The Daytona 500 is Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, and there are several plot lines for the Great American Race. The first is whether or not Denny Hamlin can be the first driver to repeat as champion since Sterling Marlin went back-to-back in ’94 and ’95.
The other plot line involves sentimental choice Jimmie Johnson, who is looking to win in Daytona in his last full-time season in NASCAR. Johnson could join some elite company if he’s able to find Victory Lane for the third time.
Here’s a look at some of the drivers that we think bettors should place a wager on, as well as others we recommend avoiding.
Drivers to Back in Daytona
Denny Hamlin 10/1
The defending champion could become the first back-to-back winner since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in 2016 as well. He could join Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarret, and Jeff Gordon in winning this race three or more times.
“You really become part of a very, very elite class with that third one,” Hamlin told reporters on Wednesday.
Chase Elliott 12/1
This is Elliott’s fifth time at the Daytona 500, and his record has been spotty. This year, though, he might have finally figured out this racetrack. Elliott won the pole twice in his previous trips here, but not being in the first row on Sunday might actually be a benefit.
“It’s certainly the goal, that’s why everyone goes, Elliott told reporters on Wednesday. “The list of winners at the Daytona 500 is pretty short, but it’s a pretty rare thing to say that you won it.”
Erik Jones 30/1
This is strictly a hunch bet. Jones finished third at Daytona last year, and this year he might be driving to keep his job. Rumors that he may not be resigned by Joe Gibbs Racing have been persistent. Jones, who won the Busch Clash last Sunday, could silence a lot of critics with a victory.
Drivers to Avoid
Kyle Busch 10/1
The 2019 Cup Series Champion finished second at the Daytona 500 last year, and is one of four favorites to win this year. This is the only major race he hasn’t won in his career, and he’d like to be able to put it on his resume. But at 0-14, odds are against him. If he’s concerned about winning, he isn’t showing it, telling reporters on Tuesday that his lack of a victory doesn’t define him.
“The whole aspect of having one item not checked is not that big of a deal,” Busch said. “It’s not going to end my career by any means.”
Brad Keselowski 10/1
Keselowski is another of the favorites that I don’t believe gamblers should back this Sunday. The 36-year-old hasn’t ever won this race, but like Busch, he has won the July Daytona International Speedway race on this track. Unlike Busch, though, Keselowski is bothered he hasn’t won the first Cup Series event of the season, telling The Big Lead he’s disappointed in his past performances.
“Well, there’s a big difference between the races here in Daytona,” Keselowski said. “I think the July race, you know, the season’s in full swing, and certainly you still want to win it, but it’s not the same as the first big race of the year, the Daytona 500.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 30/1
The pole winner hasn’t had much success at Daytona, and that should carry over this Sunday with Stenhouse. In the 61 previous running of this race, the pole winner has captured the checkered flag just 10 times. The last time was 2000 when Dale Jarrett did took the checkers. Stenhouse is with a new team and different car this season, so it might take him a couple of races to get comfortable driving a Chevy as opposed to a Ford.