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.
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