The 56th running of the Daytona 500 gets underway on Sunday, kicking off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Winning the Daytona 500 is probably the most important single race that a driver can win in this series; it’s the Super Bowl of NASCAR.
As the big day approaches, let’s have a closer look at the race as well as the odds to win it.
Who’s Favored to Win the Daytona 500?
Due to the nature of racing with restrictor plates, it is tough to differentiate who the favorites are. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are favored at 10-1. Out of this group, only Busch hasn’t won the Daytona 500, while Johnson (the defending Cup and 500 champ) and Kenseth have each won twice each. All but Busch rank in the top six over the last decade in terms of average finish at plate tracks, but ask those in the know and they will tell you that Busch may have more natural talent behind the wheel than anyone in the Cup series.
Then you have the likes of Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski at 12-1, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon at 15-1, and Joey Logano and Kurt Busch at 18-1. Stewart has yet to win the 500, but he is coming off a broken leg and isn’t 100 percent. That being said, he leads all drivers in average finish at plate tracks. Gordon has won the 500 three times, but not since 2005. Then you have Keselowski, whose go-for-broke style is always exciting on the big tracks.
Are There Any Sleepers that Can Surprise?
Austin Dillon comes in at 25-1 after winning the pole and he will probably be the people’s favorite in his first Cup race in the No. 3, which is owned by his grandfather Richard Childress. Childress has been out of the series since the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. died on the final lap on the Daytona 500 in 2001. Then you have Danica Patrick at 40-1 after becoming the first woman to win a pole in the Cup series at last year’s 500. Now that she has a full season in a Cup car under her belt, Patrick would love to make history.
Consider this before you bet on the Daytona 500: Trevor Bayne won this race three years ago and even though he is 75-1 this year, he was probably a longer shot back then. It isn’t where you start at the Daytona 500; it is surviving until the end and finishing strong.
About the Track
Daytona is a 2.5-mile track that has 31 degrees of banking in the corners and 18 degrees on the front stretch, which is where the finish line is located. You can always bank on there being a lot of action there at the end of the race. Daytona, along with Talladega, is a place where restrictor plates are used on the cars to slow them down, which used to encourage pack racing and created some huge wrecks. However, in recent years drivers have figured out they can go faster with two cars, which has prompted NASCAR to make changes to the cars in order to go back to the pack style for the fans.
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