Indianapolis. Not only is this the biggest race in IndyCar, it’s by far the fastest, and one of the biggest tests for a racecar driver in all of motorsport.
Will Power outright winner +1400: One of the most consistent runners in the series this season, Will Power starts the Indy 500 from P11. The 2018 Indy 500 winner finished in 30th last year and will be looking for a much stronger Indy showing this year. Power has seven top-ten finishes at Indianapolis since 2008. +1400 is solid value on the New Zealander who leads the IndyCar standings so far this season.
Scott Dixon top 5 -130: I would be remiss to talk at length about the speed of these IndyCars without mentioning that Scott Dixon was the man blowing records out of the water, setting not only the fastest speeds in qualifying but the fastest speeds Indianapolis Motor Speedway has ever seen. Some books have this number a bit juiced, based on that whole “Dixon being faster than anyone ever has been at Indianapolis ever” thing.
Head to heads: Tony Kanaan over Takuma Sato -105, Alexander Rossi over Graham Rahal -120, Scott Dixon over Alex Palou -120, Kyle Kirkwood over Jack Harvey -115
A handful of direct battles for some fun throughout the race. Tony Kanaan’s month to shine, the Indy 500 is mostly why he’s still in IndyCar. I really like Kirkwood over Jack Harvey, Kyle Kirkwood has been ahead of the usual rookie curve this year and was a frequent frontrunner around ovals in Indy Lights before making the jump to IndyCar proper this year.
A quick check of the word count tells me we’re running over a thousand and I’ll try to wrap up here with picks for NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. Charlotte’s oval showcase race, and NASCAR’s longest of the season.
No drivers are attempting the double, so no fun to be had betting on one guy in both the Indy 500 and the 600 on the same day. It was the Toyota that looked the quickest around Charlotte in qualifying, with Denny Hamlin topping the times ahead of Kurt Busch’s #45, which he part-owns.
Not just Denny and Kurt’s Toyotas either, but just about all of the Toyotas were looking rapid in qualifying. Kurt Busch’s 23XI teammate Bubba Wallace also made the top ten, as did Kurt’s brother Kyle in a Toyota of his own.
The question at hand would be if the Toyota’s pace can last over a long run. Hendrick’s Chevys have greatly improved at their race pace, no longer just qualifying well but truly coming good during the heat of a race. If the pace of the Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Toyotas can hold through the race, they could dominate and put a number of cars near the front of the field.
Bubba Wallace top ten +125: Well on the back of me talking up the speed of the Toyota I think this is a great opportunity for Bubba to have a good finish at a not-superspeedway track. The question, as it always seems to be for Bubba, is if his pit crew won’t cost him valuable track position as they have on multiple occasions this season.
Kyle Busch top Toyota and Chase Elliott top Chevy +1400: Don’t really have any big longshots in the blog other than a Will Power Indy 500 outright so here’s a bet for some fun.
Toyota race winning manufacturer +135: If the pace shown in practice and qualifying lasts 600 miles, we’re in the money baby!
Denny Hamlin stage 1 winner +550: After claiming pole position, Denny Hamlin preached about the importance of track position at Charlotte, and where better to hold position than the front of the pack.
It’s the best Sunday of the motorsport calendar. Clear all other plans. Let’s go racin’.