The Daytona 500 is one of those races where just about anyone can win. Everyone, bookies and bettors, are playing a guessing game and if you pick the winner, you’re cashing in.
The current favorite is at 10/1 odds, but if you know what to look for, you can find great value throughout the entire field. For instance, the last two winners of the Daytona 500 were Michael McDowell (68/1), and Austin Cindric (25/1).
In order to win “The Great American Race,” one must have the mindset and ability to think two steps ahead to make the right moves at the perfect time, and have the luck that goes with avoiding all the crashes. Similar to betting on the race, you can know everything, but you also need a little luck on your side.
Separated by multiple tiers (favorites, sleepers, dark horses, long shots), here are some drivers worth considering putting some money on.
(Odds are from DraftKings and are accurate as of Friday, February 17)
The favorites (16/1 and lower)
Ryan Blaney 12/1
Ryan Blaney has done everything but win the Daytona 500. He’s finished second twice, led the most laps in another, and finished fourth last year after being blocked by his teammate for the win. Blaney is one of the best superspeedway racers on the grid, and as long as he doesn’t get caught up in a crash, he will compete for the win.
Joey Logano 12/1
The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion has all the momentum entering the 2023 season. The 2015 Daytona 500 champion is usually a factor by the end, and Logano is unafraid to make a move to put himself in a position to win. Also, having a win in the Duel helps Logano’s case.
Ross Chastain 16/1
Aggressiveness is rewarded on superspeedways, and Ross Chastain is one of the most aggressive drivers on the grid. The originator of the now-banned “Hail Melon,” Chastain already has a win at Talladega, coming from fourth at the pit entrance on the final lap to win. He can do the same at Daytona.
Other favorites include: Kyle Larson (10/1), Chase Elliott (12/1), Denny Hamlin (13/1), Kyle Busch (14/1), William Byron (14/1)
The sleepers (18/1 to 30/1)
Bubba Wallace 18/1
Bubba Wallace is someone who is consistently fighting for a win at Daytona and Talladega. With two runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500, along with a second place in the 400-miler in 2021, and a win at Talladega, Wallace keeps knocking on the door. While Toyota doesn’t necessarily have the numbers to team up against Ford or Chevy for the win, he’s going to have a shot if the opportunity arises.
Austin Cindric 20/1
Austin Cindric opened his rookie season with a Daytona 500 win last year. At the time, people knew Cindric had great equipment but didn’t really think he would win. This year, Cindric is getting similar odds as he did last year. Could Cindric become the fifth driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s? He certainly has a shot.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 30/1
Similar to Chastain, Stenhouse’s aggressiveness is going to be rewarded at a track like Daytona. Stenhouse knows that Daytona and Talladega are pretty much his only realistic opportunities to win, so that might cause someone to make a desperate move for the win. Those desperate moves might not work all the time, but when it does, it usually means a win.
Other sleepers include: Brad Keselowski (18/1), Alex Bowman (20/1), Tyler Reddick (20/1), Aric Almirola (25/1), Christopher Bell (25/1), Kevin Harvick (25/1), Chase Briscoe (30/1), Chris Buescher (30/1), Austin Dillon (30/1), Ryan Preece (30/1), Daniel Suárez (30/1), Martin Truex Jr. (30/1)
The dark horses (35/1 to 50/1)
Michael McDowell 35/1
Similar to Cindric, the 2021 Daytona 500 champion proved he has what it takes to win on the biggest stage. His Front Row Motorsports car might not have the strength of the other Ford teams, but given Ford is the dominant manufacturer this week, that favors McDowell.
Jimmie Johnson 40/1
Is this Jimmie Johnson’s first NASCAR race since 2020? Yes. Is this Jimmie Johnson’s first NASCAR race in the “Next Gen” car? Yes. That being said, if you can get 40/1 odds on a seven-time champion and a two-time Daytona 500 winner, it’s at least worth considering putting a few bucks on him.
Noah Gragson 50/1
If anyone can pull off what Cindric did last year, it’s Noah Gragson. Gragson has one of the best in the business as an owner and teammate in Jimmie Johnson who can teach him what he knows. That, combined with his former Xfinity Series owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. teaching Gragson what he knows, Gragson already has a Master’s level education in superspeedway racing.
Other dark horses include: Erik Jones (35/1), Justin Haley (40/1), AJ Allmendinger (50/1), Harrison Burton (50/1), Ty Gibbs (50/1)
The long shots (100/1 and higher)
Todd Gilliland 100/1
Todd Gilliland led the last lap of the second Duel, and while he very much seemed uncomfortable being aggressively pushed at the end, Gilliland got a taste of what it’s like up front in the late stages of a superspeedway race. When you’re betting on someone with 100/1 odds, you just want to know if they can even get close to the front. Gilliland showed that on Thursday and learned a valuable lesson that might help him for Sunday.
Corey Lajoie 100/1
Similar to Gilliland, Lajoie proved tough in the Duel and was in the thick of it at the finish. Lajoie is someone who is competitive on superspeedways and is good for a top 10, but hasn’t exactly competed for a win. Lajoie probably won’t win, but when it comes to value, you won’t find anything better than this.
Zane Smith 100/1
The defending Craftsman Truck Series Daytona winner and champion had to race his way in on Thursday night. Zane Smith wasn’t spectacular, but he kept his car clean and finished a solid eighth to qualify for the race. Half the battle is getting to the finish with a clean car, and Smith has done that so far. If he can do the same for 500 miles on Sunday, who knows?
Other long shots include: Travis Pastrana (100/1), Ty Dillon (150/1), Riley Herbst (150/1), Conor Daly (500/1), BJ MeLeod (500/1), Cody Ware (500/1)