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Feb 16, 2024 5:07 pm

2024 Daytona 500: Preview, Best Bets, Longshot Pick

denny hamlin

The 66th running of the annual Daytona 500 will take place Sunday, with the green flag scheduled to drop at 2:30 p.m. ET. There are seven former champions in the field, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. attempting to become only the fifth driver to successfully defend his title.

Our motor racing experts preview the event, and take a look at the best bets — and one dangerous longshot pick — to take the checkered flag.

DAYTONA 500
Location: Daytona International Speedway
Date: Sunday, Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m. ET
Distance: 2.5-mile superspeedway
Defending champion: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Cup Series leader: Denny Hamlin
TV: NBC
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

BEST BETS
Denny Hamlin (+1100 at BetMGM)
Hamlin was passed by teammate Christopher Bell on the final lap of the second Duel on Thursday night, but no one should overlook the three-time Daytona 500 winner (2016, ’19, 20), who is part of a very select group to win in consecutive years. Hamlin is coming off a win from the pole in the Busch Light Clash and will start eighth on Sunday. Along with the trio of wins, Hamlin has 11 top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes at Daytona — although he also has five career DNFs.

Brad Keselowski (+1200)
Keselowski has a mixed history at the Daytona 500, where he has been in contention late on multiple occassions but has yet to finish better than third a decade ago. He’s starting in the middle of the pack at 16th, leading to his odds lengthening a bit since opening at +1000. However, he remains second among all drivers with 7.3 percent of the money backing him to win.

Joey Logano (+1200)
Logano, 33, earned his first Daytona 500 pole, becoming the oldest pole winner since Jeff Gordon did it at 43 in 2015, a race in which Logano won his only 500. It was also Team Penske’s first-ever Daytona 500 pole and the first for a Ford driver since Carl Edwards grabbed the top spot in 2012.

Ryan Blaney (+1200)
The defending Cup champion has had several close calls at Daytona, finishing second in 2017 and 2020 and fourth in 2022 — three of his five top-10s in his past seven starts in the race. He has knocked on the door repeatedly — is 2024 the time the checkered flag finally opens for him? Blaney is seeking to become the sixth defending Cup champ to win at Daytona.

Kyle Busch (+1200)
Busch is another highly accomplished veteran driver in search of his first Daytona 500 victory. His best to date is a runner-up in 2019, and he’ll have his work cut out from him from the 34th spot on the grid to start. Regularly a popular choice, Busch is BetMGM’s biggest liability this week. He leads the field with 8.3 percent of the bets and 12.5 percent of the money backing him to win since opening at +1700.

Kyle Larson (+1600)
Larson was edged out by Tyler Reddick on the final lap of Thursday night’s first Duel. He’s the book’s second biggest liability this week, drawing the third most total bets at 5.0 percent since opening at +2000.

Christopher Bell (+1700)
Bell closed last season with a spot in the playoffs and now has a Duel victory early in 2024. Granted, he led only one lap after passing Hamlin the final time around, but he’ll start on Row 2. Bell had three top-8 finishes in six superspeedway starts last year, but has only one career top-15 finish in the Daytona 500.

LONGSHOT PICK
Tyler Reddick (+3000)
Reddick is also coming off a playoff berth followed by a win in the Duels, yet he has only the 17th shortest odds among the field at BetMGM. He’ll start alongside Bell on the second row.

FAST FACTS
–Only four drivers have won consecutive Daytona 500s: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95) and Hamlin (2019-20).

–Nine drivers have won their first Cup races at the Daytona 500. There are 15 drivers in Sunday’s field seeking their first Cup win.

THE NEWS
Reddick and Bell left the track with their first Duel wins on Thursday, but it was not their car manufacturer — Toyota — that was the focal point in the victories.

It was the fact that two young playoff drivers from last season, hard chargers in elite equipment, led exactly one lap around the World Center of Racing in finishing first.

Reddick, 28, outdueled Larson’s Chevrolet over the last half-lap, staying low and hugging the bottom lane.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Bell did the same later with his Camry XSE by beating Hamlin the final time around.

Two laps led, two wins.

If anything is to be learned from the qualifiers, it is that a driver just needs to be in the top four or five when the white flag flies.

Also that piloting the lead car is not necessarily advantageous.

A Cup Series winner on the DIS road course three years ago, Bell said it was good to have familiar faces around him.

“I was really nervous on that last restart because I saw pretty much the whole field was lined up on the outside, and we didn’t have many on the inside,” said Bell, who will line up beside Reddick in Row 2. “These Toyotas were super, super fast.”

–Field Level Media

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