The Great American Race is almost here.
It’s the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 this Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway and the beginning of the NASCAR Cup Series.
If you’ve got that auto racing itch, this is the first race that you’re allowed to really scratch. Three-time champion Denny Hamlin is the odds-on favorite to win and he’s anywhere from +800 to +1000 depending on where you shop.
But Las Vegas oddsmakers know that anybody can win the race.
“Daytona is a different beast,” Golden Nugget sportsbook director Aaron Kessler told NESN. “It’s a little bit easier to book because there’s so much attrition. Everybody is racing up close and you’ve got ‘The Big One’ that takes everyone out.
“It’s a lot more random than your average race. It’s a good way to start the season from a betting perspective if you’re making numbers. You don’t learn a whole lot going forward, but you don’t need to know a whole lot coming in.”
Hamlin has extremely similar odds to rising star and defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, the 25-year-old son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. Other drivers near the top of the Daytona odds sheet are Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano.
A driver that’s a little bit further down the page is Kyle Busch. Believe it or not, Busch has never won the Daytona 500 in 15 tries.
“He’s never had great luck at superspeedways,” Kessler said. “And again, it’s so much more random at Daytona. A race favorite is normally going to be around 2 or 3-to-1, here you’re looking at 8 or 10-to-1. We don’t have a single driver in single digits this week.
“You look at your superspeedway guys and you definitely lower a guy like Ricky Stenhouse, who is much better at those tracks,” Kessler explained. “And you might raise up a guy who is normally near the top of the board like Kevin Harvick, who is not a great superspeedway racer.”
Bubba Wallace (+2000 at DraftKings) and Christopher Bell (+3500 at BetMGM) are two drivers that offer pretty solid betting value. Wallace, entering a pivotal season, actually finished second at Daytona in 2018. Neither has won a Cup Series race yet, but they’ve combined for 16 top-ten finishes and their odds are even shorter in Vegas.
Always be shopping for the best price.
Multiple sportsbooks are offering head-to-head matchups for the race. These are betting options where you literally pick the winner between two drivers and whoever finishes closer to the top wins.
“It’s not that hard (to make head-to-heads) at Daytona,” Kessler admitted. “You stay close to -110/-110 with the juice. At other tracks, you’re trying to figure out how much you can believe in someone. Like a driver you think should be around -250, you can’t make him that expensive, because you can wreck very easily. It’s all about matching up the right two drivers together.”
You can also fire on which driver will win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series. As you can imagine, it’s pretty tight at the top of the betting board with seven drivers around +700. And it’s no surprise that Elliott is a near-consensus favorite to run it back this year.
“Elliott really turned it on near the end of last year,” Kessler analyzed. “He’s a very good driver that’s young and still improving. And he really proved a lot in the playoffs last year. He’s handled the superspeedways well in the past and definitely deserves to be up there.”