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Motorsports: 2022 Indianapolis 500 preview

27 May 2022 05:42:37 EST
The 2022 Indianapolis 500 is taking place this Sunday

Experience has had the edge over youth in recent runnings of the Indianapolis 500, but some of the sport's young guns look to have a great chance this Sunday.

Last year's race was won by 46-year-old Helio Castroneves, who was claiming his fourth victory in the race 12 years after his third win and 20 years since his first.

Japanese veteran Takuma Sato was 43 when winning the 2020 event, run in August that year, while Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Sato again were all among the grid's elder statesmen when winning the three previous runnings. No younger speedster has been successful since Alexander Rossi won as a 24-year-old rookie in 2016.

Dixon setting the pace in Indianapolis

Sunday's race will have another 40-something driver on pole after New Zealander Scott Dixon, 41, was fastest when it mattered most in qualifying last week, but the sport's emerging stars are queuing up behind him and the two top talents alongside him on the grid may give him plenty to think about over the 200-lap race.

Dixon is the 6.50 favourite as he bids to add to his 2008 success in the race, but this will be the fourth time he has started on pole since then, with the three previous attempts from that position resulting in finishes of fourth (2015) and 17th (2021), plus a crash in 2017.

He has managed four podium finishes from lower starting spots, including being runner-up from second on the grid in 2020, but 11/2 in a 33-car field with so many high-speed laps to complete may not be for everyone.

There's no denying the pace of Dixon, or indeed the whole Chip Ganassi Racing team throughout the practice and qualifying sessions. Dixon topped the times in three early practice sessions and was quickest in both Sunday qualifying periods last week after being only 10th on Saturday.

Palou a definite contender

Four Ganassi cars made it through to the final Fast Six qualifying run, with Swede Marcus Ericsson fifth and veteran Tony Kanaan in sixth. But Dixon's greatest challenge could come from the teammate who lines up alongside him on the grid, Alex Palou.

At 25, the Spaniard has already finished first and second in the championship in his first two seasons with the team, while he has shown enough on the famous Indy oval to suggest he's ready to win the big one.

In 2020 he qualified seventh in his first attempt, while last year he qualified sixth and led 35 laps, the second-most of anyone in the race, before being passed within two laps of the finish and ending up within half a second of Castroneves at the line.

Palau was fastest of all in Monday's post-qualifying practice and at 9.00 he looks a decent-value bet for the race.

The top of the betting market is peppered with young talent, with Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward seventh on the grid but third in the betting at 9.50 and America's Josef Newgarden, the IndyCar series champion in 2017 and 2019, at 12.00, while Colton Herta is at 15.00.

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VeeKay taking Verstappen inspiration

The pick of the pack, though, could be Rinus VeeKay, IndyCar's answer to F1's Max Verstappen.

The flying Dutchman was fastest in Saturday's qualifying session and second in Top 12 qualifying. After taking third on the grid he looks set for a strong run in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

The 21-year-old could become the youngest winner of the race in its history and he has experience of the track from Indy Lights in 2019, while this will be his third attempt in the 500 after he finished eighth last year from third on the grid and led for 32 laps.

His 2020 race was better than his final position of 20th looks, too, as he was running in the top five when getting a pit-lane penalty. He should give his backers a decent run at 13.00.

There's plenty of time for drivers who qualified further back to make ground, and the field includes some well-known names to European F1 fans, including Romain Grosjean at 29.00 and Juan Pablo Montoya, who is priced at 81.00.

A great spectacle is in prospect but the value may lie in taking young bucks Palou and VeeKay to make a statement for their generation on Sunday.

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