The Daytona 500 will christen the 2019 NASCAR season in Daytona Beach, Florida on Sunday, February 17th, and as betting action on the Great American Race escalates, gamblers may notice that last year’s winner Austin Dillon is nowhere near the top of the futures odds board.
Ace is getting no love from bookies and clientele, who want names like Keselowski (7-to-1) and Logano (+825). What are the circumstances behind Dillon’s anticipated crank-and-sputter title defense?
Scroll down for capsule-updates on each driver and our prediction for the checkered flag.
Defending Champ Austin Dillon is a 35-to-1 Underdog in 2019
There was a “fairy tale” component to Austin Dillon’s exhilarating win at Daytona last season. Dillon survived an epic crash with 6 laps to go in the race, and then ended up contacting leader Aric Almirola and brushing his competitor’s car aside.
Gifted, successful, up-and-coming at the NASCAR level while greatly skillful on other levels as a young man, somehow Ace does not get the esteem of a genuine defending champion.
His 2018 was inconsistent. After some hopeful finishes in the top 5, Dillon sank out of contention in the Cup race and slammed his automobile into the outside wall twice during a race in Charlotte in September.
Dillon has hooked up with an old friend, Danny Stockman, who helped him win Truck Series and Nationwide Series titles earlier in the decade. Does this competitor deserve such long (+3500) betting odds for Daytona? Maybe not, but the results from last summer and autumn were nothing to get revved-up about.
Brad Keselowski (+700 Odds-to-Win Daytona 500 at Bovada Sportsbook)
The 34-year old former Cup series champion begins his 10th season driving for Team Penske. Coming off trademark wins at the Southern 500 in Darlington and the Brickyard 400 in Indy, the driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford is odds-on for the impending Daytona 500.
A Rochester Hills, Michigan native, Keselowski scored his first career Cup title in 2012 and has competed in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series playoffs in 7 of the last 8 seasons.
Nevertheless, I am not buying this racer as a steady favorite. Keselowski has won on the track at Daytona before, but his absolute best finish at the Great American Race is a 3rd place finish in 2014. He finished 8th last season after a series of bad-luck placements that possibly could have been improved upon with better teamwork and forethought.
Joey Logano (+825)
2018 was a significant season for Logano, a 28-year-old native of Connecticut and one of the best racecar drivers in America. The driver of a #22 Shell Ford won his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship for Team Penske, sealing the title with a victory in the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The former Rookie of the Year also picked up key wins at Talladega and Martinsville.
Logano will launch his title defense by seeking a 2nd Daytona 500 crown. He’s been around the lead a lot in recent incarnations of the race.
Kevin Harvick (+850)
This 43-year-old veteran has built a well-known Cup career since his 2001 rookie campaign. In many ways, Harvick is the embodiment of consistency. Harvick and the Busch team have garnered a trip to the playoffs in each of the past 5 seasons.
Harvick dominated in 2018 with over half a dozen victories, including wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Richmond, and the All-Star race at Charlotte. He then came up just short of a championship with a 3rd place finish in the final standings.
He will seek a 2nd victory at the Great American Race in 2019, but is the Daytona track becoming a menace for an otherwise radiant racer the way the Indianapolis Motor Speedway plagued Mario Andretti?
Harvick’s lone Daytona 500 win came in 2007 and he has not finished in the top 5 since 2016.
Kyle Busch (+1200)
The younger of the Busch brothers, Kyle has come nail-bitingly close to grabbing another Monster Energy title in only a handful of competitive seasons. The 33-year old driver of #18 M&M’s Toyota has earned a trip to the Championship 4 in each of the past 4 seasons, though his solitary title came in 2015.
With 51 career Cup series victories, Busch ranks behind only the celebrated Jimmie Johnson for most wins by an active driver. Busch scored 8 more victories in 2018, including wins at Bristol, Richmond, and Charlotte. Busch would come up short in the Championship 4 at the Homestead season finale and finished 4th in the final standings.
Notwithstanding having one of the most remarkable NASCAR careers in recent memory, Busch has yet to see the winner’s circle at the Daytona 500. His best career finish at the Great American Race was 3rd in 2016.
Aric Almirola (+1300)
Almirola has the most difficult psychological job of all drivers in the 2019 race. He must work to clamber back into a winning position, and then overcome any sense of Deja Vu.
The 34-year-old is looking to build off of his best season to date. A native of Tampa, Florida, he picked up his first win with Stewart-Haas Racing at Talladega in ‘18 and earned a trip to the playoffs for the 2nd time in his career.
The Cuban Missile barely missed the Championship 4 and finished 5th in the final 2018 standings. The past pair of Daytona 500s has been slim misses for Almirola. He picked up a 4th place finish in 2017.
My Early Lean for the Daytona 500
I am liking Joey Logano at (+825). The true favorite probably has 10% or 20% better real chances to win as Keselowski at the shorter number. Go with the value pick in Florida.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.