NASCAR Wagering: Best Bets for the Daytona 500

NASCAR Wagering: Best Bets for the Daytona 500

NASCAR Wagering Overview

There are a handful of ways to wager on NASCAR and the Daytona 500. The most straightforward wager for NASCAR's season opener is picking the winner. Choosing the race winner from the field of 40 drivers will generally pay off the largest — but it is also the most difficult, especially at an unpredictable track like Daytona International Speedway. 

The second is a head-to-head bet. This type of wager presents two drivers and it is your job to choose which will finish higher. The final type of wager is the prop bet. This wager predicts whether a driver will finish better or worse than the position given by the sportsbook. While we will general focus on the winner bet here, the concepts and analysis can and should be applied to any of the other types of wagers. 

Regardless of which wager you choose it is important to understand a bit about how NASCAR odds are set. Odds are typically posted early in the race week before cars have hit the track for practice and qualifying. The lack of insight to how a driver might perform can earn better than typical odds as a result. Once cars hit the track for practice the odds narrow based on who has posted the fastest practice times and qualifying results. 

With Daytona that can be a bit tricky, though. Only the front row is decided in the first qualifying session for this race. The rest of the field is set as

NASCAR Wagering Overview

There are a handful of ways to wager on NASCAR and the Daytona 500. The most straightforward wager for NASCAR's season opener is picking the winner. Choosing the race winner from the field of 40 drivers will generally pay off the largest — but it is also the most difficult, especially at an unpredictable track like Daytona International Speedway. 

The second is a head-to-head bet. This type of wager presents two drivers and it is your job to choose which will finish higher. The final type of wager is the prop bet. This wager predicts whether a driver will finish better or worse than the position given by the sportsbook. While we will general focus on the winner bet here, the concepts and analysis can and should be applied to any of the other types of wagers. 

Regardless of which wager you choose it is important to understand a bit about how NASCAR odds are set. Odds are typically posted early in the race week before cars have hit the track for practice and qualifying. The lack of insight to how a driver might perform can earn better than typical odds as a result. Once cars hit the track for practice the odds narrow based on who has posted the fastest practice times and qualifying results. 

With Daytona that can be a bit tricky, though. Only the front row is decided in the first qualifying session for this race. The rest of the field is set as a result of the dual qualifying races held the Thursday before race day. Those close to NASCAR know that starting position at this track isn't as big of an advantage as at Martinsville or Bristol, though. Therefore, looking for drivers with quick times in testing, and early practice can generally earn gamblers more favorable odds than they otherwise would get if they wait for the field to be set.

Daytona is a superspeedway where drivers must race within the pack of 40 cars to battle for the win. The race typically sees drivers jockey for position for 150 laps before really fighting for their finishing spot in the final 50 laps. That said, the race winner often isn't decided until the final lap. Drivers will build a bank of knowledge about how to make passes and who they need drafting help from to apply it at the perfect moment in the final moments of the 500 miles. 

For example, a driver who can pass without a lot of help will work his way to the front and sit behind the leader until the final moment to spring forward and claim the win. Drivers who need drafting help will make a mental note of what driver or manufacturer their car works best with throughout the afternoon and then try to find that driver or make to partner with in the final laps. Conversely, a driver who can get to the front and hold the chargers behind him off likely will try to get out front as soon as possible and stay there until the finish. That final type of race is what we've become accustomed to recently, but you should watch practice and the qualifying races closely to get an idea if that will hold true for this year's spectacle.

Daytona 500

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Course: Daytona International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Laps: 200

Key Daytona International Speedway Stats

Number of races: 144
Winners from pole: 26
Winners from top-5 starters: 74
Winners from top-10 starters: 26
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 3

Last 10 Daytona Winners

2019 fall - Justin Haley
2019 spring - Denny Hamlin
2018 fall - Erik Jones
2018 spring - Austin Dillon
2017 fall - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2017 spring - Kurt Busch
2016 fall - Brad Keselowski
2016 spring - Denny Hamlin
2015 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2015 spring - Joey Logano

In analyzing recent trends at the speedway, we see teammates, and manufacturers in general, working together to get out front and dominate the race. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch teamed up last year to lead 67 laps with Hamlin winning. However, two of the last three Daytona 500 races were won by drivers who led just the final lap. This supports the notion that drivers will often lie in wait for the perfect opportunity to pounce, but also goes to show that survival can often be as decisive as pure speed when navigating 500 miles at Daytona. 

One must be in position to win, though, and knowing that leads bettors to drivers who tend to finish up front and avoid trouble.  In the last five Daytona races some unlikely names come to the top when looking at best average finishes. Looking at the list of drivers who have the top average Daytona finishes in that span leads to several choices that could make for lucrative odds. Keep in mind that Ryan Newman is the only active driver to have been running at the finish in all of the last 10 Daytona races.

Top Daytona Average Finishes 
Last Five Races (min. two starts)

Ryan Newman - 8.0
Michael McDowell - 11.4
Ty Dillon - 14.2
Erik Jones - 14.4
Alex Bowman - 14.8

While longshots can pay off at places like Daytona it is important to keep in mind that the top drivers and teams also tend to be at the top in this race, too. When looking at NASCAR's loop data a different story emerges. Only two drivers have spent more than 80 percent of their laps running in the top 15 at Daytona in the last five seasons — Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.  Expanding the list to the last 10 races brings a bit clearer picture to the names fans close to the sport would recognize as top contenders.

Top Daytona Average Finishes
Last 10 Races (min. two starts)

Denny Hamlin - 13.4
Ryan Newman - 13.6
Michael McDowell - 14.2
Joey Logano - 14.6
Austin Dillon - 15.1

Current odds for the Daytona 500 have Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano as favorites with Kyle Busch close behind. All but Elliott have won at the track, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver has shown himself to be consistent in the draft and already has three Daytona poles to his credit. These early indications show that Ford, and Penske Racing in particular, may be the team to beat. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are not far behind, though. This weekend's Busch Clash, pole qualifying and practice sessions will help players hone in on who has speed and who has work to do in the week leading up to the race. 

Early Values

Those looking for early values would be wise to keep drivers like Newman, McDowell and Dillon in mind, but placing a wager early could provide better payouts even if you go with one of the favorites.  Those looking for top contenders should consider Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Here are the best bets to consider:

Ryan Newman (33-1) - Newman won the Daytona 500 in 2008 and has a record of making it to the finish of this race. He has five top-10s and three top-5s. 

Austin Dillon (40-1) - Dillon might be the best value on board. He won two years ago in 2018 and since 2014 has never finished out of the top 20, including three top-10s. 

Michael McDowell (80-1) - McDowell has two top-5s and three top-10s in his last five Daytona starts and his average finish of 11.4 in that span ranks second. 

Denny Hamlin (10-1) - Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top three spots last year, led by Hamlin, who won his second Daytona 500 in four years. Since 2012, Hamlin has finished in the top 5 a remarkable six times in eight races. He's one of four favorites at 10-1, but his odds likely will only drop as the race draws near.

Kyle Busch (14-1) - Busch finished second last year to his teammate Hamlin. He also finished third in 2016.  

Martin Truex Jr. (22-1) - Truex is in his second season with Joe Gibbs. In the four previous seasons with Furniture Row Racing, he finished in the top 20 each time with two top-10s, including a second-place finish in 2016. Keep in mind, however, there is some uncertainty with him since splitting with long-time crew chief Cole Pearn this winter.

Joey Logano (10-1) - One of two favorites out of the Penske camp, Logano is in the midst of an impressive stretch at Daytona. Since 2015, he's finished no worse than sixth. He won in 2015 and finished fourth both of the last two years. 

Brad Keselowski (10-1) - The other top contender from Penske, Keselowski has never won the Daytona 500 (though he finished fourth and third in 2013 and 2014, respectively), but he won the fall race at Daytona in 2016.

Ryan Blaney (14-1) - Blaney has more favorable odds among his Penske teammates. He led at least one lap in three of the last four races at Daytona and finished seventh the last time he made it through the full race distance. The more favorable odds are a result of him crashing out of the last three at the circuit. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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