NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Top Daytona 500 Trends and race preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Just follow the trends and they’ll lead you to the winner of Sunday’s 64th running of the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN). The visible eye would tell you  and a few others should win. But, what do the trends say?

Well, lets start eliminating drivers.


Pole Winner – Kyle Larson

Its been 22 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, 16 of the last 20 races have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10.

Their average finishing position?

16.59.

The last four pole winners have failed to even get to 16th in the end with the best result since 2015 being 14th by Elliott in 2017

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 21.

Larson, has no career top five finishes in 29 superspeedway starts.


2nd place starter – Alex Bowman

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. The average finishing position for the second place starter?

16.27.

Just 5x in the last 26 years has the second place starter came home with a top five finish.

2020’s pole winner finished 20th and the second place starter finished 24th.

2021’s was 35th and 26th respectively.

Bowman has been here before and has never delivered.


Duel Winners – Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher

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 17 years. It’s only happened five times since 1996 at that.

RFK Racing had two wins between 2015 and 2021. Thursday night was their first win since 2017.

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 – Michael McDowell

In 2020, 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 Michael McDowell to repeat on Sunday.


Defending Cup Champion – Kyle Larson (again)

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. That’s not good news for Kyle Larson who’s never eve had a top five finish in 29 career superspeedway starts. He’s only led 30 laps combined at Daytona and Talladega too.


First-time winners are rare in the Daytona 500

Of the 63 Daytona 500 races, only eight 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 Michael McDowell. The previous was Trevor Bayne in 2011 and then Michael Waltrip in 2001. This weekend, 16 different drivers entered in this season’s Daytona 500 are still looking for their first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Those drivers are – Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Corey LaJoie, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Jacques Villeneuve, Todd Gilliland, Ty Dillon, Kaz Grala, Cody Ware, Noah Gragson, Landon Cassill, BJ McLeod and Daniel Suarez.

Also, only 2 drivers have ever won the Daytona 500 in their first appearance. That was Lee Petty (1959 inaugural race) and Trevor Bayne (2011). That’s not great news for Burton, Villeneuve and Gilliland.

Starters Outside Top 14

8 of the last 10 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 –

Winner? Here’s who’s left 

Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr.


Late Race Pass For The Win?

5 of the last 6 years have seen a final pass for the win on the final lap.


Few Laps Led For Winner?

3 of the last 5 years the winner led only one lap all race – the last one.


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 (+900) for good measure. He has eight top fives in his last 10 Daytona 500 starts including three wins and leading the most laps (98) in last year’s fifth place run.

The rest of the favorites?

Chase Elliott is next at +1200 but he has finished 30th or worse in almost half of his 11 Daytona starts. In fact, he’s been 14th or worse in all but two starts, one was a runner-up last year. Elliott’s other Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd, 17th and 17th respectively.

Kyle Larson (+1300) has never scored a top five in 29 career superspeedway starts. Larson, also has eight finishes of 29th or worse in them. While he was seventh in 2019 and 10th the last two years his other four of his other five finishes were 12th or worse in the big race. 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.

Brad Keselowski (+1700) is tied for the fifth best odds, but five times in the last seven 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 14 Daytona tries. He was 15th last year. He’s 0-for-12 in the Daytona 500 and has just one Speedweeks victory overall as that came in the Clash a few years ago. His new team hasn’t won a regular race since 2017.

William Byron has the same odds (+1700) as Keselowski but has had two top two finishes in his last three Coke Zero Sugar 400 starts. His Daytona 500 starts? 23rd, 21st, 40th and 26th respectively.

Kyle Busch (+1900) is among the next grouping but he has finished 20th or worse in seven of his last nine Daytona starts. He was 34th and 33rd in 2020 and 14th and 34th last year. He is 0-for-16 in the Great American Race.

Martin Truex Jr. (+1900) – Has just five top five finishes in 67 career superspeedway starts without a single win. 5 of his last 6 at Daytona have been 22nd or worse.

Favorites?

Hamlin (+900) – for the reasons stated above.

Joey Logano (+1300) – 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 seven Daytona 500 starts including a win in 2015.

Ryan Blaney (+1300) – He won the summer Daytona race last year and had two wins prior to that at Talladega. He was also runner-up in the 2020 Daytona 500 too.

