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NASCAR: Daytona 500 Preview

NASCAR: Daytona 500 Preview 2 months 3 days ago #500481

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Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Friday 2/15/19
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NASCAR: Daytona 500 Preview 2 months 3 days ago #500482

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By Micah Roberts

Jimmie Johnson's win last week at the Clash gave us all kinds of information to help us handicap Sunday's 61st running of the Daytona 500, but ultimately what it still comes down in restrictor-plate racing is needing a lot of luck to cash. This version of plate racing is similar to the past few seasons with a few subtle differences.

The first thing to recognize is the new Mustang GT body is almost as good as the Fusion body that has dominated plate races for Ford over the past four seasons. The Penske Fords, including Paul Menard in the No. 21, dominated the Clash. Menard led 51 of the 59 laps in the Clash and no one could make the pass so Johnson forced the issue, Menard tried to block and it caused 14 of the 20 cars on the track to pile-up. But those are the things drivers have to do to win because passing is so hard.

“Yeah, I think so," Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said Wednesday about needing to be aggressive to win. "I think plate racing is all about aggressiveness now and making the right moves and your spotter giving you that information of when to move down, which lane is coming. I feel like that communication between you and your spotter is getting more and more important.

"I feel like the races that we won in 2017 if it wasn’t for our spotter, there was no way I would have made some of the correct moves to get to the front or stay in the front, so it’s just part of it. It’s fun, but it’s also I don’t want to say dangerous, but you’re living on the edge as far as running into people, cutting it too close, so it’s just part of it.”

Both of Stenhouse's two career wins came in plate races and his Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 has the same Roush-Yates engines as Team Penske. He's 14-to-1 to win Sunday. The best thing about betting on Stenhouse is that he doesn't care who he rattles. His only goal is to win and he knows his best four chances are each of the plate races so this race is magnified for him to make something happen.

Passing is tough and at no time during the Clash did we see the low-line threaten the freight train up top on the high line. My hope Sunday is that we'll see some of the top teams figure things out down low so it's not just one single file line of nothing for 197 laps and then we have a couple spectacular wrecks late with drivers up front trying to make that winning move.

"I don’t think there’s a safe place when you’re out there," said 2018 Cup Champion Joey Logano. "When you’re running sixth or seventh you can see the leaders dicing it out, throwing blocks, doing things, but if you’re sixth or seventh you’re right behind that and most likely you’re gonna get caught up in it.

"I got lucky the other night that I got through it, but most likely if you’re anywhere close to it, you’re not gonna make it through. It’s the same if you’re the leader, then at least you’re in control of the blocks that are there, you can control your destiny a little bit better. I’d rather be in that spot.”

Yes, everyone should be shooting to get up front because chances are unless the pit crew fails the leader has a chance to lead tons of laps because of hardly any passing. Last year's Daytona 500 saw Penske's Ryan Blaney lead 118 laps which are the most laps led in any single Daytona 500 among all active drivers. That's boring and hopefully with this being the last race featuring the package the issue fixes itself with the new car at Talladega.

Something that really stood out in the Clash for those that were trying to make passes was the side-draft which Daniel Suarez in his new Stewart Haas Racing No. 41 Ford seemed to have the most success with. Denny Hamlin, the 2016 Daytona 500 winner, also had things figured well with the side-draft.

"Any time you can get up beside somebody by an inch or so it just is such a big parachute on either side of the car," said Hamlin. "The moment you can break that plane, it’s amazing how much these cars get drug back versus cars in the past.

"Really, I try to work on the defense of that more than anything. You know it’s there. You just want to put yourself in the position that if you’re going to get passed, put them on the correct side of what side you want to get passed on that way you have a good defense when you get beside them.”

Hamlin has two plate wins over his career but comes off a winless season for the first time in his career. Just like Johnson last week, Hamlin is starving for a win, has a new crew chief, and will do just about anything to win. He likes his chances Sunday.

“Pretty optimistic," Hamlin said Wednesday. "I would say about the same as usual to be honest with you. I thought The Clash kind of gave us an indication that we were able to kind of get up front even starting last. We got up front in a timely manner. No surprises really from that, so there’s no reason to think otherwise that we can’t win.”

The thing to like about Hamlin, besides his 12-to-1 odds, is that he always finds his way to the front. In five of the past eight Daytona 500's he's started on the front row of the last restart.

Hamlin would be my top selection to those who hate Ford. The top Chevy I'd look at is Las Vegan Kurt Busch (14/1) in his new Chip Ganassi No. 1 ride who finished second last week in the Clash. So what it is about the Fords that are so good?

