Betting Advice and Analysis For The Daytona 500
Unlike other sports leagues where championships and a postseason tournament are the marquee events, NASCAR’s biggest draw starts each season with the Daytona 500.
NASCAR betting has its challenges and handicapping races at Daytona and at Talladega can be difficult given the unpredictable nature of restrictor-plate racing.
This year’s Daytona 500 is an even bigger unknown given it will be the first regular-season race with the new NextGen car. The Gen 7 car is the first to have aluminum wheels, rack-and-pinion steering and an independent rear suspension.
These changes bring improved aerodynamic and downforce packages and advancements in technology.
With no historic data to lean on with the new cars, it’s difficult to predict how this will all play out on Sunday. Still, here are some bets we are targeting for the premier event of the NASCAR season.
Best Bet to Win
Denny Hamlin +950 at FanDuel
It’s never fun taking the favorite, but with so much uncertainty it wouldn’t be a bad idea to lean on someone who has a trusted record at Daytona.
Hamlin is the only active driver to win the Daytona 500 three times and has finished in the top five in seven of his last eight appearances at the track.
He has won two of the last three Daytona 500s (2019, 2020) and even led a race-high 98 of the 200 laps in 2021 before finishing fifth. FanDuel Sportsbook has him as the favorite.
I’m not concerned about Hamlin starting 30th for the race. Besides Talladega, Daytona is the one other track where a good starting spot is not as vital. Some drivers elect to hang out in the back of the field anyways until the final laps before making a push.
In each of Hamlin’s three wins, he hasn’t started better than 10th, which he did in 2019. In 2020, he took the checkered flag after starting 21st. In 2016, he won the race from starting 11th.
Erik Jones +6000 at DraftKings
Longshots are always worth a dart at superspeedways given the regularity of the big wrecks and last-lap dashes. Michael McDowell proved the right situation can turn anyone into a winner last year, when he won the Daytona 500 as a 66-1 longshot, capturing his first career NASCAR win in his 14th season.
Looking in this range of odds for this year’s longshot, Erik Jones, who is +6000 at DraftKings Sportsbook, is someone worth a look.
He has already won at Daytona back in 2018, winning the Coke Zero Sugar 400. And in 2019, he finished third in the Daytona 500 after starting 28th.
Given the success he’s had and his current odds in the +6000 range at DraftKings, Jones is worth a flier. Be sure to look for the best number on him. He’s as low as +5000 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Chase Elliott (-105) over Kyle Larson (-115) at DraftKings
Kyle Larson is the best stock car driver in the world, but if there’s any knock on him, it’s his inability to dominate at superspeedways.
He was never a serious contender in last year’s Daytona 500, finishing 10th after starting 13th. Last year during the summer race he earned the pole but would end up crashing out on lap 164. Between those two races, he led a total of one lap.
In 15 races at Daytona, he’s yet to finish in the top five and has eight finishes of 20th or worse, giving him an overall finishing position of 15.23 at the track.
Elliott has had his own struggles at Daytona, finishing 22nd or worse in six of his first seven Daytona races. But he has started to turn it around. Last year in the summer race he led 36 laps and finished eighth. In the two Daytona races before the eighth-place finish, he was runner-up in both instances.
Larson will start on the pole once again on Sunday, but I prefer to back the driver who has seen more recent success at Daytona.
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