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Denny Hamlin early 2021 Daytona 500 favorite

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: December 14, 2020, 5:35 pm ET

The Daytona 500 won’t be run for another two months, but when the field takes the green flag on February 14th, Denny Hamlin will most likely remain the favorite. Early odds for the Daytona 500 have been released and it comes as no surprise that Hamlin currently tops the charts with a +800 (8/1).

As the winner of the last two 500s, he has an uncanny knack for sniffing out the lead at the right time. In August, Hamlin was also the favorite to win the nighttime Coke Zero 400 with odds of +650. He came close with a third-place finish while having to contend with Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron (who won) and runner-up Chase Elliott.

That strong run prompted PointsBet Sportsbook to make him the favorite at Talladega Superspeedway last fall with +1100 odds. When the film was reviewed, Hamlin was awarded the victory in that event after Matt DiBenedetto got penalized for a yellow line infraction.

Hamlin’s two victories were joined by another pair of top-five finishes on the plate tracks, which made him the only driver in the field to be that successful.

Three drivers are locked together with the second-best odds to win the Great American Race.

The Team Penske pair of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney boast a +1000 for the overall victory. In the most recent Daytona race, Logano was the third-ranked driver. He entered that weekend with a +1200 and was marginally improved by race day when he posted a +1100. And, in fact Logano ran strong that afternoon as well before he was ultimately banged about in a multi-car crash to finish 27th.

Logano’s luck on plate tracks in 2020 was abysmal with no results in the top 15. Three of his last four races on this course type landed outside the top 25. Logano’s second Daytona attempt of 2019 also netted a mid-20s finish, but bettors will want to note that he had six top-fives in the seven races on this course type before the current ill wind began buffeting him about.

Blaney has also been consistently favored on the aero-restricted superspeedways. He was the fifth-ranked driver in the first Talladega race last year as well as in the Coke Zero 400. Blaney was the second-ranked driver in the most recent plate race in October. The confidence was well earned as he won two of the last three Talladega races and finished sixth or better in the last two Daytona duels.

Chase Elliott is the other driver currently listed at +1000 for the season opening race. Before placing a substantial wager, however, bettors will want to note that he has traditionally been much better at ‘Dega than Daytona. In 10 races on the longer track in Alabama, Elliott is batting .500 in terms of top-fives with a victory in 2019. At Daytona, he failed to score a single top-10 in his first nine starts before finishing second in August.  

The third Penske pilot is listed only slightly behind his teammate. Brad Keselowski can be selected early with +1100 odds, which is slightly better than his Coke Zero 400 number. In that race he was the third-ranked driver at +1200 despite entering the race with six sub-25th-place finishes in the seven previous Daytona races. He improved his result to 10th, but did not come close to covering the spread.

Making his return to the NASCAR Cup series and his debut with Hendrick Motorsports, Kyle Larson is listed at +1800. Having sat out most of the 2020 season after being suspended by the series and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for the use of a racial slur during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) break, he needs to knock the rust off. But it is likely that will happen in the preliminary qualification races and Larson’s odds will improve. This is a good opportunity to snag him while he has such a big return on the investment.

Plate racing is often kind to dark horses. Bubba Wallace goes into the next season with +2500 odds for the outright win. Only nine drivers are listed below him. There are a couple of reasons to place a modest bet on Wallace. First, he almost shocked the field by winning his inaugural Daytona 500 in 2018 before getting nipped at the line by Austin Dillon. This August Wallace scored another top-five for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Secondly, NASCAR has a way of creating great storylines and with Wallace joining 23XI racing for Hamlin and Michael Jordon’s maiden voyage into NASCAR, he could easily be the Cinderella Story of the 500.

Byron has top-fives in his last two plate races including a win under the lights at Daytona, but he is listed modestly at +1500. That puts him in the same company as Kyle Busch (+1500), Kevin Harvick (+1500), and Martin Truex Jr. (+1800) – all three of whom can be crash prone on this type of track.

For a complete look at the current lines, check out PointsBet.

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.