Daytona 500 Betting Preview: Denny Hamlin Iffy Bet Despite Dominance

If anything, Hamlin's string of success is reason to stay away


February 18, 2022

When it’s come to the Daytona 500 in recent years, there’s Denny Hamlin and then there’s everybody else.

Few drivers in NASCAR history have enjoyed the type of dominant run in the “Great American Race” that Hamlin’s had since 2016. He won three of the five season-opening races from 2016-2020, and finished fifth last year, after winning the first two stages and leading 98 laps.

The only driver to ever best Hamlin’s three-in-five Daytona 500 run? Some guy named Richard Petty (who won three Daytona 500s in a four-year span, no big deal).

Given all that, Hamlin should be the surefire bet for Sunday’s race, right? Well, not necessarily.

Predictably, Hamlin’s success means you’ll win a lot less if you hit. And while the odds always look enticing in NASCAR, keep in mind you’re betting one guy against a field of 40, if you’re betting a winner. Coming in at +850 at DraftKings Sportsbook, Hamlin will pay out $950 on a $100 bet if he wins. That sounds amazing, but consider that former winner Joey Logano would pay $1,300 on the same bet.

And that doesn’t even take into account the longshots who are very capable of being this year’s shock-the-world champion.

An alternate way to look at it, however, is that +850 is outstanding odds for a favorite. Good luck getting anything that strong in a typical team-versus-team bet. So depending on how you define “value,” Hamlin might be a must-bet.

Still, Daytona is simply a different beast than any other NASCAR track. Hamlin’s run of dominance isn’t analogous to, say, Jimmie Johnson’s ownership of Dover International Speedway or Martinsville Speedway. Even Talladega Superspeedway, another restrictor-plate track, historically is more “predictable” than Daytona; notably, Dale Earnhardt was able to tame Talladega with 10 career victories, but was only able to take the Daytona 500 once.

That’s not to say Hamlin won’t win, or even that he should be avoided in one of the many head-to-head options. But in a race where anything goes, the favorite isn’t always the way to go.

Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images

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