Handicapping the Daytona 500 is about as easy as trying to navigate “The Big One” on NASCAR’s most famous track.
NASCAR’s biggest race also tends to be its most unpredictable. The combination of every driver in the field wanting to secure a life-changing win while trying to separate from a packed crowd at speeds of more than 200 mph can, well, make things a bit random.
You could run the race of your life, making all the right decisions for 199 laps, but if someone gets stupid on the final lap, all hell breaks loose and you could be collected in the carnage. The same could be said for bettors who have wagers on said drivers.
Despite all of that, it’s the biggest event on the calendar, so people are going to want to put down some cash and make it even more interesting. For those people, here’s a quick Daytona 500 betting preview:
DAYTONA 500 — Feb. 14, 2:30 p.m. ET
Daytona International Speedway
Lap length: 2.5 miles
Race laps: 200
Defending champion: Denny Hamlin (three-time winner)
Despite the relatively unpredictable nature of the race, it’s usually one of the sport’s top drivers who finds himself in Victory Lane when the checkered flag flies. Denny Hamlin, the two-time defending champion, has never been worse than an 11-1 favorite when winning the 500.
Here’s a look at the recent champions with their betting odds.
2020: Denny Hamlin (+1000)
2019: Denny Hamlin (+1100)
2018: Austin Dillon (+4000)
2017: Kurt Busch (+2700)
2016: Denny Hamlin (+900)
2015: Joey Logano (+1200)
2014: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+1200)
2013: Jimmy Johnson (+1500)
2012: Matt Kenseth (+2000)
2011: Trevor Bayne (+5000)
You average out those odds, and you get an average winner of 20-1. That number obviously is swayed by Trevor Bayne’s improbable 2011 win, which is among the biggest upsets in NASCAR history. Take away that year, and the average drops to about 17-1.
But that’s kind of the point. You can’t completely discount those bigger numers — the Baynes or even Austin Dillons of the world — in a race with so much volatility.
(Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Denny Hamlin +850
Chase Elliott +950
Brad Keselowski +1200
Joey Logano +1200
Ryan Blaney +1200
Kevin Harvick +1300
Kyle Busch +1400
Kyle Larson +1700
Martin Truex Jr. +1700
Alex Bowman +1800
Kurt Busch +1800
Chris Buescher (to win +4000): The big Roush Fenway storyline out of last year’s race was, of course, Ryan Newman’s horrific wreck. That understandably overshadowed a fine race from Buescher, who was positioned to make a move to the front in the final laps. Buescher has raced Daytona 10 times in his career. He has five top-10 finishes, including three top-five finishes since 2018. In his first season with Roush Fenway, he finished third in the Daytona 500 and then ninth when returning in August. Roush Fenway typically has had success here, too. There’s plenty to like about Buescher here, who seems primed for a breakout, especially at Daytona.
Joey Logano (to win, +1200): Logano has started inside the top 10 in seven of his last eight races at Daytona. He has led 96 laps. He’s won three stages. Yet, his average finish in those eight races is 20. So you could say he’s been a little unlucky in recent years. He does, however, have a Daytona 500 win under his belt. It just feels like maybe we’re forgetting about him a little bit here, and that’s pretty good value for a future Hall of Famer.