While betting on aero-restricted superspeedway races is risky, there is a lot of upside if you guess correctly.
At PointsBet Sportsbook, the lowest odds for the opening race are for Denny Hamlin at +775. With one week to go before the race begins, no one else is greater than 10/1 and there are some very attractive options above +1500.
The problem is that oddsmakers have hedged their bets so much because almost anyone can win in the age of the tapered spacer plate. That little device has the entire field running the same lap times in the draft.
Some drivers are more crash prone than others, but even a blind pig finds the occasional truffle. And simply avoiding a wreck in four consecutive plate races before this coming weekend is no guarantee that another car will not turn sideways in front of a driver.
We want to say good things about NASCAR’s strongest drivers in the field, but since the aero-restricted superspeedways play by their own rules, one has to go by instinct and the numbers at hand.
Be modest with your bets and take this week to start and build a notebook. Success at Daytona can build confidence that carries a long way in the season.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite for either superspeedway race, but Hamlin’s +775 (31/4) deserves the honor more than his race mates. He won the last two Daytona 500s and even though it can be incredibly difficult to three-peat in this sport, the odds in plate racing behaves a lot like the lottery: For each individual driver, they pretty much remain the same no matter how the numbers have come up recently.
His Daytona 500 record is not the only reason Hamlin is regarded highly, however. With a worst of fourth in the Geico 500 at Talladega, he swept the top five on plate tracks stretching back to last fall’s race on that track. While that does not mean it’s impossible for him to get swept into an accident, his reflexes have been better than the rest of the field recently.
Hamlin has seven top-fives in his last 10 races at Daytona and Talladega, but when he’s missed it has been in dramatic fashion. His other three efforts in that span landed outside the top 25. Cover your outright win bet with another for a top-three in case he gets nipped at the checkers.
Best Bets for a top five
To say Chase Elliott (+1000) has struggled at Daytona would be a gross understatement. In 10 starts on this track, he has been slowed or sidelined by damage at least seven times. Prior to last summer’s Coke Zero 400, he had only one top-15 and no top-10s. Has been much better at Talladega, however, and that finally transferred to the slightly smaller sister track in Florida. He finished second in the 400 to teammate William Byron and that may give him added confidence to avoid trouble in the season-opener.
One of the things that makes Ryan Blaney (+1100) strong on plate tracks is his situational awareness. In last year’s 500, he knew he did not have enough energy to get around both Ryan Newman (+5000) and Hamlin, so he chose to try and push his fellow Ford driver past the Toyota. It went disastrously wrong for Newman, but Blaney came close to winning that event and punching his ticket to the playoffs early. He went on to win the Geico 500 at ‘Dega and finished sixth in the summer Daytona duel.
Many of the same things can be said of Byron (+1600) as his teammate Elliott. He does not have the type of career record that is going to get him recognized by the vast majority, but with a win on this track last summer and a fourth at Talladega during the playoffs, he has turned a corner to face in the right direction. Byron also finished second in the 2019 Coke Zero 400, so he has some fond memories of this course.
Longshot alert: Chris Buescher (+5000) was nearly the Cinderella of last year’s Daytona 500 ball. In his first attempt in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17, he stayed out of trouble and finished third behind Hamlin and Blaney. A strong run was not unexpected, however; Buescher has always been incredibly strong on plate tracks and that is one of the course types his previous owners JTG-Daugherty Racing emphasized. He went on to finish sixth in the Geico 500 at ‘Dega and ninth in the second Daytona race.
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Best Bets for a top 10
Exceptional Value: Matt DiBenedetto (+3300) does not yet have a top-five at Daytona and that probably won’t change this week. He could come close, however, especially if Austin Cindric manages to race his way into the Big Show and gives Team Penske affiliated drivers one more drafting partner who will not dump them out of the line. On another sportsbook, DiBenedetto is listed at +800 to score a top-three and +170 for a top-10, which gives bettors some options other than the outright win.
Kyle Larson (+1800) has something he to prove after sitting out much of last year because of a suspension. And the best way to put the past behind him will be to start winning immediately in the best equipment he has ever steered. Hendrick Motorsports is great on plate tracks and the personalities of their current four drivers mesh well. That will be recipe for success.
At the end of the Daytona 500 one thing will be certain: The field will have known that Joey Logano (+1100) was there. If you can find a prop bet for the most laps led, the best Average Running Position, or some other strength-based category, Logano deserves a modest wager. Unfortunately he’s been star crossed too often to make him a good bet for the outright win.
NASCAR has a tendency to develop great storylines – and how great would it be for the only black driver to win during Black History Month? Bubba Wallace (+2500) has turned heads on plate tracks already. He got Hamlin’s attention in 2018 when he finished second in the Daytona 500 after banging off the door of the No. 11. This time Hamlin is his car owner and he will do his best to drag Wallace with him to the front.
Longshot alert: Normally we don’t have a lot of positive things to say about rookies on a plate track. Veterans don’t tend to want to race with them, so very often they get shuffled out of the pack when they least expect it. Gradually that has changed as the average age of the field dropped. Chase Briscoe (+4000) will be in strong equipment with teammates who can protect him in the draft. That’s enough to make him an interesting prop bet for a top-10 at +210 odds.
It’s hard to find much good to say about Kevin Harvick (+1300) at Daytona in recent seasons. Yes, he finished fifth in last year’s 500, but that’s the only time he has not sustained damage on this track in the past nine events.
A blown engine for Kyle Busch (+1400) in last year’s Daytona 500 set the tone for a disappointing year. He crashed out of the Coke Zero 400 and ended the season with consecutive 30-something results on this track.
“I’m as excited as I can be knowing that we’re going to go there and destroy a bunch of race cars,” Brad Keselowski (+1100) told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long. Not exactly a winning attitude. [https://nascar.nbcsports.com/2021/01/28/daytona-500-more-wreckers-than-checkers-for-brad-keselowski/]
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2000) is occasionally at his best on the plate tracks, but when he fails to live up to expectations, he can also tear up a lot of equipment – both his and the competition’s.
Before discounting Erik Jones’ (+6000) odds, remember two things: This team finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500 and Jones is driving with a chip on his shoulder after being released by Joe Gibbs Racing. At 60/1 odds, he is worth a modest bet for the outright win.
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