DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Just follow the trends and they’ll lead you to the winner of Sunday’s 63rd running of the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN). The visible eye would tell you Alex Bowman, William Byron, Aric Almirola and a few others should win. But, what do the trends say?
Well, lets start eliminating drivers.
Pole Winner – Alex Bowman
Its been 21 years since a pole winner last won this race. 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.
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.
2nd place starter – William Byron
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.
Busch Clash Winner – Kyle Busch
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.
Duel Winners – Aric Almirola/Austin Dillon
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.
Defending Winner – Denny Hamlin
Last year, Denny Hamlin became just the fourth driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500’s. Richard Petty did it in 1973 and 1974. Cale Yarborough did it in 1983 and 1984. Sterling Marlin was the last to do so in 1994 and again in 1995. The odds don’t look favorable for Hamlin to repeat on Sunday again though as no driver has ever won this race for three straight years before.
Defending Cup Champion – Chase Elliott
Elliott, has made five starts in this race with finishes of 37th, 14th, 33rd, 17th and 17th respectively. He was runner-up in last August’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 though, so there’s reason for hope. But, 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.
First-time winners are rare in the Daytona 500
Of the 62 Daytona 500 races, only seven times has a driver posted his career-first NASCAR Cup Series victory with a win in the event; the most recent to accomplish the feat was Trevor Bayne in 2011. This weekend, 20 different drivers entered in this season’s Daytona 500 are still looking for their first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Those drivers are – Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece, Anthony Alfredo, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, BJ McLeod, Joey Gase, Josh Bilicki, Cody Ware and Kaz Grala.
Starters Outside Top 14
8 of the last 9 years the Daytona 500 winner has come from the first 7 Rows. But, with the top 4 starters already eliminated, we can now eliminated 15th-40th among the ones that have won a Cup race. That eliminates now – David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr.,Jamie McMurray, Cole Custer and Erik Jones.
Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.
If you narrow this down further to show that the “Big 3” have won 77% of Speedweeks races since 2005, then you can narrow this down to Logano vs. Blaney vs. Larson.
And the winner is?
Ill take Blaney.