2021 Indianapolis 500 preview: Scott Dixon looks to add to his IndyCar legacy with a second 500 win

·5-min read

105th Indianapolis 500

12:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

There's a very good reason Scott Dixon is the overwhelming favorite for Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

Dixon, 40, has won six IndyCar championships and 50 races over 301 starts. He already has a win in 2021 and leads the points standings once again. Oh, and he’s starting first in Sunday’s spectacle.

That’s why he’s far and away the BetMGM favorite at +350 despite having just one Indy 500 win. Dixon’s odds are half off Colton Herta’s (+700) and he’s one of just three drivers with odds below +1200.

Dixon’s only 500 win came in 2008. He started from the pole and led 115 of the race’s 200 laps on his way to a comfortable 1.75-second win.

Since then he’s finished in the top 10 in eight different races and has a pair of second-place finishes. He was second to teammate Dario Franchitti in 2012 and finished second in 2020 despite leading a race-high 111 laps.

Dixon looked to be the driver to beat in August. But Takuma Sato passed him with less than 50 laps to go and maintained that lead after the final pit stops of the race cycled through ahead of a crash that caused the race to end under caution.

Barring some craziness — like his wild and miraculous 2017 crash at Indianapolis — Dixon should be up front late again this year.

“I think it's the first goal that we set for the team all year first, then you focus on the championship,” Dixon said of the 500. "Yeah, that's never changed. I think the first time you step onto this place, come with one of the best teams, that's the obvious sort of goal for us to try and achieve that.

"Yeah, I think we've finished second four or five times here. I can tell you that's the worst spot to finish. Last year was frustrating. Again, this place owes me nothing. We got to keep knocking on that door and hopefully one day again, one day soon, that opens up."

Here are a few other things to know ahead of the biggest race of the IndyCar season.

How much faster are the Hondas?

Nine of the top 12 qualifiers for the 500 are drivers in Honda-powered cars. Honda was clearly faster than Chevrolet over the course of the first weekend of the 500. How so? Well, Team Penske’s Will Power was one of the last drivers in the field.

Power qualified 32nd out of the 33 cars that made the race (of 35 attempting). Seven of the final eight qualifiers in the field are in Chevy-powered cars and powerhouse Team Penske didn’t have a driver qualify in the top 15.

That doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for the race. Engineers attempt to take as much downforce away as possible in exchange for raw speed in qualifying. That’s not a great recipe in the race. You can bet that the Team Penske cars — and some other Chevrolets — will be better in race trim. Don’t put too much stock in the starting lineup. And use it to perhaps find some value in betting a driver like Power whose odds at +2500 would be a lot smaller if he was starting 20th.

Takuma Sato’s quest for rare company

If Sato, 44, wins Sunday’s race he’ll be the first driver to go back-to-back in the Indy 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

He’ll also become the 11th driver to have at least three Indianapolis 500 wins. Sato’s first win came in 2017. If he wins Sunday, he’ll be the quickest driver to three Indy 500 wins since Wilbur Shaw won in 1937, 1939 and 1940.

Another win will also add to a fantastic and somewhat unexpected second chapter in Sato’s open-wheel career. He came to the IndyCar Series in 2010 after 90 races over seven seasons in Formula 1 with just one podium and two laps led.

Sato (+1800) didn’t score his first win until 2013 when he won the Long Beach Grand Prix. Four years later, he got his first Indianapolis 500 win.

He’s won four more races since then, though he’s never finished higher than seventh in the points standings. While Sato hasn’t ever been a title contender in the IndyCar Series, he’s already established himself as one of the 20 men to win more than won Borg-Warner Trophy.

Familiar part-time drivers

Sunday’s race is set to feature a host of recognizable names who aren’t running full-time in IndyCar.

2013 winner Tony Kanaan starts fifth in the No. 48 car that’s being piloted by Jimmie Johnson on road and street courses. Just ahead of him is Ed Carpenter, a formidable oval force who has been fast at Indianapolis in the past.

Three-time winner Castroneves starts eighth in his first and only IndyCar race of the season. A fourth win for Castroneves will tie him with AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for the most wins all-time.

Juan Pablo Montoya starts 24th. Like Sato, Montoya is looking for his third Indy 500 win and is making his second start of the season. Montoya’s start at the Indy road course two weeks ago was his first IndyCar race since 2017.

Starting lineup

1. Scott Dixon

2. Colton Herta

3. Rinus VeeKay

4. Ed Carpenter

5. Tony Kanaan

6. Alex Palou

7. Ryan Hunter-Reay

8. Helio Castroneves

9. Marcus Ericsson

10. Alexander Rossi

11. Ed Jones

12. Pato O’Ward

13. Pietro Fittipaldi

14. Felix Rosenqvist

15. Takuma Sato

16. James Hinchcliffe

17. Scott McLaughlin

18. Graham Rahal

19. Conor Daly

20. Jack Harvey

21. Josef Newgarden

22. JR Hildebrand

23. Santino Ferrucci

24. Juan Pablo Montoya

25. Marco Andretti

26. Simon Pagenaud

27. Sebastien Bourdais

28. Stefan Wilson

29. Max Chilton

30. Dalton Kellett

31. Sage Karam

32. Will Power

33. Simona De Silvestro

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