2018 Daytona 500: Vegas odds, fantasy advice, prediction, sleepers, drivers to watch
The Super Bowl of stock car racing is quickly approaching with Sunday's Daytona 500. From multiple team changes, new numbers and rules, the 2018 season will have a different look. But one thing is certain: The Great American Race will kick things off.
Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 last season, extending Ford's dominance at the two restrictor-plate tracks. Over the past 28 races at Daytona and Talladega, Ford has won 16 of them, including seven straight, thanks in part to Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing's success.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the July Daytona race and at the first Talladega last season. Before that, Joey Logano took the checkered flag in the previous two fall races at Talladega while Brad Keselowski has combined with his Penske teammate to win five of the last seven races at the Alabama track.
Keselowski also won the unofficial opening race of the season, The Clash, followed by Ford teammates Logano, Ryan Blaney and Busch. It shouldn't come as a surprise that those four Ford drivers own the top-four driver rating at Daytona and Talladega since the start of 2016.
Our pick to win Sunday will continue the Ford trend but will come in upset fashion much like last season. Blaney, who won the first Can-Am Duel Thursday, is in his first season with the new three-driver Team Penske. With help from teammates Keselowski and Logano, expect Blaney to stay up front on Sunday and make a last-lap move for the win.
What are the betting odds for the Daytona 500?
Brad Keselowski +800
Denny Hamlin +1000
Joey Logano +1200
Kevin Harvick +1200
Chase Elliott +1200
Kyle Busch +1200
Kyle Larson +1200
Ricky Stenhouse +1400
Martin Truex Jr. +1400
Jimmie Johnson +1400
Field (any other driver) +1500
Erik Jones +2200
Clint Bowyer +2200
Kurt Busch +2500
Ryan Blaney +2500
Jamie McMurray +2500
Alex Bowman +2800
William Byron +2800
Aric Almirola +3300
Daniel Suarez +3300
Trevor Bayne +4000
Austin Dillon +4000
Ryan Newman +5000
Darrell Wallace Jr. +5000
Paul Menard +6600
Kasey Kahne +6600
Ty Dillon +8000
Lines via OddsShark
Which drivers are best for fantasy NASCAR at Daytona?
Known as Toyota's restrictor-plate king, Denny Hamlin owns the third-best average finish over the last eight restrictor-plate races, including the second-most laps led and a 89.3 driver rating.
There are plenty of sleepers to win at restrictor-plate tracks and one of our favorites is veteran Jamie McMurray. The No. 1 Chevy driver has four wins at Talladega and Daytona and led 13 laps at the Great American Race last season before getting tangled in a wreck.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of the best restrictor-plate drivers thanks in part to his spotter, T.J. Majors, who now joins Joey Logano's team for the 2018 season. Logano is a previous Daytona 500 winner and has the third-most laps led at Daytona and Talladega over the past eight races at those tracks.
A sleeper for Sunday's race, Paul Menard inherited faster equipment this season when he moved into Blaney's No. 21 at Wood Brothers Racing, which has an alliance with Team Penske. Menard finished fifth and third at Daytona last season.
At longer tracks such as Daytona, leading laps aren't as important in fantasy as place-differential is. Drivers who will start near the end of the 40-car field have the most upside but also have higher risk for crashes due to traffic. Matt DiBenedetto ($5,400 on DraftKings), Gray Gaulding ($4,600), and Mark Thompson ($4,500) are great buy-low options.
There will be plenty of stars starting from the rear of the field in backup cars including Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson.