This season, NASCAR will embark on a period of reinvigoration as changes made by the sport were long needed and progressive in nature.
Despite a downturn in attendance and in TV ratings, NASCAR is quietly, but effectively altering the sport in preparation for a poised turnaround. As legislation for legal sports betting expands to more states, there is plenty of room for NASCAR to achieve major growth and renewed interest. NASCAR has some very unique characteristics that make it a marvelous sport to handicap and wager on. As we progress over the course of the season we will explain many of the intricacies that set NASCAR apart and make it such a desirable sport for bettors.
Both Daytona and Talladega are restrictor plate tracks which means that due to an air limitation to the car’s engine, the horsepower is reduced. This is done as a safety precaution in order to help prevent the race cars from becoming airborne during spin-outs or track incidents. While the restrictor plate cuts the horsepower it also allows the cars to generally run wide open and in very tight packs. This pack style of racing has a tendency to create large scale track incidents where many cars are either eliminated or sustain heavy damage.
In last year’s Daytona 500, only 10 of 40 (25%) cars finished on the lead lap. This was caused by track incidents, mechanical failure, pit issues and more. However, speed is generally not the problem, and a car with a restrictor plate should rarely go a lap down unless there is a significant issue. For this reason, it makes wagering on driver matchups at Daytona not only difficult to predict, but hard to justify. An example of this would be as follows. If our driver is bet at 12-1 and on the lead lap with 10-15 other cars as the race is comes to a close, doesn't that make his value better than -110, which is typical for a driver matchup wager? It is generally preferential to be in a position where betting on a driver at 12-1 to win the race, yields a situation where our driver is now racing a group of contenders that is made up of race survivors.
Generally, when these situations occur there are several drivers who were relative longshots that have managed to survive. In this case if you have a driver who started the race at 12-1, they might be the lowest odds driver left on the lead lap. When you consider the number of cars that are forced to retire early, and the overall speed neutralization due to the restrictor plates, it makes betting the matchups that much more undesirable at Daytona. With this in mind we will stow the driver matchup wagers until at least next week. Let’s take a look at the field for the 61st Daytona 500.
Odds to win from the South Point sports book.
Field (5-1): There are several surprising drivers that have been tossed into the field wager at the South Point Casino, which helps to account for the low price. One such driver is the Pole sitter William Byron, who will start up front with Jimmie Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus in the Director’s chair. When located outside the field William Byron commands odds at 40-1 or more to win. Another driver in the field who has been impressive late this week is former Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray. If both Byron and McMurray can be found outside the field they could be considered as worthy longshot contenders. Due to the massive size of the field wager (16 cars) and their emerging talent across the board, this is the group to have if the race totally breaks down and many of the competitors are eliminated or damaged. There is always that possibility, but it would likely take an amazing turn of events for one of the Field drivers to end up in Victory Lane.
Brad Keselowski (8-1): Looking to get his first Daytona 500 win is Brad Keselowski. In the 2018 Daytona 500 he was considered the driver to beat, however finding trouble at just over 100 laps into the race, it ended his bid for the win. Although Keselowski has so much going for him in his overall situation, having to start deep in the field (35th) does not help his cause. He has a great shot to win, but at odds this low it’s hard to ride 50% exposure on him, or anyone else that has single digit odds.
Kevin Harvick (8-1): Finishing just one spot above Brad Keselowski (31st) in last year’s Daytona 500 is Kevin Harvick who will start from the 3rd position in this event. The 2007 winner of the Daytona 500 will try to build off his win in Duel race #1 last Thursday evening. Harvick and his crew feel confident about their weekend progression as they decided to skip the opening practice, and only run limited laps in the second practice on Friday. If wagering on strategy comprised of favorites, Kevin Harvick is a logical choice to get the win.
Joey Logano (8-1): Starting in the 4th spot is the defending series champion Joey Logano who has done nothing so far this week to indicate that he is going to cool off. Logano was the winner of Duel race #2 on Thursday with a late pass of Clint Bowyer to get the victory. Of all the favorites going into the race, Logano appears to be in the best overall position. However, as mentioned with the probability of mass carnage or just plain bad luck at Daytona, it’s difficult to put so much stock into one or even two low priced wagers.
Clint Bowyer (12-1): Situated within the large group of drivers that just eclipse the double digit odds threshold is Clint Bowyer. He is starting in the 6th position and looks to get his first career win in 28 starts at Daytona. Last season Clint Bowyer was the best restrictor plate matchup driver on the circuit with a record of 9-1 at Daytona and Talladega combined. If Bowyer can stay out of trouble he has a shot to get that first win. Of note, there appears to be an extra push behind Bowyer from a psychological aspect to avenge the late pass by Logano in Duel race #2. He looks particularly hungry.
