Football may be over, but that doesn’t mean there are not good wagering investments to be made this weekend.
That’s because the Daytona 500, the Great American Race, is also the World’s Greatest Crapshoot.
Just don’t call it “NASCAR’s Super Bowl.” It’s more like baseball’s Opening Day if anything, merely the first of 36 Cup races on the schedule. If the NFL were truly like NASCAR, they would let all 32 teams on the field at once, with the game somehow ending with the Oakland Raiders winning.
43 drivers take the green flag, and the majority of the field has a chance to win if the cards play out right.
Any entrant who can keep his car in relatively one piece, and who is on the lead lap in the final laps, has a shot. That is the simple gameplan of every team in the garage.
20-year old Trevor Bayne won the race with a part-time ride two years ago. And journeyman Dave Blaney nearly stole a win last year when Juan Pablo Montoya’s car collided with a jet dryer, setting off an inferno and a red flag that at the time appeared to mark the end of the 2012 race.
What about this year? Who would be a good driver to take a flier on? Who has been overhyped by the bettors and should be avoided?
No previous NASCAR wagering or fantasy racing experience is required. When considering the odds, keep in mind that the car count for this year’s Daytona 500 is only 45, down from the usual 50+ entrants as the economy has many would-be low budget operations sitting this year out. As a result, only two of the bottom-feeders will be eliminated after the twin 150-mile qualifying races are completed on Thursday.
If you have a very deep longshot in mind, you might want to wait until the Twin 150s are completed to confirm your driver is indeed in the field.
Odds are according to Bovada Sportsbook…
Danica Patrick (20/1)
The betting window of opportunity is already closed on Danica. Back in December Patrick could be had at 125-1 odds. That was before Danica dominated early practice sessions and then won the pole on Sunday.
Now Danica-hype is off the charts and is quickly approaching Tim Tebow levels. In recent days Danica has become the most bet-on driver in the race, even over the perennially popular Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Danica has a legitimate chance to win the race, as good a chance as most drivers. She’s just not quite worth 20-1 odds, and probably will even fall even more by the time the green flag drops.
If you went to the window when Danica was 125-1, congrats. If not, look elsewhere.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17/2)
A decade ago, Dale Jr. owned Daytona and Talladega. Even though Junior is coming off one of his better years, he is not the force on restrictor plate tracks he was once before. At plate venues last year, Junior finished 2nd/9th/15th/20th.
Junior remains capable of winning, but I do not have him as the #1 betting favorite, as he remains at 17/2. If you want a Hendrick driver you might be better suited picking Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson.
The defending NASCAR season champion is very good on plate tracks, and he proved what lengths he will go to win a race by putting Carl Edwards into the wall at Talladega three years ago when Brad was still a part-time driver at the Cup level.
14/1 is not horrible odds, but Brad is not the most respected driver in the garage and will probably have a hard time finding a dance partner in the final laps if he’s in the mix.
Matt Kenseth (14/1)
What am I missing here? Kenseth has won Daytona twice in recent years, and although he has left his long-time #17 ride at Roush-Fenway Racing, he has an equally good ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in the old Tony Stewart/Joey Logano #20.
Maybe a win straight out of the box with a new team may be too much to ask. Kenseth’s Daytona week got off to a rough start when he triggered a five-car wreck in the initial practice session.
All of that said, Matt is a veteran capable of turning it around by Sunday. At 14/1, Kenseth does not have horrible odds. I like him better than Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch.
Joey Logano (30/1)
It seems like he’s been around forever, but Logano is still only 22 years old. As a teenage protégé, Logano was being hyped as NASCAR’s possible answer to LeBron James.
Joining Joe Gibbs Racing at the Cup level at age 18, the expectations were near impossible.
Being replaced by Matt Kenseth in the #20, Logano is now Brad Keselowski’s teammate with Penske Racing, and I think the change of scenery will do him well long-term. Does he win in race #1 with the new team? Not likely, but he’s attractive at 30/1.
Kurt Busch has napalmed so many bridges in recent years that even Keith Olbermann would be impressed. He remains one of the more controversial personalities in the business.
By last year, Busch had fallen to lowly Phoenix Racing, and he was even on thin ice there after some incidents (the usual 12-1 ‘actions detrimental to stock car racing’ + threatening a media member).
By September Kurt Busch had moved on to Furniture Row Racing, another of the lower budgeted teams. There, he actually closed the season with three consecutive top-ten finishes.
I could see Kurt putting himself back in the discussion of being an ‘A’ list driver with a Daytona win – I just don’t like him as much as Logano at 30-1.
Ricky Stenhouse (40/1)
Don’t like Matt Kenseth contending with a new team? Then how about the new driver of the #17 car? Stenhouse has done well the past couple of years at the Nationwide level, and he can always hook up with Danica in the final laps.
Parlay for a one-two Danica/Stenhouse finish, with a Victory Lane proposal afterwards? Might have to look up that prop bet somewhere…
Trevor Bayne (35/1)
He won the race two years ago. Who says lightning cannot strike twice. At 35/1 I might be tempted to find out.
Ryan Newman (33/1)
Another previous winner of the race. At 33/1 he’s not getting much more of a shot than an average driver, so I like Newman at these odds.
Juan Pablo Montoya (40/1), Marcos Ambrose (40/1)
Montoya’s career has been sliding the last couple years while Ambrose has slowly a gotten respectable. A pair of mid-major drivers capable of having a shot if everything falls right.
Aric Almirola (75/1), Austin Dillon (75/1), Michael Waltrip (75/1), Regan Smith (75/1)
Now getting into the deep longshots…
Almirola now has a couple years under his belt and is probably the best Hail Mary out of the four.
Austin Dillon has been cutting his teeth in the Truck Series the past couple of years and has a nice future.
Waltrip sounds very attractive as a two-time Daytona winner, but he’s on a one race deal and simply doesn’t have the equipment at this late point in his career.
Regan Smith is normally one of the back-markers, but he has intrigue, and he has made noise on plate tracks before.
David Gilliland (150/1)
Only if you want to dream about making some truly crazy money. When Trevor Bayne shocked the world two years ago, Gilliland was right behind him in third place. He is a plate track specialist.
Paul Menard (35/1)
Menard is definitely a great under-the-radar selection, I’ve seen him run some great races in the past at Daytona on both the Cup and Nationwide levels. Menard is also a Richard Childress driver (RCR is always strong at Daytona), and one final nugget to seal the deal: Menard went to high school with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon.
I think we have found our 2013 Daytona 500 winner right here.