NASCAR Betting Guide: Daytona 500
After months of waiting, it's tough to be patient. But it's necessary.
This week's Daytona 500 is our first shot to fire bets at a points-paying NASCAR Cup Series race since November, so we're itchy to unload the clip. And -- eventually -- we can!
We just want to save some room on the betslip for later in the week.
With the Daytona 500's unique schedule, there are several inflection points for betting: pre-qualifying on Wednesday, post-qualifying, and then after the Duels on Thursday. Each inflection point presents a new opportunity to buy in, hoping to find undervalued drivers. But if we've already blown our allocated bankroll early in the week, it's tough to justify laying more bets later on.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself as I stare at this week's markets at NASCAR odds. It's hard not to dive in face first.
We're going to circle back here and add more bets; don't you worry about that. But it's important to start light, picking off just the best values, so that we can be open to other quality bets later in the week.
So, for now, which bets am I looking to lock in before the next inflection point hits? Let's check it out.
Kyle Busch to Win (+1900)
(UPDATE: Busch has since shortened to +1700, which is 5.6% implied odds.)
In last August's Daytona race, Kyle Busch was leading with 24 laps to go. In the Daytona 500, he was sixth on the final lap. He led with 15 laps to go in the 2020 August race and with 20 laps to go in that year's 500.
What's the commonality between all of those races? Busch failed to finish every single one, whether because of a crash or an engine failure.
So, we've got two possibilities here. First, Busch is cursed and in need of an exorcism. Second -- and more likely -- he's due for some progression on his finishes.
I'm betting on the latter.
Busch enters the week with 5.0% implied odds to win over at FanDuel, tied for the ninth-longest odds in the field. My simulations have him much closer to his teammate, Denny Hamlin (+900), the favorite to win the race. That's in large part because Busch has had a top-nine average running position in three straight Daytona races and also hit that threshold in last year's spring race at Talladega.
When you run up front, you don't need as much chaos to break in your favor to snag a win. Busch has been up there consistently of late but just hasn't been able to finish the job. That's allowing us to bet him at a discount here, and it's one I'm happy to take.
Todd Gilliland to Finish Top 10 (+650)
It feels poetic to go from Kyle Busch to his former driver in the Camping World Truck Series, Todd Gilliland. Gilliland lost his ride at Kyle Busch Motorsports following the 2019 season (and one expletive-laden win in Martinsville) but is now in the Cup Series full-time for 2022.
Gilliland may not be viewed as highly as he was when he got that KBM ride, and it may be a big leap up to the Cup Series, but the market is undervaluing him here.
FanDuel currently has top-10 odds posted for all 42 drivers on the entry list. Only 40 of them will actually make the race.
But 37 of those drivers have shorter top-10 odds than Gilliland. That should not be the case.
Gilliland is driving this year for Front Row Motorsports. It's not a top-flight team, but they're good enough to be competitive on this track type. After all, they won the freaking Daytona 500 last year with Michael McDowell. This isn't some back-marker car -- even though the other drivers near Gilliland in the odds market are.
Gilliland didn't necessarily light it up on pack tracks while he was in the Truck Series. But he did claim a couple of podiums in four races at Talladega, and he had a win at Talladega and a runner-up at Daytona during his team in ARCA. He at least has experience in this kind of racing.
Overall last year, Front Row ran nine races on pack tracks. Their cars claimed three top-10 finishes in those races, two by McDowell and one by Anthony Alfredo. So, to get Gilliland's odds out to +650, you'd need a massively negative view of his talent. Personally, I'd view him as an upgrade from Alfredo, so I'll happily take Gilliland to finish top 10 at what seems to be a mis-priced number.
Post-Duels Addition: Christopher Bell to Win (+2900)
My win simulations were showing value on Christopher Bell to win prior to Thursday night's Duels (and I thought he was a great value for those races, as well). I didn't see anything there to talk me out of it, so I'm willing to take the plunge now.
Bell finished fifth in his Duel, which shouldn't be a surprise. He had a top-11 average running position in all four superspeedway races last year and turned one of them into a fifth-place finish in Talladega. He also finished second in his Duel last year and wound up leading 32 laps during the 500.
Bell has never won at a superspeedway in NASCAR's upper three series, but he has come close with four podium finishes between Daytona and Talladega. We know the Joe Gibbs Racing cars will have speed and an extra Toyota to help this year in Kurt Busch. I am risking being over-exposed to Toyota given the previous Busch outright, but I'm comfortable with that with how long these odds are.
Post-Duels Addition: Kevin Harvick Over Chase Elliott (+126)
My win simulations have Chase Elliott as one of the race's more likely winners, sitting at 7.6%. That means I could almost justify betting his outright with implied odds at 7.7%.
So why on earth would I bet against him here? It's because Kevin Harvick has two key things on his side.
Consistency and a blue oval on the grille.
Fords dominated the two Duel races, sweeping the podium in both. They were able to link up better than the Chevys and Toyotas, and their organization on pit stops gave them a leg up. With it happening in both Duels, it's less likely to be a fluke.
As for Harvick himself, he tends to take a conservative approach on superspeedways, especially recently. That means he's not a threat to lead laps, but it gives him better odds to be around at the end. It has resulted in two top-fives the past five Daytona races, and he has finished all four of those.
Elliott's on the racier side of things and pushes for wins as a result. That makes him intriguing for outrights. But if I'm just betting who will finish higher -- and getting +126 at a highly volatile race -- I'm more than fine taking that and risking looking like a moron if Elliott wins.