Denny Hamlin (12-1): One of the biggest threats to win from the non-Ford camp is Denny Hamlin who finished 3rd in last season’s Daytona 500. The 2016 winner will start from the 10th position, and he has looked the part of top contender as the weekend has progressed. However, if the race runs mostly clean, will Hamlin have fellow Toyota drivers up front pushing him to get the win amongst all manufacturing contenders? That is a tall order to ask considering there are only six Toyota’s running in the Daytona 500. However, of the six Toyotas, five appear to be well tuned.
Chase Elliott (12-1): Perhaps one the most aggressive drivers so far during Speedweeks has been Chase Elliott. Elliott was seen trying to dive his was toward the front, one spot at a time during the Duel race #2. He will start 18th from the grid and try to move forward. Overall while the persistent effort has been evident, Elliott has not been amongst top-5 cars leading into the race.
Aric Almirola (12-1): One of the best restrictor plate drivers on the circuit is Aric Almirola who was leading this race on the final lap last season. Although, Almirola did not get the win, it’s apparent that he is major contender to win this Daytona 500 starting in the 8th spot. Almirola is no stranger to Victory Lane at Daytona as he has already been able to capture a win in the July race there.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (12-1): Restrictor plate specialist Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will try to get his second win at Daytona starting in the 5th position. Stenhouse driving a Ford is a wagering option if steering away from the top favorites. Going into the race he appears to be in same mechanical neighborhood as Paul Menard but sadly at half the price. As good of a restrictor plate racer as Stenhouse is, the price is a little low considering the chance for damage throughout the field. Stenhouse is worth shopping as this is a range where variation in the odds is frequent.
Ryan Blaney (12-1): Leading over 100 laps in last year’s Daytona 500 is Ryan Blaney from the stacked Penske Racing Team. Starting in the 14th position, Ryan Blaney is the only driver who has been in the top-10 of all six stages that have been run during the Daytona 500 in the last two seasons. His car has progressed well over the course of the weekend and Blaney is in one the best overall situations. If playing the mid priced drivers Blaney should be included on the ticket.
Kurt Busch (15-1): The winner of 2017 Daytona 500 Kurt Busch will start 12th on the grid with his new car and team from Chip Ganassi Racing. Kurt Busch looked to be the best of the Ganassi cars as he was race ready in Saturday’s final practice. Provided he is clean near the end of the race, the elder Busch should find himself in contention. His level of experience should make him one of the best chances for a Chevy win. He appears to be priced right on target based on overall situation.
Kyle Busch (15-1): Following an incident during the Duel race #1 with Jimmie Johnson, Busch will start deep in the field in the 31st position. The key for Kyle Busch is to run clean above all else. He has registered 7 DNFs in 27 starts at Daytona with only one career win. Starting deep is generally not on the recipe for having a clean run and top finish. While his talent level is high, Busch suffers from the same constraint as teammate Denny Hamlin with the relative low number of Toyotas in the race. However, this factor alone is not enough to go against him, it’s when you add his inconsistency that he becomes a tough sell.
Martin Truex Jr. (15-1): New to Joe Gibbs Racing is Truex Jr. ,who appears to share along with Denny Hamlin a very strong Toyota. While restrictor plate races have not been the forte of Truex he has the ability to win anywhere and should be treated as such. Of the four drivers listed at 15-1 he has had the best weekend progression overall.
Jimmie Johnson (15-1): After his win in the rain shortened Clash, Johnson has had his issues controlling the car which included a dust up that sent Kyle Busch into a spin during Duel race #1. Johnson will start in the 17th position but will need to find significant progression if he is a real threat to win. Currently Johnson appears to be on the threshold of his price, but he should especially be shopped closely due his name recognition and recent Clash win. Is it possible that a change at crew chief pays instant dividends? If so, then as bizarre as it might sound a winning ticket on the seven time champion should call for more than 15-1.
Daniel Suarez (20-1): Happy to be in a very formidable Ford this season due to the amount of new “friends” that he has on the track. Suarez has made solid progression on Friday and appears to be very comfortable in his new Stewart-Haas ride. Suarez is dangerous in the big race and I expect him to drive with increased psychological vigor due to family inspiration.
Erik Jones (20-1): The winner of the most recent NASCAR race at Daytona in July of last year will start from the 28th spot. He showed good progress on Friday as his car was changed to a race setup from what had been his Duel setup. He was third quick over the long runs on Friday’s first practice, and like the other Toyota’s did not run in the 2nd practice session or in Happy hour on Saturday. He will have to work his way to the front, but if he is clean there is a good chance he is in deep contention for the win. There is a lot to like, what we do not like is his deep starting spot and more importantly his probable lack of teammates. Still, Jones is a viable option in several scenarios.
