Helio Castroneves had the beat and beat the federal government. Now, with Indy 500 future books listing him as the favorite, can he beat the odds and win America's most revered motor race, May 24?
Castroneves, who won the "Dancing With the Stars" competition in 2007 and recently earned a not guilty verdict in a tax evasion case, opened as the 7/2 choice to win the 93rd Indy 500 from the pole, something he has failed to accomplish on two previous occasions in 2007 and 2003.
"Spiderman", as he's called for his fence climbing antics after winning a race, captured the Indianapolis 500 on his first two attempts, in 2001 and 2002, making the Brazilian the youngest driver to win the race twice.
Castroneves will be joined on the front row by Penske Racing teammate Ryan Briscoe and 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti but oddsmakers believe that Scott Dixon, who qualified fifth, may be Castroneves' stiffest competition. Dixon is quoted at odds of 4/1 in futures. The New Zealand driver won both the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series championship in a banner season last year.
The rapidly improving Briscoe is offered at odds of 6/1. The Aussie finished fifth in the IndyCar Series in 2008.
Franchitti, who represents Scotland and is married to actress Ashley Judd, returns to open-wheel racing after a brief stint on the NASCAR circuit as the 7/1 fourth choice in futures.
Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick join Castroneves, Dixon, Brisco and Franchitti in single digits, each at odds of 9/1.
Kanaan, who earned the sixth position in the starting grid and leads the current IndyCar Series standings, became the first driver in major auto racing history to complete every lap of every race for an entire season on his way to winning the 2004 IndyCar Series championship. But the Brazilian never has finished better than 10th in the Indianapolis 500.
Patrick, who will start in the No. 10 position, has used her good looks and driving skills to help energize the sport. She won IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2005, the same year she finished fourth in the Indy 500 after leading 19 laps of the race.
Marco Andretti, who qualified eighth, is next in line on the future book at odds of 12/1. The son of Indy 500 winner Michael and grandson of racing legend Mario, Marco posted a runner-up finish at the 2006 Indianapolis 500.
Graham Rahal and Dan Weldon each are listed at 18/1 in futures. The 20-year-old Rahal, the son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, will start from the No. 4 position. He won his IndyCar Series debut last year in Phoenix, making him the youngest winner in open-wheel racing history.
Weldon, the winner of the 2005 Indianapolis 500, will have some ground to reclaim, starting 18th.
In a sport where the outcome of an event can be decided by the malfunction of an inexpensive part, auto racing betting fans may want to take a chance on several intriguing longshots, including rookie Raphael Matos, who led the second-day of Indy qualifying May 10 and will start from the No. 12 spot in the grid. Matos is being offered at odds of 50/1.
Paul Tracy, who will be making his first start in the Indianapolis 500 since finishing runner-up to Castroneves in 2002, claimed the No. 13 position and future book odds of 25/1. Vitor Meira, who will drive for A.J. Foyt, starts with 30/1 odds from the No. 14 slot.
Also at 30/1 is the aptly named Will Power, who qualified ninth.
At 50/1, Sarah Fisher, who notched the 21st spot in the starting grid, brings a loftier price than female counterpart Danica Patrick.
As we get closer, some books will offer a series of propositions on the Indy 500 although one wager, on how many cars finish the race, which led to gamblers to root for a breakdown or crash on the final lap so they could cash their "under" bet, has all but disappeared from the motor sports betting menu.