The opening race of the 2021 NASCAR season is here and upon us. This is always a fun race to bet because it’s NASCAR’s Super Bowl but you also get very good odds. With my handicapping on NASCAR races, I usually pick 3-5 guys. See, wagering on motorsports is much different than stick-and-ball sports. In a typical baseball, basketball, football, hockey game, etc, you have one winner and one loser.
For Sunday’s 63rd annual Daytona 500, you’ll have one winner and 39 losers. Good luck breaking it down to find just one driver to bet on. So, you need to be smart and pick a few drivers on normal weeks and wager wisely so you have a winner but also the winnings overcompensate for the drivers that you pick that will lose.
For superspeedway races though, you get longer odds for everyone. The favorite is +800 for crying out loud. So, you get more drivers to choose from here.
With that said, here’s my betting preview for the 63rd annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN).
Favorites Not Very Favorable – Betting Preview
The odds are good for winning some money on the Daytona 500 this year. You can instantly eliminate some guys right off the bat. The favorite listed is Denny Hamlin (+800) but no one has ever won three straight Daytona 500’s before. He’s won the last two. While he’s a favorite for good measure, stats alone aren’t on his side.
Chase Elliott is next at +1000 but he has finished 30th or worse in half of his 10 Daytona starts. In fact, he’s been 14th or worse in all but one start. Elliott’s Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd, 17th and 17th respectively. Plus, only five times has the reigning Cup Series champion came down to Daytona the next February and actually won the Daytona 500. The last time that it actually happened was in the year 2000. Its only happened twice since 1978 overall.
Then the front row starters can get eliminated. The last time a pole winner won the Daytona 500 was in 2000. Furthermore, the last time the pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott). In fact, 15 of the last 19 races have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10.
What about the outside front row starting spot. The last win came in 1993 (Dale Jarrett). They have only finished in the top 10 just four times since 2006.
Last year’s pole winner finished 20th and the second place starter finished 24th.
Furthermore, the Clash has seen just one pole winner win in the last 31 years. The Duels have had just one pole winner in the last 31 races and the Daytona 500 pole winner is 0 for the last 20.
What about the Clash. The winner was. Only six times has the Clash winner won the Daytona 500. The last time was Denny Hamlin in 2016. Before him, it hasn’t happened since 1998.
For the Duels, the last driver to win a Duel and the Daytona 500 was Matt Kenseth in 2012. He’s the only one to do so in the last 16 years. It’s only happened five times since 1996 at that.
Moral of the story here is, any Speedweeks success before the Daytona 500 really means a win isn’t coming in the biggest race of the week.
Brad Keselowski (+1100) is tied for the next best odds, but five times in the last six years he’s finished 27th or worse at Daytona. In fact, since July 2014, the Penske driver has 11 finishes of 17th or worse in his last 13 Daytona tries. He’s 0-for-11 in the Daytona 500 and has just one Speedweeks victory overall as that came in the Clash a few years ago.
Kevin Harvick (+1300) is sixth best but has finished eight of his last nine Daytona starts 19th or worse. He’s also crashed out of five of his last six Daytona starts overall. He was fifth in last year’s race but he only has three top 10’s in his last eight Daytona 500’s overall.
Kyle Busch (+1400) is next but he has finished 20th or worse in seven of his last eight Daytona starts. He was 34th and 33rd last year. He has been 25th or worse in three of his last four Daytona 500 tries and is 0-for-15 in the Great American Race.
Martin Truex Jr. (+1600) – Has just five top five finishes in 62 career superspeedway starts. Truex, has seven finishes of 18th or worse in his last 11 overall Daytona starts. While he was fourth last August, I’d avoid this pick.
That’s six of the top eight picks that I can say I’d steer clear from.
Joey Logano (+1100) – No brainer here. Logano, is so good on superspeedway tracks as he has won four times already on them. The Penske driver has five top six finishes in his last six Daytona 500 starts including a win in 2015.
Ryan Blaney (+1100) – He won two of the last three races at Talladega. He was second in last year’s race for his second runner-up of his career in the Daytona 500 and sixth in the ‘400 last August too. He’s becoming one of the better superspeedway racers.
