The green flag drops on the 2013 NASCAR season Sunday, as it always does, with the Daytona 500, also known as the “Great American Race” and the “Super Bowl of NASCAR”. It’s truly the only sport that opens its year with its marquee event.
Clearly the big news this year is Danica Patrick, who made history last weekend in qualifying by becoming the first woman to win the pole. She was able to avoid any potential disaster to her car in Thursday’s Budweiser Duels. Had Danica wrecked her car, she would have had to switch to a backup and would have been sent to the back of Sunday’s field. Instead, Patrick finished 17th in her Duel race after falling to the back and racing conservatively for much of the race. She will race a full Sprint Cup schedule this year for Stewart-Haas Racing, and everyone wants to know if she will wreck boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (not a teammate) if it benefits Patrick (or vice versa).
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Bovada has a few Patrick props:
--Yes she will she finish in Top 3: 11/2
--Yes she will finish in Top 5: 7/2
--Yes she will finish in Top 10: 3/2
--Will she be leading after the first lap is complete: yes at even and no at -140.
--Who finishes higher, Stenhouse Jr. or Patrick, both at -115.
Kudos to Patrick for winning the pole, but that hasn’t been a good thing of late. The last pole winner to win the 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Here are the results for the past five pole winners: Carl Edwards eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 24th, Mark Martin 12th, Martin Truex 11th and Jimmie Johnson 27th. The best result for a pole winner since Jarrett’s win was Bill Elliott finishing fifth in 2011. Overall, pole winners average a 16th-place finish since Jarrett. Since 2000, Daytona 500 winners had an average starting position of 15th. Matt Kenseth holds the record for starting the farthest back, at 39th and winning the race (2009).
I would probably take the even-money value on Patrick leading after the first lap, but I’d go “no” on all those other five props. She finished 38th and off the lead lap a year ago after starting 29th. Patrick didn’t have a Top-15 finish in 10 Sprint Cup races.
Keep in mind that all books take the odds down during practices because a crash can change everything – should Patrick crash in practice Friday, for example, she would still go to the back of the field. BookMaker offers an “over/under” of 9.5 cautions, with both at -120. The record is 16 in 2011, while in the past five Daytona 500s the average number has been nine cautions overall. I like under.
At Sportsbook.ag, you can bet on the winning manufacturer. Chevrolet is an even-money favorite with a Toyota at +160 and Ford at +350. Interestingly, Chevy was considering leaving NASCAR had the circuit not developed the new Generation-6 car that debuts at Daytona.
Chevy has to be happy right now. Seven of the top nine starters for the Daytona 500 will be Chevrolet SS race cars, including Patrick’s, Tony Stewart’s and the Hendrick Motorsports super-team led by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. A Chevy has won the race just once in the past five years -- by Jamie McMurray in 2010 -- but leads with 41 wins overall at Daytona (including summer races). A Ford had won the Daytona three of the past four years, including Kenseth last year. A Toyota never has, but that’s what Kenseth is in now. Kyle Busch, looking for his first Daytona 500 win, is too, and he and Kenseth are among the favorites. The top Ford drivers should be Greg Biffle, reigning points champion Brad Keselowski and Edwards. Take Chevrolet.
You can also bet on several five-driver groupings and the top finisher at Sportsbook.ag. The top group is Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Johnson (first three all +325), Busch (+300) and Stewart (+300). Junior won the race in 2004 and has the best overall finish in all Daytona races among active drivers at 14.5. Gordon, meanwhile, has six overall victories at Daytona, tops among active drives, although he hasn’t been that much of a factor of late. Daytona has been a house of horrors for Johnson since his 2008 500 win. He has just one Top-15 finish in nine races there since. Take Junior as he excels at restrictor-plate tracks Daytona and Talladega. I also like him at +350 for a Top-3 finish and under a finish of 12.5 (5Dimes).
The “Speed Row 2” grouping at Sportsbook.ag is Kevin Harvick (+280), Kenseth (+300), Keselowski (+325), Kasey Kahne (+325) and Denny Hamlin (+350). Harvick won this race in 2007 and one of Thursday’s Duels. He has the second-best average finish of 15.4 behind Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski, Kahne and Hamlin haven’t been good at the track, so, really, this comes down to Harvick or Kenseth, who haven’t finished worse than third in the past three races at Daytona. Harvick doesn’t have a Top-5 finish since his win in the 2010 summer race. Take Kenseth.
Finally, on “Speed Row 3” you have Biffle (+280), Edwards (+300), Patrick, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch (all +325). Edwards has the best average finish of the five at 16.6, although he’s looking for his first win at Daytona. Busch used to be a Top-10 regular at Daytona but has been 35th or worse in the past two races. I like Logano, who finished ninth in last year’s 500 and has been in the Top 10 in the past three races there overall.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews