A look at the entire Daytona 500 field with who’s in my opinion are the favorites, sleepers and fades and why with top race trends

Daytona 500 Trends

Don’t Count On The Front Row For A Win (Bowman, Larson)
o The pole winner hasn’t won this race in 23 years. In fact, 17 of the last 21 races have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10. The last five pole winners have failed to even get to 16th in the end with the best result since 2015 being 14th by Elliott in 2017. Furthermore, the last time the pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott). The average finishing spot for the pole winner is now 16.83.
o The last win for the second-place starter came in 1993 (Dale Jarrett). They have only finished in the top 10 just four times since 2006. Just five time in the last 27 years has the second-place starter came home with a top five finish even. This average finishing spot for the second place starter is 16.39.

Avoid Duel Winners From Thursday Night (Joey Logano, Aric Almirola)
o The last driver to win a Duel and the Daytona 500 in the same year was Matt Kenseth in 2012. He’s the only one to do so in the last 18 years. It’s only happened five times since 1996 at that.

Steer Clear Of Defending Daytona 500 Champion (Austin Cindric)
o 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 Austin Cindric to repeat on Sunday.

Steer Clear Of Defending Series Champion (Joey Logano)
o Only six times has the reigning Cup Series champion also 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.

Steer Clear Of Any Series Champion (Logano, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski)
o None of the last 12 points paying Daytona races were won by a series champion in general.

Avoid True Rookies (Gibbs, Herbst, Pastrana, Smith, Daly)

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 these first time drivers.

Starting Position Matters
o 9 of the last 11 years has the Daytona 500 winner come from the first 7 Rows of the official starting lineup. But, with the top 4 starters already eliminated, we can now eliminate 15th-40th among the ones that have won a Cup race before too and focus on starters 5th-14th.

Which leaves?

Bell, Blaney, Buescher, LaJoie, Gilliland.

Last Lap Pass For The Win
o 5 of the last 7 years have seen a final pass for the win on the final lap.

Winner Could Lead Just The Final Lap
o 3 of the last 6 years the race winner led just 1 lap all day – the final one.

First-time Cup Series winners at Daytona happen often

They say you always remember the ‘first-time’ and Daytona International Speedway has been known for making memories that last in the NASCAR Cup Series.

In total 17 different drivers have scored their first NASCAR Cup Series career pole at Daytona International Speedway and 23 different drivers have won their first race in the NASCAR Cup Series at the 2.5-mile track.

Daytona International Speedway has seen a first-time winner in at least one of its NASCAR Cup Series races in the last five consecutive seasons (2018-2022).

First Time Pole WinnersSeasonFirst Time Race WinnersSeason
William Byron2019Austin Cindric2022
Chase Elliott2016Michael McDowell2021
Austin Dillon2014William Byron2020
Danica Patrick2013Justin Haley2019
Paul Menard2008Erik Jones2018
Greg Biffle2004Aric Almirola2014
Jimmie Johnson2002David Ragan2011
Kevin Harvick2002Trevor Bayne2011
Mike Skinner1997Greg Biffle2003
Dale Jarrett1995Michael Waltrip2001
Loy Allen Jr1994John Andretti1997
Sterling Marlin1991Jimmy Spencer1994
Greg Sacks1990Sterling Marlin1994
Geoff Bodine1982Derrike Cope1990
Ramo Stott1976Greg Sacks1985
Charlie Glotzbach1968Pete Hamilton1970
Darel Dieringer1964Mario Andretti1967
  Earl Balmer1966
 Sam McQuagg1966
  A.J. Foyt1964
  Bobby Isaac1964
  Johnny Rutherford1963
  Tiny Lund1963

Of the 64 DAYTONA 500 races in the books, nine times a driver has posted his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory with a win in the event; the most recent to accomplish the feat was Team Penske’s Austin Cindric last season.

