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February 14, 2024

Racing Insights: Ryan Blaney projected to win the 2024 Daytona 500


What a way it would be for Ryan Blaney to start off his NASCAR Cup Series title defense if he could bag the biggest single-race prize of them all and win the Daytona 500. But that’s exactly what Racing Insights is predicting will happen when drivers line up to take part in the 66th running of the “Great American Race” on Monday at Daytona International Speedway (4 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

In fact, looking at the Racing Insights’ prediction model, the numbers aren’t even close, with Blaney a clear favorite ahead of Team Penske teammate Joey Logano and Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott. Both of them are tightly bunched together in second and third place, respectively, but well behind the champ.

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If Blaney pulls off the win, he’d become the first defending champion to win the Daytona 500 since Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 2000. That was Jarrett’s third win in the “Great American Race,” so he knew a thing or two about how to get the job done.

Blaney has been close, finishing eighth or better in five of the last seven Daytona 500s, including two runner-up finishes. His top-10 streak of two in a row leads all active drivers and exemplifies how unpredictable this race can be.

But Blaney has seemed to master drafting tracks in the Next Gen car with an average finish of 9.75 in the 12 races, the best of all active drivers. Plus, he won the most recent race at a drafting track last fall at Talladega Superspeedway.

Look for the champion’s celebration to continue in the new year as the Harley J. Earl Trophy goes to the driver of the No. 12 Ford.

OTHER DRIVERS TO WATCH

DENNY HAMLIN: The three-time winner of the Daytona 500 is always a threat. Hamlin has finished in the top five in eight of the last 12 Daytona 500s, with no other driver having more than four of those types of performances. Plus, Hamlin’s 480 laps led in the Daytona 500 rank him fifth all-time.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Keselowski has led the most laps in the last two Daytona 500s, and though he hasn’t been able to take home the Harley J. Earl Trophy, his seven wins on drafting tracks lead all active drivers. Keselowski comes in hot on the drafting tracks, too, with four top 10s in the last five races.

WILLIAM BYRON: Byron has finished in the top 10 in the last four races on drafting tracks for the longest active streak. Meanwhile, Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson has the longest active streak of top-10 starts on drafting tracks with 10. Look for Byron to be a factor and Larson possibly as well.

CHRIS BUESCHER: Want a sleeper pick? How about Buescher, who won the most recent race at Daytona in August 2023. In fact, Buescher finished in the top five in both Daytona races last year, so he’s clicking there in the Next Gen car.

KYLE BUSCH: Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most starts before getting a Daytona 500 victory, winning in his 20th start. Busch is making his 19th start and leads all drivers in laps led among those who are winless in the Daytona 500 with 330.

Projections as of Wednesday, Feb. 14.

RACING INSIGHTS’ PROJECTIONS FOR THE 66TH DAYTONA 500

Racing Insights’ advanced statistical formula includes current track, current track type, recent performance, team data and pit-crew data to arrive at a projected winner and full race results.

FinishCar NumberDriver
112Ryan Blaney
222Joey Logano
39Chase Elliott
420Christopher Bell
524William Byron
623Bubba Wallace
711Denny Hamlin
817Chris Buescher
95Kyle Larson
106Brad Keselowski
118Kyle Busch
121Ross Chastain
1345Tyler Reddick
1419Martin Truex Jr.
1548Alex Bowman
162Austin Cindric
1743Erik Jones
1899Daniel Suárez
1947Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
207Corey LaJoie
2116AJ Allmendinger
2214Chase Briscoe
2351Justin Haley
2441Ryan Preece
2554Ty Gibbs
2634Michael McDowell
2738Todd Gilliland
283Austin Dillon
294Josh Berry
3010Noah Gragson
3115Riley Herbst
3271Zane Smith
3321Harrison Burton
3478BJ McLeod
3584Jimmie Johnson
3642John H Nemechek
3731Daniel Hemric
3860David Ragan
3977Carson Hocevar
4036Kaz Grala
--62Anthony Alfredo
--44JJ Yeley