DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – The Great American Race is finally upon us. Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN) will mark the first race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. It’s a race that’s easy and also hard to bet.
The easy part to it is you get great odds. According to most oddsmakers, including 888sport, the top favorites to win Sunday’s race are +1000. That’s great in the fact that for betting on racing, you have to choose more than one driver.
Racing isn’t like stick and ball sports. In most stick and ball sports, there’s two teams and you get one winner and one loser. You have 50/50 odds of picking correctly. In racing, you have one winner and 39 losers. That’s a 1/40 odds of getting it right. So, the reason I’ve been so successful at it is because I choose between 3-5 drivers, and even in some cases more, to know that I should have the winner from that grouping.
The key is to bet the right amounts on those drivers you choose knowing that if you choose five drivers for an example, you know four of them are going to lose. You want to make sure that you bet enough on each driver to know that you can withstand a loss from them but win outright if you get the one right.
So, in terms of Daytona, when you get odds of +1000 and higher, that means you can pick more drivers for your money and know you will win even more. Basically, more bang for your buck.
But, how do you get from 40 drivers down to a handful? Here’s how.
Bad Luck For Front Row Starters
The last time a pole winner won the Daytona 500, William Byron was two years old (2000). Furthermore, the last time the pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott). In fact, 15 of the last 18 races have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10. That’s not good news for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2000)
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. Not good news either for Alex Bowman (+2000).
We know that the favorites for this race are likely going to come from the Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske camps. They have combined to win 26 of the last 29 Daytona Speedweeks events. They’ve also won five of the last seven Daytona 500’s in that same time frame.
That’s the reason that their 11 combined drivers are so high up on the betting list. Nine of the top 10 drivers in the top odds, are these drivers.
But, what if I told you that you can eliminate five of the top seven from contention? Joe Gibbs Racing has four drivers in their grouping. They’ve won two of the last four Daytona 500’s. They won 19 races last year overall including a 1-2-3 finish in this race. Seems like an easy team to bet right? Well I say, not so fast. Lets break their drivers down.
Denny Hamlin is certainly worth +1000 odds and I would throw some money his way, as he has five top four finishes in his last six Daytona 500 tries including two wins. But, what if I told you that no repeat winner has won the Daytona 500 in two consecutive years since 1994-1995? Trends aren’t on his side.
Kyle Busch is also a favorite. He’s also +1000. But, prior to last year’s runner-up finish, Busch had finished 20th or worse in his last four Daytona starts. He has just three top 10 finishes on the 2.5-mile track since 2014. A reigning series champion like Busch hasn’t won the Daytona 500 the next year since 2000 (Dale Jarrett) and has only happened twice since 1978.
Past history and trends say you can eliminate the top two drivers in the odds immediately. That leaves Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.
Jones (+2500) just won the Clash last Sunday but just six times in the history of this Clash has the driver that won gone on to win the Daytona 500 a week later too (Bobby Allison 1982, Bill Elliott 1987, Dale Jarrett 1996 and 2000, Jeff Gordon 1997 and Denny Hamlin 2016).
You can eliminate him too.
That leaves Truex Jr. on a track that doesn’t suit him. Truex (+1300) has scored just four top five finishes in 59 career superspeedway starts, only two of them occurring at Daytona. He also has six finishes of 18th or worse in his last nine overall Daytona starts.
This all says to me, look elsewhere than JGR.
So, lets look at Hendrick Motorsports. They’ve won two Daytona 500’s since 2013 but none since 2014.
Chase Elliott (+1100) has finished 30th or worse in five of his eight Daytona starts and 14th, 17th and 22nd in his other three. Elliott’s Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd and 17th respectively. Not a good combo.
William Byron (+2000) did finish second last July in Daytona in a rain shortened race, but his other three finishes in Cup competition on the high banks of Daytona are 23rd and 21st respectively in the Daytona 500 and 32nd in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400. He won his Duel on Thursday night too but his past history is questionable.
Alex Bowman? Well we talked about him above. Bowman (+2000) has never finished better than 10th in four Daytona tries with HMS and starts second.
That leaves Jimmie Johnson. He hasn’t won a points paying event in 95 races. I would consider him a sleeper though because of his odds (+2000) and the fact that he has five superspeedway wins to his credit. He also has six top 10 finishes in his last eight starts on them including a Clash win last year, an eighth in his Duel a few days later, a ninth in the Daytona 500, a third in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and runner-up in Thursday night’s Duel. With this being Johnson’s likely final Daytona 500 try, it would be a storybook ending for him to win.
So, out of eight drivers, we found a potential favorite but not good history in terms of trends (Hamlin) and a sleeper (Johnson).
Now, lets look at Penske. There’s some value here.
Ryan Blaney (+1600) won the last superspeedway race last Fall in Talladega. Blaney, may have four finishes of 26th or worse in his last five Daytona starts, but he does have three top seven’s in his last seven Daytona starts overall. Put him in the sleeper category.
Joey Logano (+1100) is a no brainer here. Logano, is so good on superspeedway tracks as he has won four times already on them. The Penske driver has seven top four finishes in his last 15 tries. At the Daytona 500, Logano has five straight top six finishes (1st, 6th, 6th, 4th, 4th). He won his Duel on Thursday night.