First-Time Winners in DAYTONA 500Seasons
Tiny Lund1963
Mario Andretti1967
Pete Hamilton1970
Derrike Cope1990
Sterling Marlin1994
Michael Waltrip2001
Trevor Bayne2011
Michael McDowell2021
Austin Cindric2022

Three other drivers posted their career-first NASCAR Cup Series victory in (points-paying) qualifying races at Daytona: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).

Looking at the entry list for this season’s DAYTONA 500, 15 drivers will be attempting to earn their first series win this weekend – Harrison Burton, Conor Daly, Ty Dillon, Ty Gibbs, Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson, Riley Herbst, Austin Hill, Corey Lajoie, B.J. McLeod, Travis Pastrana, Ryan Preece, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, and Cody Ware.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Daytona 500 Track Analysis

Daytona International Speedway is a fast 2.5-mile high banked superspeedway that differs from all but one other track on the schedule – Talladega. These two tracks produce four of the 36 points paying races over the course of a season and look entirely different than the other 32 events.

That’s because they use a tapered spacer on the engines to restrict speeds and by the design of the aerodynamic package used on these two tracks, it forms a pack to race in. Basically, these cars are flat out pedal to the metal without using the brake pedal and all are pretty much going the same speed. Drafting is key here and that on it’s own is an art itself.

The good ones on these tracks are good for a reason and can sense when the pack is getting too aggressive and sometimes find a way out of it in order to avoid the incoming carnage. However, there are times too on where they can’t get out in time and end up wadded up in the infield like the rest of them.

That’s why winning at Daytona is like winning the lottery. It’s as even of a race for ever car and driver combination as you’ll get all season.

Weather can sometimes impact this race which could alter strategy. Lap 101 would make this an official race.

Nothing has changed on the track since last year, so what you saw a year ago is what you’ll get this time around.

Tires aren’t usually a factor here since there’s minimal tire wear.

Daytona 500 Favorites

Denny Hamlin (+1200)

Pretty low odds for a superspeedway race, especially for a driver that has won the Daytona 500 in 3 of the last 7 years including two of the last 4 at that. One could say Hamlin is this generation’s Dale Earnhardt as he’s more times than not, a contender of winning on all four points paying stops on them. Since 2012, he’s finished outside the Top-5 in just three of his 11 Daytona 500 tries. No one else has been better in that span. Plus, Hamlin seems to find peace in the midst of tragedy. JD Gibbs passed away in the January before the 2019 Daytona 500. The reason Hamlin is in the No. 11 is because of JD. They were close. Hamlin won that year. Last November, another member of the Gibbs family tragically passed. It was JD’s brother. Hamlin in a contract year could give this Gibbs family some peace with a fourth victory in this prestigious race. When someone’s back is against the wall, give me Hamlin to fight through it.

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

Where Hamlin is this generation’s Dale Earnhardt, Ryan Blaney is on the verge of becoming the next Denny Hamlin. Blaney won the summer Daytona race in 2021 and also had two prior wins at Talladega too. 6 of his last 8 Daytona results overall (counting the summer ‘400) have been inside of the top 6. Last year’s loss in the end (4th) still resonates with him as the sting still burns. He’s had two Top-4 finishes in his last three Great American Races and it would be fitting to enter the 2023 season on the heels of going winless in all of 2022 to win the first race out of the gates.

Bubba Wallace (+1600)

One could say 2021 was Wallace’s break out season. One could also say that 2022 was as well. What about 2023? Bubba was runner-up in two of his last three overall Daytona starts. He won the Fall Talladega race in October of 2021. In five career Daytona 500 appearances, he has a pair of runner-up finishes. Bridesmaid no more, Wallace is poised to score his third career win in Sunday’s race. Logano’s motto last year was 22 in ’22. Can Wallace be 23 in ’23?

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, and Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, race to the finish of the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Daytona 500 Sleepers

Ross Chastain (+2200)

The Watermelon Man has been good on superspeedways. Chastain won an Xfinity Series race here in Daytona in July 2019 and while he was 40th in this past year’s Daytona 500, he was also 2nd in both Atlanta races and won at Talladega last spring too. No one’s stock rose higher than that of Chastain’s a season ago and what better way to build off of a dream 2022 than winning the Daytona 500 to kick start an even better 2023? Chastain is a Florida native born of watermelon farmers. What a story this could be. He had four straight Top-4 finishes to close out last season.

Kevin Harvick (+2500

Sentimental favorite here. He’s a past Daytona 500 champion (2007) and has a pair of Top-5 finishes in his last three Daytona 500 starts as well. This will mark his final Daytona 500 as he’ll retire at seasons end.

Austin Cindric (+2700)

Trends aren’t on his side for a back-to-back win but he was first and third respectively on this track in 2022 and scored another runner-up finish on Thursday night in his Duel.

Austin Dillon (+3000)

He won a the summer race at Daytona last August. He also won a Duel in 2021 and was third in the Great American race that year as well. He’s also a past Daytona 500 champion (2018).

Erik Jones (+3000)

He won the ‘400 in 2018 and won the Clash in 2020. He also had a top 5 going last February before being caught up in that late race crash.

Ryan Preece (+3000)

A pair of Top-10 finishes in three Daytona 500 tries and those came with JTG Daugherty Racing. Imagine what he can do in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford this time around.

Aric Almirola (+3000)

Definitely one of the strongest of the sleepers. Seems like a steal at this amount. Almirola has been so close to winning this race a number of times including a fifth place run last year. 2 of his 3 Cup wins were on superspeedway’s too.

Chris Buescher (+3000)

He has five top 10 finishes in his last 11 Daytona starts. He was third in the 2020 Daytona 500 and ninth in the ‘400 that year. He crossed the finish line 2nd in last year’s 400 before a penalty negated that. He won a Duel last February too.

Chase Briscoe (+4000)

Fresh off a new contract extension and a third place run last February here. Briscoe marched all the way to the Round of 8 a year ago.

Michael McDowell (+4000)

He won the 2021 Daytona 500, was fifth in the 2019 Daytona 500 and ninth in the 2018 Daytona 500. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has seven Top-10 finishes in his last 16 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that. He was seventh last February as well as eighth and third respectively in 2022 at Talladega too.

Noah Gragson (+4000)

Could be like Cindric last year. A series rookie this season but not for this race. He looked good last year here before being caught up in that end of the race crash and is arguably a really good superspeedway racer in general. Gragson was fifth in last year’s ‘400 in August as well as winning the 2020 Xfinity Series season opener here too. He also won the 2022 spring race at Talladega in the Xfinity Series as well.

Jimmie Johnson (+4000)

Why not? A two-time Daytona 500 champion running a part-time schedule and showing up refreshed again. Petty GMS had great speedway cars last year and Johnson feels confident heading into his 20th Daytona 500 start.

Justin Haley (+5000)

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’s also scored eight career NASCAR national series victories and five of them have been at either Talladega or Daytona. That’s saying something.

AJ Allmendinger (+5000)

These aren’t his favorite tracks but Kaulig has great speedway cars and Allmendinger has two straight Top-10 finishes in this race and each occurring with JTG. In fact, his last four Cup starts at Daytona show finishes of 3rd, 8th, 10th and 3rd respectively. His last four Xfinity Series races here read: 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd. I’d not be shocked if he can find a way to put this car in victory lane on Sunday.

Harrison Burton (+6500)

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. Last February, he looked great and led some laps before being knocked on his lid during a midrace crash.

Corey LaJoie (+10000)

He was eighth and ninth the last two years in the Daytona 500, sixth in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400, had a fast car in last year’s race and was a lap away from an Atlanta win last July.

Zane Smith (+10000)

Won the Truck Series opener here last year, finished in the top 10 in his Duel and has a fast Ford Mustang. Why not for these odds?

Ty Dillon (+15000)

The younger brother of Austin has three Top-6 finishes in his last 5 Daytona starts including a sixth place run in the 2020 Daytona 500 and a top 10 going in last year’s Daytona 500 to where he finished 11th.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, Erik Jones, driver of the #43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, Noah Gragson, driver of the #62 Beard Oil/South Point Chevrolet, and Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 First Phase Credit Card Ford, spin after an on-track incident Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Daytona 500 Fades

Chase Elliott (+1200)

The good? He was runner-up in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400, runner-up in the 2020 Daytona 500, 8th in the 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 400, 10th in this last year’s Daytona 500 to go along with 6th in Atlanta 1, 7th in Talladega 1 and a win in Atlanta 2 and Talladega 2 last year. The bad? He has finished 30th or worse in almost half of his 12 Daytona starts. In fact, he’s been 14th or worse in all but two starts. Elliott’s other Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd, 17th, 17th and 10th respectively. Too much good and bad for me to wager on him for these odds.

Joey Logano (+1600)

Too many trends working against him here and despite him winning the Duel on Thursday night, these were arguably his worst tracks last season. Logano was 21st in the Daytona 500, 9th in Atlanta 1, 32nd in Talladega 1, 26th in Atlanta 2, 12th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and 27th in Talladega respectively. He was also 26th and 27th respectively in the pair of Daytona races in 2020 and 12th and 23rd in 2021.

Kyle Larson (+1700)

Larson has never won a superspeedway race and has just 1 top 5 in 35 starts on them at that. He was 32nd and 37th at Daytona last year.

Kyle Busch (+1700)

He’s finished 20th or worse in seven of his last 11 Daytona starts. He is also 0-for-17 in the Great American Race too.

William Byron (+1900)

His Daytona 500 finishes? 23rd, 21st, 40th, 26th and 38th respectively.

Brad Keselowski (+2000)

You can never count him out on superspeedway’s. He was a last lap crash away from a the very least a top two finish in the 2021 Daytona 500. Keselowski also led lot of laps (61) in last February’s Daytona 500 (finished 9th) including a Duel win 3 days prior. He’s 0-for-13 in this race however and 1-for-27 in points paying races in general at Daytona.

Martin Truex Jr. (+2500)

Yes, he swept both stages back in February of last year, but he also still finished 13th too in doing so. He’s 0-for-73 in drafting races if you include both Atlanta events last season and has scored just 6 top 5’s in those 73 starts. He has 3 top 5’s in 35 Daytona tries at that. Too steep still of a price, especially when he was +4000 entering.

Tyler Reddick (+2600)

Second last August but 35th in last year’s Daytona 500. His previous three Daytona 500 finishes are: 27th, 28th and 27th respectively.

Alex Bowman (+3000)

Always quick here (6 straight front row stars), no Top-5 finishes to show for it either.

Christopher Bell (+3000)

Another strong Duel (2nd runner-up in 3 years), but is he heading towards another predictable ‘500? Was only 21st and 13th here in 2020, 16th and 32nd in 2021 and 34th and 36th respectively last year.

Todd Gilliland (+3800)

Started at +10000 and now +3800. Vegas sees something. I don’t. He was 33rd and 23rd respectively at Daytona a year ago.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+4000)

Always a name to watch out for. However, when you take a step back and look at the greater picture, you’d see Stenhouse has 1 win and just a pair of top 5 finishes in 21 Daytona starts. His last 10 finishes since his 2017 win? 29th, 17ty, 13th, 24th, 20th, 32nd, 18th, 22nd, 28th, 22nd.

Daniel Suarez (+4000)

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.

Ty Gibbs (+5000)

A rookie making his first Daytona 500 start isn’t a likely winner. They’re 2-for-64.

Travis Pastrana (+10000)

Good story here, but rookies are 2-for-64, remember?

Riley Herbst (+15000)

0-for-2 in Trucks here, 0-for-7 in Xfinity. Now making his Cup debut.

Cody Ware (+20000)

Was 6th in August, but 39th, 21st, 28th and 17th prior.

BJ McLeod (+20000)

2 of his last 3 Coke Zero Sugar 400’s he’s finished in the top 10. In his Daytona 500 starts? He’s finished 19th, 38th, 23rd and 27th respectively.

Conor Daly (+20000)

Far more talent in the drivers seat than this car can provide.

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