The first race of the NASCAR season is also the biggest race! The Daytona 500 runs on Feb 18, 2018 and we’ve broken down the odds and looked at the favorites to win the big race and start their run to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Final. For those that live under a rock, the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of motor racing. It is a 2.5 mile superspeedway and a 500 mile race which makes it a 200 lap race around the track.
The most comparable course to Daytona is the Talladega speedway and even though the two courses are different, it is a good comparison to see which drivers have finished well at both in the last few years.
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Predicting Daytona is practically impossible but we like to use odds makers as a reference point when we make our bets on who will win the Daytona 500. So far the odds makers at BookMaker have the favorites to win broken down like this:
Betting Favorites To Win The 2018 Daytona 500
Many have already decided that this is Keselowski’s race to lose. He is arguably the best restrictor-plate driver today with five wins at Talladega and has won the July race at Daytona. He is a top drafter and was the fastest car in last year’s race until handling problems crept up. It’s hard to make a case against picking Keselowski to win the Daytona 500 so shop around for the best odds on him to win and put a couple of bucks down.
Busch comes into race day on Sunday with the best driver rating since 2005 and the highest percentage of laps in the top 15 at the Daytona Speedway since then. Busch also boasts the best average running position and is second in laps led percentage behind Denny Hamlin. Although he won the July race at Daytona in 2008 he hasn’t won the 500 and he comes into the 2018 race with back-to-back wrecks at Daytona. However he did finish in second and third at Daytona in 2016.
Logano has an average finish of 16.1 in 10 races with Team Penske at Daytona since leaving Team Gibbs Racing. He won the 500 in 2015 and he’s finished in the Top 6 in four of the last six races. The Penske team looked great last Sunday and given Logano has three Top 10 finishes in the last four Daytona races he is a solid bet to win this Sunday.
Hamlin ranks in the top five in his career in a bunch of categories at Daytona after 24 career races including: average green flag speed, laps in the top 15, driver rating, and average running position. He starts off in the front row this Sunday and is a past winner of the Daytona 500 (2016).
Speed has never been a problem for Harvick and he has a history of success at the track in Florida. Harvick has 2 wins, nine top 5 finishes and fourteen top 10s at the Daytona 500, with an average finishing position of 16.542 which is fifth-best among active drivers. He also has had a run of bad luck with wrecks in his last 3 Daytona races. On the plus side he’s finished in 4th, 4th and 2nd in Daytona races prior to the wrecks. He’s also won the Daytona 500 (2007) and the July Daytona race (2010).
Daytona 500 Sleeper Picks
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Not a super sleeper pick but nobody will be mentioning his name in the same breath as Busch, Hamlin or Keselowski on race day. He is also the only other driver (other than Keseloski) to have multiple superspeedways wins over the last eight races. Stenhouse has finished Top five in 4 of 8 of the last point races at superspeedways, and he’s got the 3rd best average finish in that time. Stenhouse has only finished outside of the top 30 twice in 20 career point races at superspeedways like Talladega and Daytona and he comes into the 2018 race as the hottest restrictor plate racer in NASCAR.
Bayne is only 26 and he’s already won the Daytona 500 (2011) yet he won’t be looked at much this weekend given his up and down 2017 NASCAR season. He is theoretically hitting the prime of his career and he did have six Top 10 finishes and thirteen Top 15 finishes last year. He is a bit of a longshot pick for Daytona…but sometimes longshots payoff. By the way, he did finish in 6th last year for the big race too!