IndyCar: Kyle Larson not 'disrespected' by opening Indy 500 odds

Kyle Larson is not listed anywhere near the top of the opening Indy 500 odds. But he has also never competed in an IndyCar race.
Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DraftKings Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $200 just for signing up and betting $5 on any driver, recently dropped the opening odds for the 108th running of the Indy 500 this May.

Reigning polesitter Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing is the favorite, and reigning race winner Josef Newgarden of Team Penske is listed in a third place tie. Only Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward separates the two, and 2008 winner Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing is tied with Newgarden.

Full odds can be found here.

One of the main storylines surrounding this year's Indy 500 is the fact that Kyle Larson is set to compete for Arrow McLaren in an attempt to run the "Memorial Day Double".

Not since 2014 has a driver competed in both the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day, and that driver, Kurt Busch, became only the fourth driver to do it. Only one driver, Tony Stewart, has ever completed all 1,100 miles, doing so in 2001.

Larson, who is widely considered among the most naturally talented race car drivers on the planet, signed a two-year deal to compete for Arrow McLaren behind the wheel of the No. 17 Chevrolet in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

Among the 29 confirmed drivers listed in the opening odds, Larson finds himself all the way down in a 15th place tie. He is listed at +2500.

Kyle Larson not disrespected in Indy 500 odds

While a certain contingent of Larson's fanbase, which is one of the more popular and passionate fanbases in NASCAR, may feel that their driver is being disrespected by being listed in the middle of the pack, that is simply not the case.

Larson has a reputation for being able to get behind the wheel of anything with four wheels and go fast, and he had spoken about running the Indy 500 for many, many years before finally landing this opportunity.

But with all due respect, this isn't a local dirt track race, it's not a type of racing with which Larson is familiar (at all), and he is set to go up against dozens of other drivers who do this full-time, many of whom have done it for years.

And while the topic always seems to be brought up in one way or another, a lot of them are indeed there because of their talent, not because of their funding.

Larson himself knows it won't be easy. There is a reason he took on a two-year program. He isn't coming into this race expecting to dominate. He wants to learn as much as he can in year number one and apply it to year number two, when he will likely be much more comfortable.

He is also somewhat behind the eight ball when it comes to his schedule. He has never before competed in an IndyCar race, and that is expected to remain the case right up until the green flag flies to get this year's Indy 500 underway.

Even if he wanted to gain superspeedway experience ahead of time, Texas Motor Speedway, which had hosted at least one pre-Indy 500 race on the IndyCar schedule in each of the last four seasons, is no longer on the calendar.

When you think about it, +2500 odds actually give him a decent chance, considering the fact that there are 33 drivers set to compete in the race -- and likely 36 drivers on the entry list, meaning that three won't even manage to qualify.

Being listed above average with zero career IndyCar experience is more a sign of respect of Larson's ability than anything, in my book. You really can't expect him to be listed in the Palou, O'Ward, Newgarden, and Dixon range at this juncture.

There's also another pretty important factor to consider: odds really don't matter. Helio Castroneves was a three-time Indy 500 winner in 2021, and he was listed at +2500. He went on to earn a record-tying fourth win, doing so in his first ever non-Team Penske Indy 500 start. I doubt he cared about what the bookies were thinking.

You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time the favorite won the race. Castroneves won it for a third time that year, doing so from the pole position. Even then, he was listed as a co-favorite with Dixon. On only one occasion since then has the winner won from pole (Simon Pagenaud in 2019).

IndyCar team facing contract drama after driver announcement?. IndyCar team facing contract drama after driver announcement?. dark. Next

NBC is set to broadcast the 108th running of the Indy 500 live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26. Be sure to start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it! Qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19.