NASCAR Betting Guide: Daytona 500

Justin Haley carries long odds for the Daytona 500 despite his superspeedway prowess. Can we justify betting him to win the Cup Series' biggest race?

It's the week after the Super Bowl. You're bummed. There's no NFL to bet, the NBA is about to hit its All-Star break, and the thought of betting the XFL makes you dry heave.

That's entirely a projection. I'd rather get hit by a bus than bet the XFL. More power to you if you disagree.

For me, though, NASCAR is the savior.

This Sunday is the Daytona 500, the biggest race of the year and the first points-paying race of a new season. It's a high-chaos track where longshots can actually win, something we won't get for all races.

And some of those longshots are actually good bets based on my numbers.

For each race, I'll run my own simulations, and then I'll use those to try to identify good value bets based on FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR odds. We'll run through early-week bets here, and then if more values arise later in the week, I'll circle back and add them to the same post.

Which bets stand out before cars hit the track for qualifying on Wednesday? Here are my favorites.

Kevin Harvick to Win (+2500)

Kevin Harvick was available at +3000 as recently as yesterday at FanDuel, so before betting this, shop around to see if you can find that number lingering.

But even at his new number, I've got Harvick as a value.

Harvick hasn't won on a superspeedway since 2010 and is entering his age-47 (and final) season. Given that drivers typically peak in their age-39 season, it's possible Harvick has lost his touch on this track type.

I don't think that's the case. Just two years ago, Harvick had two top-fives and three top-10s in four superspeedway races. Last year, he had a top-15 average running position in all four races at Daytona and Talladega; he just didn't convert it into great finishes.

Harvick has a knack for being around at the end, and that can sometimes be enough. As a result, my model has his win odds at 5.0%, up from 3.9% implied at +2500. That's a big enough edge where I'm okay overlooking the age concerns and betting that Harvick will begin his retirement tour with a bang.

Justin Haley to Win (+5000)

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, you've got Justin Haley. This will be his age-24 season, and he already has a Cup Series win at Daytona under his belt. That win was a fluke thanks to weather, but his track record beyond that makes him a great win bet.

Haley has 16 races at Daytona and Talladega across the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series. He has four wins, two runner-ups, and another fourth-place finish in a truck during his age-19 season. Those are in lower series, but given how young he was, it's a huge mark in his favor.

Haley's Cup Series record isn't as dazzling, but a lot of that came in poor equipment. Last year was his first full season in a competitive ride, but he did have another sixth-place run in 2021 even before getting more ponies under the hood.

Kaulig Racing seemed to come on strong toward the end of last year. Haley had two top-fives in the final seven races on two very different tracks. If they maintain any of those gains, you'll be giving slightly better equipment to a guy who has proven he can dominate this kind of track.

As a result, my model has Haley's win odds at 2.6%, up from 2.0% implied. It's not a huge edge, but given Haley's track record, I'm willing to bet it regardless.

Todd Gilliland to Win (+10000); Gilliland to Finish Top 10 (+500)

(UPDATE: Gilliland has since shortened to +3800 to win. The value there is gone. But he is, for some reason, still +3100 to podium, which is absurd. So feel free to snag that if you missed out on the win bet. I'm also showing value on his new top-10 odds at +400 as I have him at 26.9% to finish top 10.)

It has been a rough week for Todd Gilliland. He learned recently that he won't be in the No. 38 car full-time this year, ceding the seat to Zane Smith in six races.

But I wouldn't be shocked to see Gilliland make the call to keep him out of the car a tough one on Sunday.

Unlike Haley, Gilliland doesn't have the blazing track record on pack tracks in lower series. He did, though, have a pair of podiums at Talladega in the Craftsman Truck Series. He's also the son of David Gilliland, who notched six of his eight career Cup Series top-10 finishes on pack tracks. It was his best track type, and he's likely passed some of that down to Todd.

Similar to Harvick, Gilliland ran better than his results would indicate on superspeedways last year. He had a top-15 average running position in three of four races at Daytona and Talladega. He actually did convert one into a good finish, winding up seventh in the playoff Talladega race. In other words, he didn't do anything to make us think he's a negative on this track type.

Gilliland's in equipment good enough to win. His teammate, Michael McDowell, won the 500 in 2021. My model puts Gilliland's win odds at 2.6%, which I think is too high. However, we've got plenty of wiggle room to be off on him while still being higher than his implied odds of 1.0%.