Alex Bowman (25-1): Starting in the 2nd spot is Alex Bowman who has struggled so far in transitioning his car from his Duel setup to race setup. He ran 40 laps combined in the practice sessions on Friday, but at no time did he run ten consecutive laps or post a single lap time in the top-20. At this point the only thing a handicapper has to hang their hat on in relation to Bowman is his starting spot which could help him avoid early damage. That is probably not enough even at long odds. Incidentally, Alex Bowman qualified on the pole of last year’s Daytona 500 and finished 17th.
Paul Menard (25-1): Another driver to be sure and shop is Paul Menard. He has been seen in several spots priced at 30-1 or more to win. Menard has finished 5th and 6th respectively in the last two Daytona 500 races, and appears to have a well handling car which will start 7th. In addition to a car that maneuvers well, Menard has shown very good speed as he led the Friday afternoon practice session in single lap times.
Kyle Larson (30-1): Daytona has not been kind to Kyle Larson where he has five DNFs in 10 races. He will start from 26th and needs to let the race sort itself out to avoid early trouble which has plagued him so many times. Larson along with Daytona teammate Jamie McMurray made good strides during Friday’s second practice session, However Larson appears to be the struggling the most of the three Chip Ganassi cars. The odds on Kyle Larson appear to be right about where they should be.
Austin Dillon (30-1): While there is no doubt that Austin Dillon is a very good restrictor plate racer, the price of 30-1 is built on the foundation that he is the defending Daytona 500 champion. As a matter of correction, the last driver to win the Daytona 500 in back to back seasons was Sterling Marlin in 1993 and 1994. I would be very surprised if Austin Dillon got the win again this year. Dillon will start in the 20th spot and appears to be well placed at current odds.
Bubba Wallace (40-1): Finishing in second place in the Daytona 500 last season, Wallace will look to breakthrough and get his first cup win at Daytona. Wallace is a young aggressive driver who has a knack for restrictor plate racing. Additionally, Richard Petty Racing has provided solid cars for their Daytona entries. Aric Almirola won the Summer Daytona race in 2014 with Richard Petty Racing, and Bubba Wallace appears to have the same chances. Based on what we have seen in recent years, Daytona could offer the best chance for Wallace to get that first victory.
Ryan Newman (50-1): Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman joins his new team at Roush Fenway Racing while moving into the Ford camp from Chevy. Newman will start in the 19th position and has the ability to muscle his way up front. It will take some breaks to go his way. If a deep long shot has a puncher’s chance to win, Newman could be that driver.
Brendan Gaughan (75-1): Qualifying for the Daytona 500 in the 30th spot is our host at VSiN, Gaughan. His car appears to be comparable to many of the cars that are priced at lower odds. Brendan is well experienced at Daytona and he has the respect of his fellow competitors in the garage. This is paired with a nothing to lose attitude that is needed to win a race of this caliber. If playing the longshots, Brendan should be shopped where he is found at 100-1 at several sportsbooks.
Wagering options for Daytona - The most successful strategy that I have used for Daytona involves betting a squad of drivers in effort to be well represented should the race break down. You can take it in any direction but I have found that having good coverage has been valuable over the years. This year there really appears to be at least 20-24 drivers that can win if the race is formful. However, if the race breaks down with large multi-car accidents then virtually any driver can win. That is the reason why putting a lot of fiscal support into just one or even two drivers is so dangerous at Daytona.
Below are the drivers I would strongly consider for any team approach which is based on value. Drivers at single digits odds are eliminated from consideration due to the total number of major contenders and their lack of value. Drivers listed in bold below make final selection due to value being exceeded. Lastly, since Daytona is so typically wild I encourage bettors to tread lightly. Overall, handicapping a race at Daytona involves a significant higher number of unknowns when compared to a typical non restrictor plate track.
There are three prop bets that we are taking.
Joey Logano finishes under 9.5 in Daytona 500 (-110): Westgate
Ryan Blaney finishes under 12.5 in Daytona 500 (-110): Westgate
Kurt Busch finishes under 15.5 in Daytona 500 (-110): Westgate
Clint Bowyer (12-1):
Ryan Blaney (12-1):
Aric Almirola (12-1):
Martin Truex Jr. (15-1):
Kurt Busch (15-1):
Paul Menard (25-1):
Bubba Wallace (40-1):
Jamie McMurray (55-1): offshore
Brendan Gaughan (75-1):
Matt DiBenedetto (77-1): offshore
As always please stay in tune to any news or updates prior to the start of the race that affect wagering. Any major changes that impact our selections will be updated on Twitter.