NASCAR Betting Guide: Daytona 500
We have this impression of Daytona that anybody can win in any given race. And anecdotally, you can point to examples to flesh out this point.
Justin Haley won the July Daytona race in 2019 while driving for an underfunded team. Trevor Bayne and David Ragan won the two 2011 races here and combined for just one other win throughout the rest of their careers.
You can have darkhorses come through at such a high-variance track, and it makes betting longshots more viable than it would be elsewhere. But this thing is far from a crapshoot.
If you look at the past 10 Daytona 500s, four were won by former season-long champions, another three were won by Denny Hamlin, who was in the Championship Four last year, and another was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the best pack racers in the history of the sport. Two were more wild-cardy, including Bayne at the front end of that stretch. Outside of that, it was all pretty logical.
This is a long way of saying that -- as long as the number is fair -- you can bet drivers with short numbers to win the Daytona 500. Speed still matters on this track. So even if the odds a longer shot pulls through are higher, that doesn't mean we have to skip completely over the top tier.
With that in mind, let's check out some drivers with favorable outrights to win on FanDuel Sportsbook, including one of the former champions who has won this race previously.
Joey Logano (+1200)
Joey Logano got his Harley J. Earl Trophy back in 2015, his lone victory to-date in Daytona. But his prowess in the draft has been evident since then, and he should be in contention again on Sunday.
That Daytona 500 win for Logano is one of four career points-paying wins on pack-racing tracks. The other three all came in Talladega, which is a very different track. Even if we narrow the scope to just Daytona, though, Logano has a top-nine average running position in three straight races. He just hasn't been able to seal the deal.
He has come close, though. In last year's 400-miler, Logano took the lead with just two laps left. Then Daytona lived up to its reputation.
That could serve as a disincentive for betting someone with short odds, knowing anybody can wreck, including the leader. But the number on Logano accounts for that variance.
Logano leads my betting model for the race and holds 10.1% win odds across 1,000 simulations. His implied win odds at +1200 are 7.7%, so you're getting a healthy amount of value at that number. Logano's constant lurking at the front of the pack could easily have led to multiple Daytona wins by this point in his career. Sunday could very well be the race where all those good runs finally translate into tangible results once again.
William Byron (+2000)
The benefactor of Logano's wreck back in August was William Byron. He snuck through the crash and eventually went on to get his first career win in the Cup Series. That win wasn't a fluke, and we should expect Byron to continue to be competitive here going forward.
Although Byron's entering just his age-23 season, he has already proven that he'll be a force on the pack-racing tracks. In addition to his Daytona win last year, he was second in the 2019 July Daytona race and fourth in last year's fall Talladega race. He also won at Daytona in the Xfinity Series back in 2017, half a year before his 20th birthday.
Speed matters on these tracks, too, and we know Hendrick Motorsports will have plenty of it. A Hendrick driver has won the Daytona 500 pole in five of the past six years, and the lone exception was a driver using a Hendrick engine. Having that speed gives a driver more routes to a win, and we saw Byron take advantage of that last year.
The win sims are bullish on Byron, putting him in victory lane 7.0% of the time compared to his implied odds of 4.8%. It's possible that's overselling him, but he also has the longest win odds of anybody ranked inside the top 10 of my model. With Byron also holding the longest odds of any Hendrick driver, it's clear we're not paying a win tax despite last year's triumph, allowing us to go right back to the well.
Christopher Bell (+4000)
Sometimes at Daytona, you'll bet a driver based on their individual talent. That's going to be the case more often than not with how much control the driver has here.
Other times, you can bet a driver because of the team for which they drive. That's what gets us on Christopher Bell at +4000.
Bell's moving over to Joe Gibbs Racing this year, replacing Erik Jones (+5500) in the No. 20 car. JGR has won three of the past five Daytona races, including a win for Jones himself in the 2018 July race. Jones also won the Busch Clash last year when it was still held on the superspeedway instead of the road course.
Bell's rookie season was underwhelming on the superspeedways. His best finish was 13th, and his average running position was inside the top 15 just twice. He also doesn't have a dazzling history to fall back on from the lower series with no wins at Daytona or Talladega across 11 races.
This team, though, can move the needle. If Bell can work his way to the front, he'll have teammates there willing to work with him and ensure he stays up there. It's also not as if he was bad on the pack-racing tracks in the lower series as he did have four top-fives, including a pair of third-place finishes in the Xfinity Series at Daytona. In general, we should be buying into Bell as he moves into better equipment for 2021, and that upward movement matters even at a track where the driver plays a key role.
After bumping up our prior on Bell to account for his new equipment, the simulations have him winning 3.7% of the time, up from 2.4% implied odds. It's a leap of faith, but it's one the numbers back with such a good team.
Tyler Reddick (+4000)
One of the non-big-names to win the Daytona 500 in the past decade is Austin Dillon (+2000) back in 2018. We've seen Richard Childress Racing come through here before, and we're not talking about the days when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was behind the wheel. That bodes well for Tyler Reddick as a potential longshot winner.
Reddick's rookie season on the pack tracks won't turn heads. He got a top-10 finish in Talladega, but it was his only finish better than 20th. He was also outside the top-20 in a one-off gig for the Daytona 500 back in 2019.
That's a small sample, though. Once we expand to the lower levels, we see that Reddick has boatloads of talent on this track type.
In 14 career races at Daytona or Talladega in the Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series, Reddick has three career wins and two additional top-fives. Two of the wins came at Daytona, once in each series. It's a lower level of competition, but having that success is still a significant marker in Reddick's corner.
It seems as though Reddick's rookie season has wiped that past success from his ledger. But Reddick had success elsewhere his first season and has proven he has the chops to compete in the Cup Series. With a year of experience under his belt, we shouldn't be surprised if he takes a leap forward in 2021. That leap could very well begin in Daytona on Sunday.