The biggest NASCAR Sprint Cup event of the season takes place this weekend as the top drivers in the world gear up to the 55th running of the Dayton 500. This prestigious event is the Super Bowl of stock car racing. It is held the last Sunday in February each year and it will land on the 24th in 2013. The winner of the Daytona 500 is presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane where the winning card is displayed.
Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 for the second time in four years in 2012. He followed up the improbable win by rookie Trevor Bayne in 2011. Chase winners like Tony Stewart have never been able to capture the Harley J. Earl Trophy, so Bayne’s accomplishment two years ago was unheard of. However, he has not made much noise since that unlikely triumph.
Grabbing the headlines heading into the 2013 race has been Danica Patrick. That’s because she became the first woman to ever win a Cup series pole position, and it just so happened to be in the biggest race of the season. Plus, she has TMZ media buzz surrounding her new-found relationship with rookie driver Ricky Stenhous Jr. It’s unfortunate that their relationship is getting most of the attention, but that will quickly be an afterthought once this race gets under way Sunday.
Las Vegas bettors have been storming the windows to place bets on or against Danica. The betting trend has seen her odds drop from as high as 125/1 to as low as 16/1 in some places after winning the pole position. Long shots are popular bets in Vegas because every once in a while they do hit. That happened when Regan Smith won at Darlington at 200/1 and Trevor Bayne at 100/1 in the Dayton 500 two years ago.
I’m going to take a look at three drivers who I feel have a great chance to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Without further ado, here are my three picks.
After winning the Sprint Cup in 2011, Stewart finished a disappointing ninth in 2012. He was even winless in the 2012 Chase after posting five victories in the 2011 playoff. He did win three times during the regular season in 2012 with triumphs in Las Vegas, Fontana and Daytona in July. Now, he’s more motivated than ever to capture the Daytona 500, a race that has managed to elude him throughout his entire career.
With two wins over the last four years at the Dayton 500, you would be foolish not to pick Kenseth as one of your top three. He also finished second and third in the other two races in which he has not won over the past four years. Kenseth has six top five finishes and 13 top 10s in 26 career races at Daytona. He has ran 62.9 percent of his laps in the top 15.
WIth the best stats of any driver in the field at Daytona, Busch makes my top three this week. He has a series-best average running position of 12.1, a series-best driver rating of 97.6, a series-best quality passes with 2,300 and a series-best 72.4 percent of his laps have been run in the top 15. You cannot ignore the numbers and I’m simply not passing up a chance to bet on Busch because of it.