What would it be like if the Super Bowl was the NFL’s first game of a season instead of its last? That’s somewhat what NASCAR does annually as it begins each year with the Super Bowl of stock-car racing, the Daytona 500. The 60th running of the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway is this Sunday afternoon. The betting favorite is Brad Keselowski at +800 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
This will be a bittersweet Daytona 500 for many NASCAR fans because it’s being run without any member of the Earnhardt family on the track. Dale Earnhardt was the most beloved NASCAR driver ever and tragically died in the 2001 Daytona 500. His son Dale Jr. took over as the sport’s most popular driver by far and won two Daytona 500s but retired after last season.
Junior is being replaced by 24-year-old Alex Bowman in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 car, and all Bowman did was win the pole for Sunday’s 500. It’s the fourth straight pole for Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman is a +2800 longer shot to win on the 2018 Daytona 500 odds; he has yet to visit Victory Lane in NASCAR’s top series in 81 career races. He didn’t race last season in the top series but spent a large chunk of the 2016 season as a replacement for a then-injured Earnhardt.
Keselowski has yet to win the Daytona 500 but is likely the best restrictor-place racer on the circuit now that Earnhardt Jr. has retired. Keselowski hasn’t won the Daytona 500 but did take the July 2017 race at Daytona and has five career wins at Talladega, the other restrictor-plate track in the Monster Cup series. Keselowski also comes off a victory in last weekend’s Clash at Daytona, the unofficial non-points race to kick off the season.
Denny Hamlin, who will start next to Bowman on the front row Sunday, is the +1000 second favorite. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in 2016 and has an average finish of 12.4 in the past 10 Daytona races, including the July one, which is best among all active drivers. Hamlin finished 17th last year.
Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are all +1200 to win. Logano won the race in 2015 and has finished sixth each of the past two years. Harvick won the 2007 Daytona 500 but has been knocked out of the past two in crashes. Kyle Busch crashed out of last year’s race after winning the first stage; his brother Kurt was the winner and is +2500 to be the first repeat champion since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95.
Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR points champion and two-time Daytona winner, is +1400. Johnson’s last Daytona victory was in 2013 when he won the 500 and then the July race. Defending NASCAR points champion Martin Truex Jr. is +1400 to win his first Daytona 500.
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