Aric Almirola (+1800) – Definitely the strongest of the sleepers. He should have won this race in 2018 and is always good on superspeedways.
William Byron (+1800) – His last two Coke Zero Sugar 400 finishes were second and first respectively. He won a Duel last year. He now has his Truck Series crew chief Rudy Fugle on top of his pit box. Is this the start of Byron’s coming out party?
Bubba Wallace (+2000) – How fitting would it be if Wallace can win in his first race with a new team? How fitting would it be for Michael Jordan to get to victory lane in his first Daytona 500? Wallace has the ability to do it. He was runner-up in 2018 and fifth in last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Ryan Newman (+3300) – A former Daytona 500 winner (2008) nearly won last year’s race before a frightening accident on the last lap. Newman, has five top 10 finishes in his last seven Daytona starts.
Chris Buescher (+4000) – He has five top 10 finishes in his last seven Daytona starts. He was third in last year’s Daytona 500 and ninth in the ‘400. Plus, Stenhouse Jr. was great in this car at Daytona before him.
Tyler Reddick (+4000) – He only finished 28th last year but Reddick is good on superspeedway’s. He won the February NXS race at Daytona in 2018 and the Talladega race in the Spring of 2019. Worth a risk here.
Corey LaJoie (+4000) – He was eighth in this race last year and has always been a good superspeedway racer. This is a little high for him I feel but still worth the gamble now that he’s in a Spire car that can steal a win again.
Ty Dillon (+6600) – The younger brother of Austin has three straight top six finishes in Daytona including a sixth place run in last year’s Daytona 500.
Michael McDowell (+6600) – He was fifth in the 2019 Daytona 500 and ninth the year prior. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has five top 10 finishes in his last 12 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that.
David Ragan (+8000) – He’s always a superspeedway threat. Ragan, has two career Cup victory and each came on one.
Kurt Busch (+1800) – Since July 2014, Busch has five top 10 finishes at Daytona including a win in the 2017 Daytona 500. Unfortunately, tread lightly because his four Daytona finishes with Ganassi are 25th, 10th, 33rd and 34th respectively.
Alex Bowman (+1800) – He’s always quick on superspeedways. Bowman though doesn’t have a top five finish yet in his career at Daytona. Can this be the year?
Kyle Larson (+1800) – Has never scored a top five in 25 career superspeedway starts. Larson, has six finishes of 29th or worse in them. While he was seventh in 2019 and 10th last year, his other four of his other five finishes were 12th or worse in the big race.
Christopher Bell (+2000) – I get the hype but I don’t buy it yet. He’s not known yet as a great speedway race and was only 21st and 13th in his two Daytona starts last year as a rookie.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2000) – He won the pole for last year’s race but didn’t even finish in the top 10. He was 20th in the ‘500 and 32nd in the ‘400. He has led at least one lap in all but one start at Daytona since 2017 though including a win in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (2017). That’s his last top 10 at DIS too, so tread lightly with him as well.
Ross Chastain (+2500) – The Watermelon Man is good on superspeedways. This car is good on them too. He did finish 10th in the ‘400 a few years ago. But, we’ve yet to really see him in a good Cup car at Daytona. I’m a little leery right now.
Austin Dillon (+2500) – Another former Daytona 500 winner (2018) with seven top 10 finishes in his last 14 Daytona tries. But, his last four results at Daytona were 16th, 33rd, 12th and 25th respectively.
Matt DiBenedetto (+2800) – While he led the most laps in the 2019 race, his finishes on superspeedways are less than to be desired. DiBenedetto, was only 19th and 12th last year and has been outside the top 10 in all but three of his Daytona starts. I need to see more before I jump on him.
Erik Jones (+4000) – Yes he won the ‘400 before. Yes he won last year’s Clash. But, can Jones win with RPM? He was 18th and 35th in his two Daytona starts at JGR last year and was 18th or worse in five of his eight Daytona starts in Cup.
Cole Custer (+4000) – He was only 37th and 30th respectively in the two Daytona races last year as a rookie. Not a good option in my opinion.
Daniel Suarez (+12500) – He’s not had any Daytona success in the past with a best result of 17th. His other finishes have all been outside the top 20. Suarez is also with a brand new team. I’ll pass on him this weekend.