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Indy 500: When it starts, how to watch, betting odds for 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing'

The countdown begins for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, when a field of 33 cars will cross the famed yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend for what is regarded as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Josef Newgarden is the defending champion after he made a last-lap pass of Marcus Ericsson during a controversial finish a year ago. The victory gave team owner Roger Penske his record-extending 19th victory in the iconic race.

However, Team Penske arrived at Gasoline Alley this year under a shadow. Penske suspended two senior team leaders and two engineers as punishment for a cheating scandal that centered on Newgarden’s illegal use of his car’s push-to-pass system in his March 10 victory. IndyCar stripped Newgarden of the win and teammate Scott McLaughlin of a third-place finish.

Beyond the controversy, storylines abound: Can two-time and defending series champion Alex Palou finally win the Indy 500 after coming close the past three years? How will NASCAR star Kyle Larson fare in his Indy 500 debut, and can he get to North Carolina in time to race in the Coca-Cola 600 the same night? Can Helio Castroneves win a record fifth Indy 500?

WHEN IS THE INDY 500?

The green flag falls for the Indianapolis 500 at 12:45 p.m. EDT on May 26, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

Full-field qualifying is May 18 and the pole shootout is May 19, followed by another practice May 20. The final practice, known as Carb Day, is May 24, along with the pit-stop challenge and other festivities. The annual Indy 500 parade is May 25.

WHO HAS BEEN FAST IN PRACTICE?

Rain has wreaked havoc with practice in the week leading up to qualifying. Team Penske has been quick when its cars have been on the track, while Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Pato O'Ward of Arrow McLaren have been atop the speed charts. The cars got an extra boost equal to about 100 horsepower on Friday that they'll use for qualifying runs.

WHAT ABOUT THE WRECKS?

Former Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and rookie Linus Lundqvist were involved in separate crashes Thursday, the first wrecks of race preparations. The damage was heavy enough for Ericsson that Andretti Global was preparing his backup car for qualifying. Chip Ganassi Racing was working to repair Lundqvist's car.

HOW CAN I WATCH THE INDY 500?

Indy 500 practices, including Carb Day, and full-field qualifying will be streamed on Peacock. The pole shootout May 19 will be televised on NBC. Race coverage May 26 begins with pre-race action on NBC, Peacock and Universo at 11 a.m.

WHO SHOULD I WATCH IN THE INDY 500?

There will be plenty of eyes on Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who is trying to join Tony Stewart as the only drivers ever to complete “the double,” finishing every lap of the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Several have tried over the years, most recently Kurt Busch in 2014, to complete one of the most grueling tasks in in motorsports.

Newgarden and 2018 winner Will Power will be trying to give team owner Roger Penske his 20th victory at the track he now owns, along with the IndyCar Series itself. Their teammate, McLaughlin, would love to win for the first time.

Castroneves can break a tie with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for the most wins with his fifth. Palou is chasing his first win. So are Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, whose fathers both raced in the Indy 500.

WHO ARE THE INDY 500 BETTING FAVORITES?

Palou, who was second in 2021 and fourth last year, is the favorite at 4-1, according to BetMGM Sportsbook. Larson is the 13-2 second choice to win the Indy 500 in his debut. They are followed by O'Ward (7-1) and Newgarden (9-1).

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing