Who wins Sunday’s 65th annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN)? My thoughts

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Both practice sessions are in the books. Qualifying to set the field for the Duels are complete. The Duels celebrations are over. It’s time for Sunday’s 65th annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN). The main question now is, who’ll be celebrating a victory in NASCAR’s Super Bowl on Sunday night?

I have a hard time going against trends here.

Don’t Count On The Front Row For A Win (Alex Bowman, Kyle 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 Series Champion (Joey Logano)
o Here’s another one going against Logano. 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.

I’ve maintained since we left Speedweeks last year that Blaney’s win in the Daytona 500 is coming soon. I think this is his year.

Where Denny Hamlin is this generation’s Dale Earnhardt, 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.

Ford’s have been so strong this Speedweeks too.

Joey Logano won Race 1. Aric Almirola won Race 2. Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s nine Ford wins in the Duel in the last 11 tries including five straight.

Not only are they winning, they’re dominating too.

In Duel 1, Ford’s went 1-3-4-5-6-8-9. In Duel 2, they went 1-2-4-7.

Last year, they went 1-2-3-4 in Duel 1 and 1-2-3 in Duel 2.

They led 26 of 60 laps in Duel 1 last year and 50 of 60 in Duel 2. On Thursday night, they led 59 of 60 laps in the first Duel and 21 of 60 in Duel 2.

Combined, that’s 65% (156-for-240) of laps led over the last two years as well as 14 of the potential 20 top five positions.

A year ago, they turned that into 4 cars in the top 5 at the finish of the Daytona 500. Can they replicate that?

“It was obviously a pretty good race for the Fords,” said Logano. “Execution went really well. Our cars were fast, which is nice. We showed that in qualifying last night; we were faster than typical in qualifying.

“Some good gains there, and that transferred into the race that the cars had speed, and the execution of the Fords working together, doing the pit road piece really well, which kind of separated us.”

Toyota didn’t lead a single lap under the lights on Thursday…

All three Team Penske’s start in the first 4 Rows (3 in the top 7). Both RFK Racing and cars share Row 5. All three Front Row Motorsports entries are in the top 17. 

Combined, that’s 8 of their cars in the top 9 rows at the start of Sunday’s race. You also have a pair of SHR teammates in there too with 10 Ford’s lining up in the top 17 starting spots.


  1. 12 Blaney
  2. 23 Wallace
  3. 2 Cindric
  4. 11 Hamlin
  5. 4 Harvick

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