The first full points-paying race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule kicks off this Sunday with the running of the Daytona 500. The race caps off two weeks of activity which started with the Menards ARCA Racing Series, which was recently purchased by NASCAR, running their season opener last Saturday with the Cup Series Auto Zone Clash won by Jimmie Johnson on Sunday.
Now, with Ford debuting the new Mustang, it seems some familiar names are riding the list of favorites to win. In fact, there are three drivers topping the leaderboard heading into Sunday’s race. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano are grouped at 8/1 according to oddsmakers. Here are a few reasons why there’s no clear favorite.
All three drivers are Cup Series Champions, with Logano defending his 2018 title.
Harvick and Logano have won the Daytona 500 before, while Keselowski has a win at the Summer race at the Superspeedway.
All three drivers won multiple races last season and are behind the wheel of Ford Mustangs.
Why Ford is Favored
Last season, nineteen Cup Series races were won by drivers behind the wheel of Ford Fusions. Now that the “Blue Oval” teams have switched to the Mustang there seems to be little or no drop off in performance. Paul Menard, a Ford driver, was out in front of the 20-car Clash field last Sunday for 53 laps of a scheduled 70-lap shootout. Jimmie Johnson came down on him causing a massive wreck that collected Menard. Ford was out front.
The Daytona Gander RV Duel races, twin shootout pre-qualifying races on Saturday night, produced two more Ford winners. Harvick won the first duel, with Logano taking the checkered flag in the second. That’s two of three wins for Ford drivers, with a possibility of Ford taking all three Cup Series races if not for Johnson and Menard’s wreck.
It will be a daunting task for Chevrolet or Toyota to win the Daytona 500. But superspeedway races are not always predictable.
Don’t Count Out Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr
Looking at the odds posted below, it noticeable that there’s a whole bunch of Ford drivers at the top of the list. But never count out Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Both are past Cup Series Champions, with Busch having one win at the Summer Daytona race. Truex has not shown his best stuff at Daytona, but he does have a pole and a handful of top-five and top-ten finishes.
Truex has now moved from Furniture Row Racing, which closed following the 2018 season, to Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s now teammates with Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones. That’s a powerful line-up behind the wheel of Toyotas.
Penalty Changes for 2019
Perhaps the biggest story-line heading into the 2019 season is the fact that NASCAR seems to have grown tired of race winners being found to have gone past the wiggle room allowed in the playbook. Remember Kevin Harvick’s collapsing rear window which improved his downforce? In seasons past drivers and teams were docked a few points, made to pay a fine, and team members were suspended—but the victory stood. The winning driver whose car was found to violate the rules remained as the recorded winner.
This season, winning cars found in severe violation of the rules will have the win stripped, be recorded as the last car in the field, have all but one of the earned points taken away, and the second place car will be named the winner. Plus, you can count on suspensions as well as being completely embarrassed in front of fans and sponsors.
Who knows how this will work out over the course of the season. No team wants to be the first one to have a checkered flag taken away. But, if you want to bet on that, I’m sure the odds are out there somewhere.
TV Race Schedule for Daytona Race Weekend
Friday, Feb. 15
7:30 p.m. ET: NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series NextEra Energy 250, FS1/fuboTV
Saturday, Feb. 16
2:30 p.m. ET: NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300, FS1/fuboTV
Sunday, Feb. 17
2:30 p.m. ET: Daytona 500, Fox/fuboTV
Betting Odds for the Daytona 500
Kevin Harvick, Ford 8/1
Brad Keselowski, Ford 8/1
Joey Logano, Ford 8/1
Clint Bowyer, Ford 10/1
Aric Almirola, Ford 12/1
Denny Hamlin, Toyota 12/1
Chase Elliott, Chevrolet 12/1
Ryan Blaney, Ford 12/1
Daniel Suarez, Ford 14/1
Kyle Busch, Toyota 14/1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford 14/1
Kurt Busch, Chevrolet 14/1
Martin Truex Jr., Toyota 14/1
Alex Bowman, Chevrolet 25/1
Erik Jones, Toyota 25/1
Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet 25/1
Kyle Larson, Chevrolet 30/1
Austin Dillon, Chevrolet 40/1
Paul Menard, Ford 40/1
Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet 50/1
Ryan Newman, Ford 50/1
Ryan Preece, Chevrolet 80/1
William Byron, Chevrolet 80/1
Bubba Wallace Jr., Chevrolet 80/1
Chris Buescher, Chevrolet 100/1
Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota 200/1
Ty Dillon, Chevrolet 1000/1
David Ragan, Ford 1000/1
Michael McDowell, Ford 2000/1
Field (all others) 30/1