The 2017 Daytona 500 is just four days away, but already fans from coast to coast are making their way to the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida as NASCAR once again prepares to kick off their annual season schedule with the biggest race of all — the Daytona 500.
While it is just the first race of the very long NASCAR season schedule, it is by far and away the most popular and one of the most watched races of the season.
For NASCAR fans, the Daytona 500 is like starting an NFL season with the Super Bowl, the baseball season with the World Series, or thoroughbred horse racing with the Kentucky Derby. By no means does that mean that the season gets less exciting or less meaningful in auto racing, it just means NASCAR’s version of opening day has all the hype that one of those big events has, and to many, it has even more!
It truly is more than a car race when the Daytona 500 takes place. It is one big party all week long at Daytona International Speedway, and it is more proof of how much the sport has grown over the past 10-15 years. NASCAR is officially one of the fastest growing sports in America.
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) February 17, 2017
So, who is predicted to start the season off on a great note this Sunday and win this year’s Daytona 500?
That honor belongs to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Bleacher Report indicates that despite not winning a Cup Series race since last season’s Can-Am Duel preliminary, Vegas book makers have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. atop the odds board to win the 2017 Daytona 500 — otherwise known as the Great American Race.
It does seem a bit odd to make Junior the favorite after he has failed to win a race in such a long stretch of time. However, it may be because Earnhardt has claimed the checkered flag twice in Daytona (2014 and 2004) and he has had success running at Daytona Speedway. Keep in mind last season Earnhardt finished a dismal 36th overall in the Daytona 500.
Right behind Junior (in a virtual tie, but ruled second due to wagering rules) on the odds board is Brad Keselowski. The Michigan native collected four wins last season and finished the 2016 season ranked No. 12 overall in the NASCAR standings.
While the drama is always high at Daytona, it will be hard to beat the top last results.
In one of the best, and clearly the most dramatic, finishes in NASCAR history, Denny Hamlin edged out Martin Truex, Jr. by 0.01 seconds, which is the closest finish in the history of the race. How does one even comprehend winning by 0.01 seconds? That is unreal!
This year both Hamlin and Truex, Jr. have great odds for the betting public to win Daytona.
Hamlin is currently listed at +1200, while Truex, Jr. is as high as +1600. Those are some sweet odds for a pair of guys who are more than capable of pulling out the win.
How about the 2016 winner Denny Hamlin?
Hamlin is currently at 12/1 (+1200 on the Vegas odds board), but if you believe in recent history, you may not want to wager on the 2016 Daytona winner. Nobody has won back-to-back Daytona 500 races since Sterling Marlin accomplished the feat in 1994 and 1995. That right there is a great indication of how tough it is to win the Daytona 500.
Other odds of note include Jimmie Johnson, last year’s Sprint Cup Series champion (now known as the Monster Energy Drink Champion) is listed fourth tied with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at +1000.
The 2017 Daytona 500 is scheduled to get underway this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Be sure to click here to check out the odds for each driver.
[Featured Image by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images]