One of the biggest NASCAR events of the year is almost up on as the Daytona 500 goes off Sunday at 1 p.m. And the field is full of star power, but, of course, the one driver everyone seems to be focusing on is Danica Patrick. But unlike the entire sports media world, we’re going to focus on the odds for each driver and what our best gambling options are ahead of the race.
As expected, Kyle Busch (8:1), Tony Stewart (15:2 – the favorite), Jeff Gordon (8:1) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9:1) are the only ones with better than 10:1 odds in the field to take the checkered flag. Jimmie Johnson follows just behind to round out the top 5 at 10:1 odds. Of this group, Earnhardt had the highest qualifying speed at 190.9 mph, trailing only Mark Martin, who was about 0.2 mph faster. Busch and Johnson came in at sixth and seventh, but closer to 190.
So we know Earnhardt’s car is up to the task, and we know he knows how to win. But is he worth betting on this early in the season? Maybe not straight up – as it’s a huge gamble in February to take a straight bet on any driver unless you’re hedging it with a field bet and/or a few one-on-one NASCAR betting matchups. If I were going to lay down a straight bet, though, it’d be on him or Stewart (21st in qualifying times), as they’ve both shown stability in practices and have the hunger to position themselves high early – especially Stewart.
Mark Martin deserves mention, as well, as he matches Johnson as a 10:1 shot to win the race, and deserves heavy consideration as a one-on-one favorite against perhaps anyone besides Gordon, Stewart and Earnhardt. Likewise, I’d take Johnson in a one-on-one against everyone but those three, too. In a one-on-one Martin vs. Stewart, I lean toward Martin on the strength of his qualifying time and stability of his practice runs. But both drivers are solid veterans who know how to win.
Gordon, Johnson’s teammate, is a nice outside risk to win outright. He’s tired of looking up to Johnson and still has all the talent to win this race, one he typically has performed well at.