One I would eliminate is Brad Keselowski. Four times in the last five years has Keselowski (+1100) finished 27th or worse at Daytona. In fact, since July 2014, the Penske driver has 10 finishes of 17th or worse in his last 13 Daytona tries.
So, out of those “Big 3” teams, you have Hamlin (+1000), Logano (+1100), Blaney (+1600) and Johnson (+2000) that I would even consider.
Now, lets formulate some sleepers to win, so that you can bet low amounts but win big amounts if they steal a victory.
The top cars don’t always win the Daytona 500. In fact, the top cars lately end up on a tow truck instead.
Winning at Daytona has been more about survival to the end rather than all out speed. In order to win, you have to have more luck avoiding the crashes than having the best car.
This year, will we see another upset?
All three winners on the new tapered spacer package for superspeedway racing last year notched their first career points paying victories at either Daytona/Talladega too. Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney won the two Dega races and Justin Haley stole the win at Daytona last July.
Will we see another first timer on Sunday? If so, then either Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Ty Dillon, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemcheck, Daniel Suarez, Brendan Gaughan, Corey LaJoie, Quin Houff, BJ McLeod or Darrell Wallace Jr. will be victorious.
First, we’ve already eliminated Truex, Bowman and Byron. Second, you can eliminate Houff and McLeod too as they don’t have the cars to win.
Then, look at the rookies and see that a rookie being victorious isn’t likely. Trevor Bayne is the only rookie to do so and that happened in 2011. With that, you can eliminate Bell, Reddick, Custer, Nemechek and Poole.
Then, lets look at Brendan Gaughan. He is always strong on superspeedway tracks, but he’s never won a Cup race before.
Kyle Larson isn’t a factor as he’s never scored a top five in 24 career superspeedway starts. Larson, has six finishes of 29th or worse in them. While he was seventh in last year’s ‘500, his other four of his other five finishes were 12th or worse in the big race.
Then, lets avoid another top team in Stewart-Haas Racing. They only have five Daytona wins today, just three overall during Speedweeks.
Clint Bowyer (+2500) has just one top five points paying finish at Daytona since 2014. Kevin Harvick (+1200) has finished eight of his last 12 Daytona starts 19th or worse. He’s also crashed out of four of his last five Daytona starts overall. Five of his last seven Daytona 500 starts have seen him finish outside the top 10 including his last three being — 22nd, 31st and 26th respectively. We’ve already eliminated Custer as he’s a rookie. That leaves Aric Almirola who I would put in the sleeper category, which segways me into this – Who I would go with is –
Matt DiBenedetto (+2000) as he led the most laps in last year’s race. He’s driving for a Wood Brothers team that is always good at Daytona too. DiBenedetto, has two top eight finishes in his last three Daytona starts, all with underfunded teams.
Aric Almirola (+2500) – he should have won this race in 2018 as he was wrecked while leading on the last lap. Almirola, was seventh last July and has been among the top superspeedway racers in the series today. Worth a look here.
Ryan Newman (+3500) – A former Daytona 500 winner (2008) was strong last year too. Newman, has four top eight finishes in his last five Daytona starts.
Austin Dillon (+4000) another former Daytona 500 winner (2018) with seven top 10 finishes in his last 12 Daytona tries.
Ty Dillon (+5000) – The younger brother of Austin has three straight top six finishes in Daytona including a sixth place run in last year’s Daytona 500.
Chris Buescher (+5000) with him having three top 10 finishes, two of which being fifth place runs, in his last five Daytona starts. Plus, he’s taking over a strong car at RFR that Stenhouse Jr. won the July race in a few years ago.
Michael McDowell (+8000) – He was fifth in last year’s Daytona 500 and ninth the year prior. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has five top 10 finishes in his last 10 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that.
Ryan Preece (+10000) – This car was previously driven by Chris Buescher and had some great success at Daytona. Preece, finished eighth in last year’s Daytona 500 too.
David Ragan (+10000) – He’s always a superspeedway threat. Ragan, has two career Cup victory and each came on one.
Corey LaJoie (+20000) – He was sixth in last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.
I have my eye on a few here, most involve Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
You have Logano (-121) vs. his teammate Brad Keselowski (-108) and Logano (-134) vs. Chase Elliott (+100) in two matchups. Take Logano in both.
Logano, has four straight top six finishes in the Daytona 500 and won his Duel Thursday night. Keselowski, has never won the ‘500 and has seven finishes of 20th or worse in 10 Daytona 500 tries. Elliott, has never finished better than 14th here in Daytona with Daytona 500 results of 37th, 14th, 33rd and 17th respectively.
Then, go with Hamlin in matchups of Hamlin (-134) vs. Keselowski(+100) and Hamlin (-139) vs. Elliott (+105).
Hamlin, has five top four finishes in his last six Daytona 500 starts including two wins in the last four.
This is a big one too. Ford is +130 and Chevrolet +200. Toyota is the least favorite at +210. That’s for good reason. They only have five cars in the field on Sunday compared to 19 for Chevy and 16 for Ford. With this race seeing manufacturers team up and work best in strength in numbers, the Toyota’s are outnumbered.
I have 10 sleepers with most with very long odds and four from the favorites list of teams. That’s 14 of 40 starters. From there, you can eliminate pick among the big teams of the favorites because you know they likely are going to win and throw money at any of the long shot sleeper drivers and go from there.