Dale Earnhardt Jr. among Daytona 500 betting favorites

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(OddsShark.com) — After a dominating Can Am Duel victory on Thursday earned him a second row start in Sunday’s Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has emerged as a favorite to claim his third career victory in NASCAR’s top race with +385 odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Earnhardt picked up his first Daytona 500 win back in 2004 and will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in last year’s race, failing to maintain a lead he held for 30 laps and eventually finishing third.

The 41-year-old North Carolina native, who trails the favorites on the odds to win the Sprint Cup championship at 10/1, has finished in the top three at Daytona in each of the past four years, including a win in 2014, and will be starting from the first two rows for the seventh time in 17 appearances in The Great American Race.

Denny Hamlin had to settle for a fifth-place Can Am Duel finish on Thursday, but prepares for Sunday afternoon’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway trailing only Earnhardt on the odds at +750.

Hamlin is followed by two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, who joins Kyle Busch at +975 despite being forced to start from the rear of the field in a backup car after being involved in a crash in the final lap of Thursday’s second Can Am Duel race.

Johnson last won the Daytona 500 in 2013 and recorded a fifth-place finish a year ago, en route to a disappointing 10th place finish in the Sprint Cup standings.

The 15-year NASCAR veteran is a 7/1 bet to claim a record-tying seventh career Sprint Cup championship, joining Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth and trailing only Kevin Harvick, who enters the week as 5/1 chalk to claim his second Sprint Cup crown in three years.

Harvick, hungry for a win after falling just one point short of a Sprint Cup championship repeat last season, enters at +1250 on the Daytona 500 odds, trailing Logano and Brad Keselowski, who are knotted at +1100, and Matt Kenseth at +1200.

Logano picked up his first career win at Daytona last year, while Keselowski completed just 160 laps in last year’s race after recording top-five appearances the previous two years. Kyle Busch, the man who edged out Harvick to finish atop the 2015 Sprint Cup standings, opens the NASCAR season with 8/1 odds of repeating as champion, followed by Keselowski at 9/1.

Keselowski of Team Penske betting favorite on Daytona 500 odds

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Showing that he can win at Daytona International Speedway in February has boosted Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski to the top of the board for the “Great American Race.”

Keselowski, coming off a win in the Advance Auto Parts Clash, is the +800 favorite at the top of the 2018 Daytona 500 odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. He will be attempting to duplicate the 2016 feat of second favorite Denny Hamlin (+1000) of Joe Gibbs Racing, who, two years ago, was the first driver since 2000 to win The Clash and then win the Daytona 500.

Befitting an event that’s had three consecutive first-time winners, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson and Team Penske’s Joey Logano all draw in at +1200.

The fact that the Daytona International double has been so rare might be cause to look for a higher-priced driver than Keselowski. He has never placed higher than third in the Daytona 500 and will also have the competitive disadvantage of starting 19th on Sunday. Drivers of Fords have fared well at Daytona over the last two years, but Logano, Keselowski’s teammate at Penske, was too inconsistent in 2017 to inspire much confidence for the first race of 2018.

Hamlin will have his best career start at second. Between the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Busch is coming off a more successful 2017 season and offers slightly more value than Hamlin. Teammate Erik Jones (+2200), who has been consistent on this track, also stacks up as a value play.

Martin Truex Jr. (+1400) is the reigning series champion after posting five wins to claim the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2017. Truex was nipped at the checkered flag by Hamlin in 2016, so his track record at Daytona is sufficiently strong enough to give bettors confidence.

Defending-champion Kurt Busch (+2500) might be ruled out solely on the fact no driver has won in back-to-back years since 1995. In a similar vein, pole winner Alex Bowman (+2800) should be faded on that basis that no pole winner has triumphed since Dale Jarrett in 2000.

One of the dark horse possibilities is Austin Dillon (+4000) of Richard Childress Racing, who had the fastest Chevrolet at The Clash and has a good knowledge of the track, with nine career starts. Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard (+6600) has two career top-5 finishes at Daytona and tends to be closer to peak form in restrictor plate races.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Video: Erik Jones hits staircase on racetrack during test lap

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Debris sometimes finds its way onto NASCAR tracks.

But a staircase on the racetrack? That’s certainly unusual.

Erik Jones was driving the NASCAR on NBC car for a test lap at Charlotte and hit a staircase that was left on the track as shown in the video above. NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton was also in the car during the accident that happened after Turn 4.

Both men are fine and did not report any injuries.