The 2023 NASCAR season starts Sunday with the 65th running of the Daytona 500. Some people say that picking the winner of “The Great American Race” is like throwing darts and trying to hit the bull’s-eye. This race is unpredictable for sure, but my picks have nailed the winner in three of the last four races. My “Best Bets” picks Denny Hamlin in 2019 (12-1 odds) and again in 2020 (10-1 odds). The hot streak continued in 2021 when Michael McDowell was my long-shot special at 66-1 odds. The Hamlin picks were not hard to predict, but a win is a win and I will take it. I will try to make it four winners in five years after the race Sunday.
DRAFTKINGS ODDS FOR DAYTONA 500
* The odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook. The odds could change between the time of this article and the time you place your bet.
** The first number is the amount of money based on the second number (the amount of the wager). So, if you bet $1 on Ryan Blaney at 12-1 odds, you will win $12.
Here are my “Best Bets” for the Daytona 500…
RYAN BLANEY (12-1): I typically do not like to bet the favorites, especially on a Superspeedway track, but it paid off for me when I bet Denny Hamlin in 2019 and 2020. I think it will pay off again Sunday with the No. 12 car. Blaney has not won the Daytona 500 “yet”, but he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in 2021 and he finished second in the 2020 Daytona 500. Blaney also won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020. He is the best Superspeedway driver in the field. I will bet Blaney as an insurance policy, so I can get some money back if my drivers with longer odds do not find Victory Lane.
BUBBA WALLACE (18-1): Wallace was asked last year at Media Day for Speedweeks, “What has been your secret to success on the Superspeedways?” Wallace said, “I watched a lot of videos of the guys who finish up front in these and I found some trends that I decided to try in the race. So far, it is working.” Wallace would not expand on the question and explain what he learned, but whatever it is… He has become one of the best Superspeedway drivers in the Cup Series. Wallace won at Talladega in 2021 and he finished second in the Daytona 500 last year and in 2018. I will bet that Wallace can improve by one spot Sunday.
BRAD KESELOWSKI (18-1: Is Brad Keselowski the best driver on the Superspeedways to never win the Daytona 500? He is certainly near the top of the list. RFK Racing did not have a lot of success in 2022, but Keselowski dominated the Daytona 500. He led the second-most laps (44) and had the second-best Driver Rating (121.3). Keselowski also won the first Dual Race at Daytona last year. He leads the Cup Series with seven wins on the Superspeedways. Keselowski has six wins at Talladega and one win in the summer race at Daytona. I will bet Keselowski can earn his first Harley J. Earl Trophy Sunday.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. (30-1): Truex is not the first driver that comes to mind when people think of Superspeedway drivers. The truth is that Truex was the best driver at Daytona in the Gen-7 car last year. He won both Stages; led 11 laps and finished 13th in the Daytona 500 last year. The No. 19 team came back in August for the Coke Zero 400 and had another good race. Truex finished fifth in Stage 1, second in Stage 2 and finished eighth in the race. Do you believe in momentum in motorsports? I do. I will bet that Truex can carry his momentum from his win at the Clash at the Coliseum to a win in the Daytona 500.
LONG SHOT SPECIAL: My Long-Shot Special this week is ARIC ALMIROLA (40-1). Almirola is the best value on the board this week. He has never won the Daytona 500, but he should have won in 2018 when he was leading the race entering the last corner of the Daytona 500. Austin Dillon spun Almirola into the wall to take the win. Crew chiefs are not as important on Superspeedways as they are at other tracks, but I do like Almirola’s crew chief’s stats in the Daytona 500. Drew Blinkensderfer won the Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth in 2009 and Michael McDowell in 2021. I will bet he can lead Almirola to Victory Lane Sunday.
Good luck this week!
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