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2017 Daytona 500 Best Odds and Sleeper Picks

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  • Where: Daytona Motor Speedway. Daytona Beach, FL
  • When: February 26, 2017 2:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+450) Brad Keselowski (+700) Joey Legano (+900) Kyle Busch (+1000) Jimmie Johnson (+1000) Denny Hamlin (+1200)

Auto-racing bets are subject to some of the same pleasures and problems as wagering on horse races – who’s been running fast, who likes the track, which jockey is good in tight quarters? But it’s not a direct parallel, because well, imagine dozens of very fast horses in a very hazardous race. In fact, Nascar betting can be a little more like gambling on golf tournaments. With so many in the field and the constant possibility of a crash (the racetrack equivalent of a quadruple bogey) the wagerer can not think in terms of “probable win” but rather the value in educated guesswork.

Yet the golf betting comparison also fails, for the simple fact that Nascar’s most legendary, celebrated title is crowned in the first meaningful race of the year. The Daytona 500 is a season kick-off type of event and also the crown jewel of stock-car racing in America. Can you think of another sport with that kind of schedule?

As unique and exciting it may be for fans, for cash players it’s an interesting brain teaser. Especially in 2017. How will Dale Earnhardt Jr. react to the concussed calamity that was his 2016 season? Are big names like Kyle Busch being under-valued by the books?

The 59th running of the Great American Race will answer both questions. Remember, you’re not just choosing who you think will have a good race – your play goes on the driver who is primed to have a superb 2017 season.

Get a $250 cash bonus to bet on the Daytona 500 at Bovada (USA Only).

Faith in a rattled favorite?

Picking the winner in Daytona 500Earnhardt crashed on only his 23rd lap of 2016, colliding with Brian Vickers in the Sprint Unlimited. Late in the year, he would also suffer a bone-jarring crash at Talledega. But what really stuck in everyone’s mind was his crash at Daytona, when he tried to make a desperate run at the leaders and ran head-first into a barrier instead with 30 laps to go.

The 42 year-old contended in big races throughout the first half of the year, and staged a tremendous comeback to nearly win at Bristol. But the violent mishaps wore him down. Earnhardt bowed out of the 2016 season in late summer with concussion symptoms, and ended the Sprint Cup campaign with a 32nd-place finish. It was his second straight year finishing out of the top ten.

So why the favorite’s odds at (+450), with his nearest rival separated by a significant margin? Perhaps it’s his runner-up finish at Daytona on Thursday night, when he led a Can-Am Duel qualifying race for most of its length. But concussions tend to effect drivers when they’re stressed out in a clutch situation, not jamming happily in a warm-up race. Combined with Earnhardt’s age, that makes the risk vs. payout ratio of playing the veteran’s odds just a little too risky for comfort. This is a racecar driver with ten years between previous Daytona wins (2004 and 2014), and no win since last April’s Toyota Care 250.

If not Dale Jr, then who?

Maybe Earnhardt’s strong odds are based on the “of course” principle, where bookies don’t want to look back on a result and think it should have felt inevitable. Part of that is not having an obvious, hot candidate to baptize the checkered flag. But several young and veteran drivers have solid chances to win.

Defending champ Denny Hamlin is a talented driver in his prime, winning the Joe Gibbs/Toyota team a much-overdue Daytona crown (the team’s first since 1993). But as Magic Johnson once said about Jeremy Lin, “now he’s got all the distractions.” Hamlin struggled at times after winning the big one in 2016, but he did win three races overall including a September win in Richmond.

Brad Keselowski is a fine driver with a fast Team Penske car, but his record doesn’t befit a value wager to lead off 2017. At Talledega last season, Keselowski pulled a Mario-Andretti-at-Indianapolis and blew his engine with a dominant late-race lead, finishing 38th. Teammate Joey Legano could be a bigger threat.

But all the while, there sits crafty veteran Jimmie Johnson at (+1000) odds. Yes, Seven-Time finished 16th in last year’s Daytona race. Like a respectable-but-forgettable performance in a major golf tournament, that can be brushed aside for wagering purposes.

It’s not as if the twice-victorious Johnson doesn’t know how to win at Daytona International Speedway, and the experienced pro has been rounding into shape with two wins in his last four races.

Similar chances to win, very different odds

Wager at the Bovada Sportsbook on Jimmie Johnson (+1000) to win the 2017 Daytona 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson probably have same-ballpark chances to win this Sunday at Daytona. But because of reputation, recent history, and this week’s series of warm-up results, Earnhardt enjoys the status of top favorite.

Take value over the vaunted name. A Johnson cash-winner pays out tenfold minus the unit, and Earnhardt must prove that he is healthy and mentally prepared to prevail after the head trauma and glaring lack of victories over the last calendar year.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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