As far as the top-10 odds, I have Gilliland at 25.2% there versus 16.7% implied. If you're picking just one bet or the other, the top-10 is a really nice value and gives you lots of flexibility. But with both grading out well, I'm fine double-dipping and hoping Gilliland can give this puppy a run.

Pre-Qualifying Addition: Chase Elliott to Win Group 1 (+260)

Group A on FanDuel is a tough one. It features a three-time Daytona 500 champion in Denny Hamlin, a three-time superspeedway winner in Ryan Blaney, and the 2021 Cup Series champion, Kyle Larson.

I still think Chase Elliott is a good value to top them all.

Elliott is actually the most likely winner of the race by my model, sitting at 6.1%. But with his implied odds at 7.1%, I can't bet him there.

in this market, I whittle the field down significantly, and I effectively get to fade Larson. My model abhors him due to his hideous track record on superspeedways. Having him in there with +260 odds (same as everybody else in the group) means I'm going to have value on someone. It just winds up being Elliott.

I've got Elliott at 30.7% to win this group, up from 27.8% implied. Although I don't show value in Blaney or Hamlin, both are close due to how low the model is on Larson. So you can effectively pick your poison between these three and likely have a good bet. I just happen to be highest on Elliott.

Pre-Qualifying Addition: Corey LaJoie to Finish Top 10 (+500)

(UPDATE: LaJoie has since shortened to +400 to finish top 10. The implied odds there are 20.0% versus my odds of 21.3%. It's still a fine bet -- just not as big of a value as it was before.)

Overnight Tuesday, FanDuel gave us some relaxed top-10 odds on typical backmarker cars. Those lengthened odds opened up value on a couple guys, starting with Corey LaJoie.

In 200 career Cup Series starts, LaJoie has just 5 top-10s, a rate of 2.5%. His implied odds here are 16.7%. Thus, it must be an idiotic bet.

But that overlooks the chaos of Daytona. All five of LaJoie's top-10s have come at pack tracks, three of which have been at Daytona. His top-10 rate here, specifically, is 25%, well above the implied mark.

LaJoie has had some good finishing luck, so my model isn't quite that high on him. It has him at 20.9% to finish top 10. That's still above his implied mark, though, so I'm more than happy to buy into LaJoie at the relaxed odds.

Pre-Qualifying Addition: Zane Smith to Finish Top 10 (+500)

(UPDATE: Smith has since shortened to +400 to finish top 10. I have his new odds at 19.8%, below his implied odds of 20.0%. Thus, the value is gone here.)

This is a bet that depends on the house rules of your sportsbook. Zane Smith is currently not locked into the field and, thus, could fail to qualify.

In FanDuel's house rules, drivers who don't qualify are deemed no action. So if he doesn't make the field, you get your money back. That's not universal, so even if Smith is +500 elsewhere, be sure to check the house rules before betting him.

Here at FanDuel, I think that's a good value for Smith. As mentioned above with Gilliland, Smith is driving for Front Row Motorsports, which is more than capable equipment.

And as evidenced by Smith's pushing Gilliland out of the seat for select races this year, he's got talent. He's the defending Craftsman Truck Series champion, a campaign he kickstarted by winning at Daytona last year.

Smith's other pack finishes are lackluster, but it's a small sample. At the end of the day, he's a talented driver in good enough equipment at a high-chaos track. Assuming he makes the field, Smith's top-10 odds in my model are 18.4%, above his implied mark of 16.7%.

Post-Duels Addition: Aric Almirola to Win (+3500)

I'm a bit surprised this is available after Aric Almirola won his Duel race last night. There's a lot of variance in that, so it doesn't matter a ton. I just assumed people would be leaping to bet him, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

No complaints!

After trimming the field, I've got Almirola's win odds at 4.0%, up from 2.8% implied at this number. That's a pretty healthy edge this late in the running and one I'm inclined to take.

It's not just the Duel that should put it here. In fact, that's one of the last reasons. But Almirola is a tremendous pack racer with six top-10s since the start of 2019. He nearly won a Daytona 500 a couple years ago before being wrecked on the last lap, so I wouldn't be shocked to see Almirola finally seal the deal here.