The following article is brought to you by BetMGM.
Start your engines. It’s time to go racing at the legendary Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway once again.
It’s only been three months since Chase Elliott ended the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series with impressive back-to-back wins and his first championship, but as seems the norm these days, that feels like a lifetime ago. The short offseason gives way to NASCAR’s biggest and most exciting race of them all. And while every driver in the field will dream of lifting the Harley J. Earl Trophy, you can be winners too if you pay attention to our betting preview below.
RELATED: NASCAR Bet Center
Let’s get to it.
If you enjoy staying in the conservative right lane with established veteran drivers, this year’s top two are Denny Hamlin (19 top-fives in 60 races at Daytona and Talladega) and Brad Keselowski (six wins, 10 top-fives in 47 attempts). Both are solid choices to add to your betting slip.
In fact, this year, we like the favorite, Denny Hamlin, to win The Great American Race.
Denny Hamlin +800
2021 feels like it could be a massive year for Hamlin. He has one of the fastest cars on the track and a great team behind him. He also has happy memories of the Daytona 500, having won the race for two consecutive years and three times overall.
No modern driver has had more success at the Daytona 500 than the defending race champ. In 30 career races at Daytona, Hamlin has 10 top-five finishes and three victories to his name. Hamlin won last year’s race in NASCAR Overtime, and his dominance was illustrated by his field-leading 79 laps led, a full 49 more than Brad Keselowski, who was next-best at 30 laps.
Hamlin was among the favorites last year and delivered at +1000, and we like him again this year at +800 with BetMGM. Despite being the favorite, +800 represents value that can’t be overlooked.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +2000
Stenhouse Jr. is one of the most exciting and wild drivers in the sport, bringing Ricky Bobby’s famous line “if you ain’t first, you’re last” to life in an aggressive, thrill-a-minute driving style.
For bettors, Stenhouse’s approach can lead to some frustrating outings, like when he crashed on the first lap at Darlington in 2020, but his hit-and-miss nature bumps his odds skyward with the oddsmakers.
Stenhouse won at Daytona in 2017 (in the summer), and he’s been competitive seemingly every time he shows up at this race. Last year, Stenhouse won the Busch Pole Award and led the third-most laps of all drivers behind only eventual winner Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
Though he’ll start 21st this year, and while there are safer bets, we don’t think there’s a better value than Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at +2000 with BetMGM.
Ryan Preece +8000
There are several reasons Ryan Preece is interesting. First, three of his five career top-10 finishes have come at Daytona (1) and Talladega (2). His lone career top-five finish was at Talladega, a superspeedway like Daytona. He also looked very strong during Thursday’s qualifying duel race, taking fifth ahead of two-time defending Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin and other talented veterans.
Preece actually clinched his spot in Sunday’s field when he qualified on speed Wednesday. He didn’t have to sweat through Thursday’s duels, wondering if there would be a token spot remaining. But he firmly locked up his place with Thursday’s showing. His car is fast, he raced well in his duel and he has a history of strength at superspeedway tracks. Keep an eye on Preece at 80-to-1.