The Daytona 500 presents an annual conundrum for NASCAR bettors: It’s the first race of the year. It’s the biggest race of the year. It presents some of the best odds of the year in terms of longshots and betting markets. It’s also the hardest race to bet. So while excitement is high for the start of the NASCAR season, some pro bettors go as far as taking the whole race off and waiting for next week at Fontana.
Practice good bankroll management. Don’t over-bet this race because there’s no NFL or NBA on. Look for other ways to enjoy the race, like random driver pools or DFS contests. Now, with all of those disclaimers in place, let’s try and find a couple winners.
2023 Daytona 500 Schedule
Wednesday at 8:15pm ET – Qualifying
Thursday at 7pm ET – Duels
Friday and Saturday – Two practice sessions
Sunday at 2:30pm ET – Daytona 500
Alex Bowman captured the pole in Wednesday night’s qualifying, with his teammate Kyle Larson starting next to him on the front row. Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana captured two of the four “open” spots. Let’s take a closer look at how that process works:
Daytona 500 Field
Forty cars will line up on Sunday afternoon. Thirty-six of them will be NASCAR’s main charters for this season, with six additional drivers vying for the four remaining spots. Those six drivers all have impressive credentials, and all of them will be worth a look if they make the field:
Conor Daly – Has raced in the IndyCar Series since 2013, and finished sixth at last year’s Indianapolis 500. Will be attempting to qualify under Floyd Mayweather’s Money Team umbrella.
Austin Hill – A veteran of the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. He won the 2019 trucks race at Daytona and won last year’s Xfinity race at Daytona.
Jimmie Johnson – A seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who’s won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and 2013 (Qualified on Wednesday).
Travis Pastrana – Four-time Rally America champion, who’s competed in almost every major racing event across the globe (Qualified on Wednesday).
Chandler Smith – Won three races in the Trucks series last year and finished third in the championship standings.
Zane Smith – Won the Trucks series championship last year.
The list of drivers to win the Daytona 500 is a who’s who of NASCAR royalty: Richard Petty has seven titles. Jeff Gordon has won it three times. The Earnhardt family has three between Dale and Dale Jr. But for every hall of famer with a Daytona 500 title, there’s a longshot that no one saw coming. Since 2010, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell and Austin Cindric have won at the famed track. Those are not household names.
Daytona 500 Betting Odds
2023 Daytona 500 betting favorites at DraftKings Sports Book as of Thursday, February 16:
Kyle Larson (+1000)
Ryan Blaney (+1200)
Denny Hamlin (+1200)
Chase Elliott (+1200)
Kyle Busch (+1400)
Joey Logano (+1400)
William Byron (+1600)
Ross Chastain (+1600)
Bubba Wallace (+1800)
Brad Keselowski (+1800)
Tyler Reddick (+2000)
Austin Cindric (+2000)
Alex Bowman (+2000)
Daytona 500 Betting Notes
Rule No. 1 – Pay very little attention to qualifying. How the cars look by themselves on an empty race track holds no comparison to how they look in the two-by-two draft with 39 other cars surrounding them. It’s a whole different world. Alex Bowman has started in the front row a record-breaking six times. He hasn’t finished in the top-10 in any of those previous five races.
Last year, the Chevy’s (especially the Hendrick cars) dominated qualifying, but struggled in the race. They were built for individual speed, but the Fords were able to stay together much more efficiently in the draft. Early indications suggest that might be the same for this year. Look for the Fords to build a stronger line and control most of the race.
Rule No. 2 – You need a portfolio of longshots. You don’t need to bet them all to win, but you definitely need a portfolio with top-5’s and top-10’s. Here are some of the drivers that finished in the top-10 last year: Austin Cindric won as a rookie in his second Daytona 500. Chase Briscoe finished third in his second Daytona 500. Aric Almirola finished fifth, which was his best finish of the whole season. David Ragan hasn’t been a full-time driver since 2019, and he finished eighth. So you have to ride the longshots who can stay in the draft and make it to the final checkered flag.
Daytona 500 Predictions
Aric Almirola to Win (+3500 at DraftKings) – There were better numbers available earlier in the week, but Almirola has let the cat out of the bag after a fourth-place qualifying lap. The Florida native has two wins at Daytona, one in the Cup series in 2014 and one in the Xfinity series in 2016. He finished fourth in the 500 in 2017 and fifth last year.
Fords had a strong advantage over the field last year, and there’s no real reason to think that won’t be the case once again. Chevrolets struggled to link up and stay together in the draft, and Toyotas don’t have enough in the field to really stick together and dictate the race. Seven of the top nine finishers in last year’s race were Fords.
So your best bet in the outright market is to take some medium-to-long shots on Fords, like Almirola or 2021 winner Michael McDowell (also available at +3500), or McDowell’s teammate Todd Gilliland (available at +10000).
Austin Hill Top-10 (+900) – Hill isn’t guaranteed a starting spot, so look to make this bet at books where it’s “no action” if he doesn’t qualify. Nonetheless, we still like his chances to qualify based on the complicated rules. Hill has two wins at Daytona, one in the Trucks series and another in last year’s Xfinity race. He’s built a reputation as an aggressive driver, and he’s going to need that to stay in the draft and stay in competitive spots.