2018 Daytona 500 Early Betting Preview

Jan 31, 2018 by Nascar Wagers

2018 Daytona 500 Early Betting Preview

2018 Daytona 500 Early Betting Preview
by Jay Horne of NASCARWagers.com, NASCAR Handicapping Service

On February 18th, the Monster Energy Cup Series will kick off another season in NASCAR with the 60th running of the Great American Race in the Daytona 500. As we prepare for another season of grinding out race winners and profit, we take this time to shift all focus towards NASCAR’s biggest and most exciting race of the season. We share our advice on how to approach the Daytona 500 from a betting standpoint and also share our thoughts on drivers that may be worth consideration heading into Speedweeks.

To set the record straight, I have never been a fan of kicking off the year with heavy betting action. In fact, I usually forego any official race picks for the opening Daytona races. The reason for this mentality hangs on a number of important factors such as the unknown surrounding the start of a new season, the unpredictable nature of restrictor plate racing, the gambles that everyone will attempt to win NASCAR’s biggest race, and many others. Therefore, I don’t think we can bet on the Daytona 500 with “confidence” to the level that we bet most races throughout the year. However, I also acknowledge the “excitement” factor for bettors. Daytona typically offers the opportunity of a big payday in the form of generous odds and in many ways this is NASCAR’s “Super Bowl.” As bettors and fans of the sport, we can’t pass up the opportunity to refrain from betting the Daytona 500 completely.

Before we look forward to February 18th, let’s take a moment to look back on last year’s Daytona 500 and confirm why betting expectations should be tempered. In last year’s Daytona 500, the race turned out to be a race of attrition. After several multi-car wrecks and mayhem, just 17 cars finished on the lead lap. Of those cars, just 11 were among the lead pack at the end of the race and several of those cars were racing with damage. Instead of a 500 mile race to crown the fastest car and most skilled driver, the race turned into a “survival of the fittest.” Last year’s race provided more carnage than many Daytona 500s that preceded it. However, it was a perfect example of why bettors should yield caution to restrictor plate racing. It truly is a lottery style type of race that provides great opportunity but elevated risks.

As we look forward to this year’s Great American Race, the current odds are rather reasonable with Brad Keselowski leading the way as the overall favorite at just less than 9 to 1 odds. With Dale Earnhardt Jr now retired, Keselowski steps into the role as the best restrictor plate driver in the series and his record proves it. Keselowski scored his first Daytona win in the 2016 Coke Zero 400 and also has another 5 wins at Talladega. In my opinion, Keselowski has developed into one of the best drivers on the restrictor plate tracks in recent memory and is very deserving of the top spot in terms of favorites.

However, guys like Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano all deserve respect as legitimate top tier contenders. I would also throw out that it would not be a surprise victory for Martin Truex Jr, Chase Elliott, or Kyle Larson despite their poor restrictor plate history. Our primary focus for early betting is not to try to guess the best of the top tier drivers as that will be an observable task throughout Speedweeks. Instead, we are focusing on value and potential surrounding drivers that are receiving advantageous opening odds. With that being said, take a look at a few that I believe deserve some attention:

Daytona 500  
Brad Keselowski +850
Kyle Busch +850
Denny Hamlin +1150
Kyle Larson +1200
Martin Truex Jr +1300
Joey Logano +1350
Kevin Harvick +1350
Chase Elliott +1350
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +1600
Jimmie Johnson +1650
Kurt Busch +2100
Erik Jones +2250
Clint Bowyer +2250
Ryan Blaney +2250
Jamie McMurray +2750
William Byron +3300
Alex Bowman +3300
Aric Almirola +3300
Daniel Suarez +3750
Trevor Bayne +4400
Paul Menard +5000
Austin Dillon +5500
Ryan Newman +6600
Kasey Kahne +7250
Danica Patrick +8000
Darrell Wallace Jr +8200
Ty Dillon +8500
Michael McDowell +9000
Chris Buescher +10000
Reed Sorenson +10000
David Ragan +10000
Ray Black +15000
Matt DiBenedetto +25000

Ricky Stenhouse Jr +1600

Ricky Stenhouse broke through in 2017 to score his first two wins in the Cup Series. Both wins come at the restrictor plate tracks in the GEICO 500 at Talladega and then the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Of course any win at a restrictor plate track can be attributed to restrictor plate racing but Stenhouse’s 2nd win at Daytona confirmed his plate racing skills. However, we already knew that fact before last year’s breakout performance. I have mentioned on several occasions that I expected Stenhouse would win a plate race in the near future. If you remember, we cashed with Stenhouse’s win in the GEICO 500 at 45 to 1 odds (half unit). Therefore, do not look at Stenhouse’s 2017 success on the plate races as an anomaly but rather a trend of his potential going forward. At plate tracks, Stenhouse leads all active drivers with a 15.35 average finishing position.

Ryan Blaney +2250

If Ford can overcome their performance issues from 2017, Ryan Blaney is in position to have a big year. I believe Blaney’s move to Team Penske is going to have a big positive impact on his career in the years to come. The good news for Blaney’s chances in the Daytona 500 is that Ford has not experienced the same performance issues with their restrictor plate program. The Ford teams performed very well at the plate races last season winning all 4 races. For Blaney, you do not have to look back far to see encouraging signs of his potential at the plate races either. Blaney finished runner-up in the Daytona 500 last year to Kurt Busch and also led several laps in the Coke Zero 400 in July before an accident took him out of contention. If you look at his Daytona history alone, Blaney has had several strong runs and two near victories in the Clash at Daytona. His overall body work is pretty solid and he is in the best equipment of his young career.

Kasey Kahne +7200

I know Kasey Kahne’s career may be seemingly over. After all, he has won just 1 race in the last 3 years and even that win was the result of a fortunate set of circumstances that unfolded with pit strategy along with new tires. At the end of 2017, Kahne lost his prestigious ride with Hendrick Motorsports and will take over the #95 seat at Leavine Family Racing. Obviously this move for Kahne appears to be the start of an exit strategy as his days of finding another premier team may be over. However, the good news is that the #95 car has performed rather well for a lower-tier program. Michael McDowell had several solid runs behind the #95 car last year and even brought home a 4th place finish in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. With Kahne behind the wheel, we cannot count out the #95 team completely. I am not going to waste time making arguments for Kahne because honestly there are not many strong ones but then again there are not many strong arguments against him considering the odds. For the drivers that are true long shots, Kahne may be the best of the bunch at 72 to 1 odds. He also finished inside the top 10 in 3 of the 4 restrictor plate races in 2017 while leading laps in 3 of those races as well.

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