Sleepers

Bubba Wallace (+1900) – He won the last superspeedway race last Fall in Talladega. Wallace has the ability to do it here in Daytona 500. He was runner-up in 2018, fifth in the 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400, runner-up in the 2021 Coke Zero Sugar 400 and had a strong car during last year’s Speedweeks.

Kevin Harvick (+2100) – He was fifth in 2020 and fourth last year. He’s also a past Daytona 500 winner too.

Aric Almirola (+2400) – Definitely the strongest of the sleepers. He should have won this race in 2018 and is always good on superspeedways.

Austin Dillon (+2400) – He won a Duel last year and was third in the Great American race as well. He’s also a past Daytona 500 champion (2018) and has a top 10 in half of his last eight Daytona 500 tries.

Austin Cindric (+3100) – He inherits the car that Keselowski dominated superspeedway’s in. The rookie for the upcoming season did race in this event last year where he finished a respectable 15th after being caught up in the fiery last lap crash in Turn 3. He also won the Xfinity Series season opener during last year’s Speedweeks as well to go along with a 2020 summer race win at Daytona in the Xfinity Series as well. That’s 2 straight years with a Daytona win. Can he make it 3?

Chris Buescher (+3600) – He has five top 10 finishes in his last nine Daytona starts. He was third in the 2020 Daytona 500 and ninth in the ‘400. Plus, Stenhouse Jr. was great in this car at Daytona before him.

Tyler Reddick (+3600) – He was 27th and 5th last year and is always fast on superspeedway’s. With the first winner trend in Daytona, he’s a great candidate.

Ross Chastain (+4700) – 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 and seventh last year. Like Reddick, could be a great sleeper to pick up his first career win.

Justin Haley (+4700) – Among the top superspeedway racers in the sport today. His only Cup win came here in Daytona a couple of years ago in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. He also just won the Xfinity race at Daytona last August. He’s had eight career NASCAR national series victories and five of them have been at either Talladega or Daytona. That’s saying something.

Corey LaJoie (+5500) – He was eighth and ninth the last two years in this race and sixth in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Michael McDowell (+7000) – He’s the defending champion of this race, was fifth in the 2019 Daytona 500 and ninth the year prior. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has six top 10 finishes in his last 14 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that.

Harrison Burton (+8500) – Another Wood Brothers rookie won the ‘500 back in 2011. Trevor Bayne was 20 years old in his triumph. Now, Burton who’s just now 21, take over the famed No. 21 Ford. In four Daytona starts in the Xfinity Series, his worst finish is ninth (Aug. 2021). His other three finishes were second and third respectively during Speedweeks and fifth in Aug. 2020.

Ty Dillon (+13000) – The younger brother of Austin has three top six finishes in his last four starts in Daytona including a sixth place run in the 2020 Daytona 500.

Tread Lightly

Kurt Busch (+1900) – Since July 2014, Busch has five top 10 finishes at Daytona including a win in the 2017 Daytona 500. Unfortunately, tread lightly because his six Daytona finishes with Ganassi were 25th, 10th, 33rd, 34th, 22nd and 32nd respectively.

Alex Bowman (+2100) – 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?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+3100) – He won the pole for the 2020 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.

Christopher Bell (+3600) – 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 as a rookie and 16th and 32nd last year.

Erik Jones (+5500) – Yes he won the ‘400 before. Yes he won the 2020 Clash. But, can Jones win with RPM? He was 18th and 35th in his two Daytona starts at JGR in 2020 and was 18th or worse in six of his 10 Daytona starts in Cup.

Chase Briscoe (+5500) – Only 19th and 21st last year in his two Daytona starts.

Cole Custer (+5500) – He was only 37th and 30th respectively in the two Daytona races as a rookie and 11th and 24th last year.

Daniel Suarez (+7500) – He’s not had any Daytona success in the past with a best result of 17th. His other finishes with the exception of one have all been outside the top 20.

Todd Gilliland (+13000) – Not very likely this rookie wins. He’s never raced in the Xfinity Series before with him going from Truck to Cup. In three Truck Series Daytona starts, he’s finished 19th, 16th and 31st respectively.


Top Stat

Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports won all but five Speedweeks races between 2013 and 2019. Last year though, they were 0-for-3 on the oval. Stewart-Haas Racing (Aric Almirola), Richard Childress Racing (Austin Dillon) and Front Row Motorsports (Michael McDowell) won the Duels and the ‘500.

So far this year, RFK Racing is 2-for-2 and the “Big 3” 0-for-2. Can they end this five race slide?

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