This Sunday at the fabled Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL. the quest for this season’s NASCAR Sprint Cup title gets underway in grand fashion with the running of the 55th Daytona 500. In what is by far the sport’s most prestigious and coveted racing title, a packed field of 43 drivers will take aim at claiming this year’s checkered flag. Here we will provide some 2013 Daytona 500 picks and predictions to help with your wagers.
Kevin Harvick started Speed Week off with a victory in the Sprint Unlimited, but Danica Patrick has stolen all the early headlines by becoming the first female to secure the pole position for Sunday’s race with the fastest lap in last Sunday’s qualifying round. Whether she can make even bigger history by winning this race at 20/1 odds remains to be seen, but the following a look at a few of my top contenders along with their odds to win as provided by Bovada.
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The driver at the top of this list at 9/1 is NASCAR fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has had his share of success at this track in recent years with three Top-5 finishes in his last six races here, including a second-place finish in last year’s 500. He won this title back in 2004, which was his second career victory at Daytona. What makes his odds so attractive is the burning desire of both Dale Jr. and the No.88 race team to capitalize on last season’s success which finally saw an end to a painfully-long four-year winless streak. Considered one of the top restrictor plate racers in the field of 43, it could definitely be his turn to shine this Sunday.
Last season’s Daytona 500 champion, Matt Kenseth, has been opened at 12/1 to successfully defend his title. He finished seventh in last year’s Sprint Cup standings after posting two more victories and 10 additional Top-5 finishes over the 36-race schedule. And he continues to be one of the most consistent drivers in the Sprint Cup series. He will be sporting a new look this year because he is racing for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No.20 Toyota after leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the last season. It remains to be seen what effect this change will have on his overall success in 2013, but Kenseth remains a threat to win anytime he gets behind the wheel of any race car.
Brad Keselowski begins the defense of his 2012 Sprint Cup title at 14/1 to start things off with a win. Last season was one for the books for the No.2 team with five checkered flags and eight additional Top-5 finishes on his way to his first career title. This will be Keselowski’s seventh career start at Daytona, and, while this would not be considered one of his strongest tracks, he did finish eighth in his last race here. This followed a disappointing 32nd-place finish in last season’s Daytona 500. His best finish in three previous 500s was 29th in 2011 after starting 16th.
There is no doubt that Daytona has not been one of Jimmie Johnson’s favorite tracks in recent years, which might explain why one of NASCAR’s best drivers has been opened at 14/1 to win on Sunday. The five-time Sprint Cup Champion has not finished better than 20th in his last six races here, including a disastrous 42nd-place finish in last year’s 500 after getting taken out in a wreck on the second lap. The No.48 car then went onto to finish 36th in the second race at Daytona last season after starting 16th. While Johnson’s current form at this track may not be the best, his current form overall adds tremendous value to these odds. He won five times last season and pushed Keselowski all the way to the final race at Homestead in an effort to win his sixth Sprint Cup title.
My heart in this Sunday’s race lies with the favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., but any time you can get longer odds on NASCAR’s top overall driver you have to run with them. The added edge in picking Johnson to win is the huge chip on his shoulder he brings into this race from last season’s painfully-early exit. Do not forget, last year at this time he was the favorite to win this race at 7/1.
2013 Daytona 500 Pick: Jimmie Johnson
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