Every driver on NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup circuit has two primary goals entering a new season: Win the Daytona 500 and the points championship.
NASCAR is a unique sport in that it begins each year with its biggest single event, the Daytona 500. Should a driver win it, he’s essentially guaranteed a spot in the sport’s playoffs, which will conclude in late November down the east coast of Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sunday at Daytona International Speedway is the 61st running of “the Great American Race,” and Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are the favorites at +700 and +800 on the Daytona 500 odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
An argument can be made that Keselowski, the 2012 points champion, is the best active driver never to win the Daytona 500. The driver of Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford generally dominates at the other restrictor plate tracks on the circuit with five career wins at Talladega. Keselowski’s best Daytona 500 result is third in 2014 and he crashed out last year. He did win the summer race at Daytona in 2016, however.
Logano won the points title last season for the first time as his No. 22 Ford took the checkered flag at the finale at Homestead-Miami. Logano has raced at Daytona 20 times, including the July race, and his lone win was the 2015 Daytona 500. Last year, he finished fourth.
The 2018 Daytona 500 was won by young Austin Dillon, which was entirely fitting because he was driving the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet formerly piloted by the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. His lone 500 win was in 1998, after which Dillon got a photo with the legend because his grandfather is team owner Richard Childress.
Dillon’s victory was 17 years to the day that Earnhardt Sr. died at the Daytona 500. No driver has repeated at Daytona since Sterling Marlin in 1995 and Dillon is +3300 on the NASCAR odds to do so this weekend.
At +2000 is another youngster, Willian Byron, who will start from the pole. The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 is in just his second season racing and finished 33rd at last year’s Daytona 500. No pole-sitter has won the race since Dale Jarrett in 2000.
The winner of last weekend’s unofficial season opener, the Clash at Daytona, was seven-time points champion Jimmie Johnson, who is coming off a hugely disappointing 2018 campaign. He’s the only multiple-time Daytona winner in the field (2006, 2013) and is +2000 at online betting sites to win a third.