“Fast race cars," said Blaney, who is 12-to-1 to win in his No. 12. "Roush Yates engines have always been great here. Great drivers. I think Brad (Keselowski) and Joey are two of the best plate racers right now and it shows with how many they have won. We all work together and have each others back. At the end of the race we are allowed to go race for it. I think that is the great thing about our company."

Ford has won five of the past nine races at Daytona and seven straight at Talladega Superspeedway, the other restrictor-plate race track. Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers with six plate wins and Logano has four plate wins as well. Blaney looks just as good and Menard will be strong as well. That's four strong cars and then you throw in Roush with Stenhouse and 2008 Daytona winner Ryan Newman in his new No. 6 ride.

And then after that, you've got all those SHR Fords with 2007 Daytona champ Kevin Harvick who comes in as the 8-to-1 co-favorite to win with Keselowski and Logano. Clint Bowyer has two plate wins, Suarez looks really good and Aric Almirola's only two career Cup wins have been in plate races. He should have three plate wins, but Austin Dillon punted him out of the way on the last lap in last years Daytona 500.

“Did I ever have a moment where behind closed doors I stomped my feet and hit some things? Maybe,’’ Almirola said with a smile this week. “In that time, in that moment, it was more important for me to go out and be a good representation for my sponsors and my partners and my kids."

Almirola is 12-to-1 to win this week and I actually like him better Sunday than all his SHR teammates.

As for betting strategy, the volatility of the track makes it a crap shoot which changes a normal betting strategy from races on non-plate tracks. Qualifying doesn't matter much, nor does practices. Luck plays a major role so betting match-ups aren't as attractive like they are on tracks where practice speeds transfer well into race day. For plate races, I like to bet five or six drivers and stagger my allotted bankroll on a favorite or two a mid-level driver and then a long shot or two. The best longshots of the bunch are Menard (40/1), Newman (50/1) and last years Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon (40/1).

For the win, I'm going with Keselowski to capture his first Daytona 500 and I think it will come down to a battle between him and his teammates with Hamlin and Kurt Busch doing the final lap pressing on them.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
2) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)
4) #1 Kurt Busch (14/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (12/1)
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NASCAR: Daytona 500 Preview 2 months 2 days ago #500593

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Best Bets - Daytona 500
By Dan Dobish

Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.

The MENCS heads back to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500, the first race of the 2019 season and the first of four restrictor-plate runs on the schedule.

Chevrolet is looking for a turnaround after an embarrassing four victories in 36 races in the Manufacturer's Championship. Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron (20/1) looks to give Chevy a jump in the Great American Race, as he claimed the pole position for Sunday's race. It will be interesting to see if the advantageous spot can finally spur Byron on at Daytona. In his first two career MENCS starts at DIS he has finishes of 23rd and 32nd place with one DNF. That's a very poor 27.5 Average Finish Position (AFP) with 12 laps led.

Seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson (20/1) won the Clash last Sunday in a controversial finish. He triggered a wrecked that took out nearly the entire 20-car field in a very soggy race, shortened by the weather. Johnson failed to win a race last season for the first time in his career, but he served notice to the rest of the circuit that he is still a force to be reckoned with. It was a win for new crew chief Kevin Meendering and his new primary sponsor Ally, after years with the Lowe's sponsorship coming to an end. The car looked different, but the driver celebrating in Victory Lane looked the same. Johnson has made 34 career starts at Daytona, posting three wins with 11 Top 5s, 14 Top 10s and 299 laps led while posting an 18.59 AFP. He will start on the inside of Row 2 from the third position.

Alex Bowman (22/1) will be on the outside of Row 1 after posting a speed of 194.154 mph in qualifying, just a tick behind teammate Byron in the No. 24 machine. Bowman has had a lot of success in his five career starts at the track, posting a Top 10, three Top 20s and an AFP of 17.4. He has finished inside the Top 10 just the one time, but he has never finished worse than 24th, either, while logging 14 laps led. Bowman checks in third among active drivers with a 99.1 Driver Rating according to NASCAR's Loop Data, and he has run 91.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five-race span.

Hendrick's Chase Elliott (10/1) will be next to his teammate Johnson on the outside of Row 2 heading into Sunday. Elliott has really struggled at the track, managing a dismal 28.7 AFP in six career starts while managing just one finish inside the Top 20. He has qualified well in the past, posting an Average Start of 5.5, buoyed by three pole positions at the track. However, he has always ended up tumbling down the leaderboard to 28.7 with only 61 laps led and a pair of DNFs. Buyer beware.

Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon (33/1) is the defending champion, but Vegas doesn't feel confident he'll be able to repeat. There is good reason, as the Daytona 500 has seen just four repeat winners in its history, as Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarbrough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) are the only drivers to turn the trick. Dillon has a fighting chance, as plate tracks are his specialty. In 11 career starts at Daytona he leads all drivers (min. four starts) with a 13.36 AFP, turning in seven Top 10 finishes with 18 laps led.

Daniel Hemric (50/1) is looking to impress just like he did during qualifying. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year will go off from the fifth position after turning in a qualifying speed of 192.460 mph, so the RCR driver will certainly be worth keeping a close eye on in the No. 8 Chevrolet machine. It will be his first time in a Cup race at Daytona, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the moment too big for him despite an outstanding Speedweeks to date.

Penske Racing's Joey Logano (8/1) was the top Ford during qualifying, posting a speed of 192.448 mph. He'll go off sixth in Sunday's race. Logano checks in sixth in Driver Rating (85.6) across the past five starts at DIS, running 61.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Overall he has made 20 career starts at the superspeedway, posting a win, five Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an AFP of 17.7. His partner in crime, Brad Keselowski (7/1) enters as the early favorite to bring home checkers. He has rather marginal numbers all-time at Daytona, however, posting a win, just three Top 5s and four Top 10s in 19 career starts with a subpar 23.0 AFP. Kes will go off from the ninth position on Sunday.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Clint Bowyer (9/1) has always been strong on the plate tracks, and he is among the favorites to celebrate in Victory Lane on Sunday. While he is outside of the Top 10 in Driving Rating over the past five starts according to Loop Data, a handful of those starts came in inferior machinery until he came over to SHR last season. His overall body of work shows him with a 16.0 AFP, second-best to Dillon among all drivers with at least four starts at Daytona. He has four Top 5s, 12 Top 10s and 159 laps led with just eight finishes outside of the Top 20. Five of those eight finishes resulted in DNFs.

Oh yeah, don't forget about Bowyer's teammate, Kevin Harvick (11/1). He has been a beast on plate runs, and he has a pair of wins in Daytona across 35 career runs with 244 laps led and 40 percent of his starts at DIS resulting in a Top 10 finish. Loop Data shows the driver of the No. 4 machine with an 81.6 Driver Rating and just 39.8 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15. He hangs back in the second pack looking to make his move late while trying to avoid 'The Big One'. It looks like it has been a sound strategy.

Wood Brothers Driver Paul Menard (25/1) was bent out of shape by Johnson's aggressive move in The Clash, but they apparently smoothed things over. He actually led 51 laps in that race, and appeared to have a tremendous setup to his No. 21 Ford. He came back strong in qualifying, posting 191.107 mph speed to qualify in the 11th position. Menard has been a force on plate runs, amd he has a respectable 19.0 AFP in 23 career starts with six Top 10s, 13 Top 20s and 68 laps led with just three DNFs.

Joe Gibbs Racing should never be overlooked, either. Kyle Busch (11/1), Denny Hamlin (10/1) and Erik Jones (25/1) will be looking to make noise in their Toyotas. Rowdy has been erratic at Daytona, although he has made inroads in recent years after many struggles. He has one win and just seven Top 5s in 27 career starts with a marginal 19.2 AFP. Hamlin has had a little more success, going for a win, seven Top 5s and 407 laps led with a 17.7 AFP. Jones enters the season with quite a bit of promise, too, posting a win at the Coke Zero 400 in July 2018, the most recent Cup race at the track. He will go off from the 14th position and could be in line for plenty of upward movement. Busch goes off 13th, and Hamlin 12th, so look for that trio of JGR cars to work together early and often.

Kurt Busch (16/1) moves over to Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing Jamie McMurray (33/1) in the No. 1 Chevy. Busch has managed a win, 13 Top 5s and 307 laps led in his carer at DIS, recording a solid 17.7 AFP. He could get off to a quick start with his new team. He'll be working with Kyle Larson (28/1), too, and the driver of the No. 42 machine is quite the sleeper at this price level. He had never fared particularly well at Daytona, averaging a 24.9 AFP in 10 career starts at the track. His best finish is sixth, just one of two Top 10 finishes with five DNFS -- or half of his all-time Cup starts at the superspeedway. Not good.

Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15/1) is always a solid option on restrictor-plate tracks. He checks in fourth in Driver Average (91.9) over his past five starts at Daytona, leading 79 laps while posting a solid 16.6 AFP. In 13 career starts he has a win, three Top 10s and eight Top 20 finishes while posting just two DNFs. Rookies Ryan Preece (66/1), Matt Tifft (150/1) and Cody Ware (150/1) will make their first-ever Cup starts at Daytona, but they're very risky plays.
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