The real question is: Can anyone but Penske or Ganassi win? The straight answer is, barring some peculiar happenings, probably not. Those two teams have won every oval track race since July, 2008. They have the best engineers, the most professional teams, and drivers that can win.
There are only three things that can keep one of the five Penske/Ganassi drivers from winning.
1. An unforeseen combination of accidents & mechanical failures that eliminate them from the race - or put them a lap or more down. While such misfortune may strike 2 or 3 of these cars, in this day of virtually indestructible Honda engines, it is unlikely that maladies of mechanical breakdown and accidents will strike so heavily as to take all 5 of these cars out of the race.
2. A quirky fuel-mileage ending. Getting off-sequence on pit strategies, then fortuitous yellows near the end could put a team that has no choice but to gamble, in victory lane. Think Andretti Motorsports (Kanaan, Mutoh, Patrick & Hunter-Reay), Dreyer-Reinbold (Justin Wilson, Tomas Sheckter), or Panther Racing (Dan Weldon, Ed Carpenter)
3. Against all odds, a team that puts together the right combination and can match the late race speed of Penske and Ganassi. This is where the true dark horse team of the month comes in. The only team which I think can compete with Penske and Ganassi drivers on the track. The new FAAZT Racing team of Alex Tagliani and Bruno Junqueira. These cars have been consistently fast all month. If Tagliani and Junqueira can be patient, not make mistakes, and be in the running the last 40 laps, they could actually outrace the big boys to Victory Lane.
I'd love to pick the upset. But I just don't think Tagliani or Junqueira have shown the patience needed to win this race -- not yet.
So with all that said, here's my picks:
Second: Will Power. While Castroneves "owns" the 500, Power has been the strongest driver on the Penske team for the past year. If there is a first-time winner, he's likely the guy.
Third: Helio Castroneves: He'll be in the running all day long, but no one has won two-in-a-row twice - and I think Helio will just miss -- like he just missed by 1 position winning three-in-a-row.
Fourth: Dario Franchiti: He's been to Victory Lane before, and would like to be there without the rainstorm, but I think he will come up short.
Fifth: Dan Weldon. Panther's lead driver is outstanding in the 500, but he won't have the speed to be at the very top.
Sixth Bruno Junqueiro. Bruno will make his way through the field, but his young team is likely to make mistakes that will keep him from a top 5 finish -- but not by much
Seventh: Ed Carpenter. He knows this track and how to race here. And he would love to get a little vendication for his step-dad, Tony George, who was unceremoniously booted from his position running the Speedway by his mother and his two sister-uglies.
Eighth: Ryan Hunter-Reay. The most consistent of the Andretti cars will never challenge for the lead, but will soldier through to the end.
Ninth: Justin Wilson -- He always runs well at Indy
Tenth: John Andretti -- Just because he deserves a top 10 finish.
The dark horse: If you really want to take a dark horse to win -- Bruno Junqueira. While he's been under the radar, Junqueira has experience. He's a three-time runner up in the CART championship, and don't forget he won the pole position at Indianapolis in 2002, and finished 5th. If the FAAZT team makes the right strategy calls, and doesn't make any mistakes in the pits, Bruno could be the next Brazilian drinking milk in Victory Lane.