NASCAR Daytona 500 2023 Drivers, Predictions and Best Bets: Ryan Blaney breaks through

NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (12) drives down pit road prior to the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
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Matt Selz


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NASCAR handicapper for Pickswise, looking to give you winners throughout the season!

The Super Bowl of racing is here! Fresh off the heels of the amazing game between the Chiefs and Eagles comes the Daytona 500 — the Super Bowl of NASCAR. One of the most famous tracks in all of racing, at any level or discipline, Daytona International Speedway is all set to host the 2023 addition of The Great American Race to officially kickoff NASCAR’s 75th season. It’s a great race to kick off our betting picks for this NASCAR season as well.

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Daytona 500 Betting Strategy

The Daytona 500 is often described as chaotic or a wild card race. While that’s true, there are ways to see through the chaos and parse the betting markets for the best picks. To the untrained observer what happens on the track seems like a dart throw at best, however, studying previous races, we can start to see patterns that occur. Over the last several iterations of the race we’ve seen at least six if not a few more drivers start outside the top-15 and finish in the top-10. Most of those started outside the top-20. If we look at the data dating back to 2014 — or the last nine Daytona 500s — the closest to the front that a driver has won from is P5, twice. Five of those nine winners have started P10 or worse. Sure, there are crashes… usually a lot. However, if we study the drivers who have the most laps completed in that span, we’ll be led to the drivers we should feel better about wagering on.

On a side note, this is a race where we can spread out bets around a bit as well. The “favorites” at plate races like Daytona and Talladega are typically 10-1 or longer, or twice as long as a normal race. That indicates that Vegas considers it a wide-open race so we should take advantage on the returns and spread our wagers around a bit.

Check out all of our NASCAR picks and predictions

Daytona 500 outright winner best bets

Odds posted from DraftKings Sportsbook as of the time of publishing

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

How close does Blaney have to come to winning a few different times before winning himself? He’s been the lead pusher at the end of the race a few times in a row now between pushing Austin Cindric last year and Ryan Newman a few years earlier. The Team Penske Fords are always strong here and when you couple that with Blaney’s perfect driving style for plate races, we get a driver who should be the overall favorite. Getting him a tick longer than Kyle Larson is a nice boost to his value too. You could target his teammate Joey Logano at the same odds too.

Denny Hamlin (+1300)

How can we not include a three-time winner of The Great American Race? Even when he doesn’t win he’s in position late way more often than not. It’s just too hard to pass up putting some money on a guy with three wins in the last seven Daytona 500s. Yes, he’s starting P18 on Sunday, however, he’s proven that winners can come from anywhere with wins from P21, P10, and P11.

Alex Bowman (+2000)

Putting Bowman as a pick is perhaps my most interesting pick. Why? He’s the pole-sitter and pole-sitters haven’t won the Daytona 500 in 22 years. That makes him more of a risk than a pole-sitter at just about any other race. So why is he on the list then? Well, at some point that streak has to end and he’s just got too much speed to be ignored. In single-car qualifying on Wednesday he put nearly .2 seconds between him and second place Kyle Larson. To give you an idea of that gap, that’s basically the same time gap as there was from Larson in P2 to Chase Briscoe in P6 with William Byron, Aric Almirola, and Joey Logano stuffed in between. If he can stay at or near the front much of the race he’s got the speed to make a run late when it matters.

Aric Almirola (+2500)

Amirola speaking of his Duel #2 win on Thursday “I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be retired.” Exactly. He’s playing with house money and his skills are still good, especially at plate tracks. He’s won at Talladega before and a handful of Daytona 500s ago he was 1-mile away from winning before getting spun from the lead 3/4 of the way down the backstretch on the final lap. The number-10 SHR Ford is fast and is handling well too. That’s a great combination for the race come Sunday. In case you’re concerned that he’s starting too high to be a factor, Austin Cindric and Joey Logano have won from P5 twice in the last nine races including last year.

Erik Jones (+3500)

As if the Guns N’ Roses paint scheme, yes that Guns N’ Roses, wasn’t enough, he’s looked good on track through qualifying and the duels. He’ll be rolling off P25 on Sunday, but again, a driver can win from anywhere in the Daytona 500. Jones has won a couple of plate races in his career including at Daytona. Myself and my Fantasy Alarm NASCAR colleague have been taking Jones as low as 25-1 this week so 35-1 is a value in my mind for a driver that has all of the tools to take the 43-car to victory lane and get the biggest win of his career.

Corey Lajoie (100/1)

What fun is it to not bet a long shot? This is the perfect race to take a stab at a guy this far down the odds slip too. Lajoie has proven to be a driver that can hang in the front of the pack at these types of tracks in the last few years and in fact, he has these races circled as his best chances to win throughout the season. He’s finished P8 and P9 in two of the last three 500s and was fighting for the lead at both Talladega and Atlanta last year. For a guy going off at this long of odds, that’s a good history. Not to mention that his average finish over the last nine 500s is top-15 in the field. It’s not everyday you see a guy going off at 100-1 that has a legit shot to win.

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Prop Bets For 2023 Daytona 500

Denny Hamlin top-5 finish (+300)

This prop is simple. We clearly picked him as a winning threat above but this time we’re hedging a bit. We just need him to finish in the top-five to win 3x ROI and that’s a feat he’s pulled off seven times in the last nine Daytona 500s. The next closest driver to that in that span is Kevin Harvick with four. So in essence DraftKings Sportsbook is giving him a 25% chance (1/(3+1)) of doing something he’s done 77% of the time over nearly a decade.

Austin Dillon top-5 finish (+380)

At a track like Daytona, what we call an extreme-variability track, we’re looking for top-5 returns of at least +300, we get that here. We’re also looking for drivers who have been consistent for a while at the track, we get that here. These odds for Dillon are giving him a 20.8% chance (5/(5+19)) of finishing P5 or better. Dillon has two top-fives in the last nine Daytona 500s including a win, which is 22.2% of the time. However, if we go just since his win it’s two top-fives in the last five which is 40% of the time. Either way the consistency is in his favor not to mention the two other P9 finishes in the nine race span too.

Michael McDowell top-5 finish (+450)

McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 winner has finished P7 or better three of the last four years here. He also among the leaders in laps completed at plate races over the last three years. That means he’s likely to be on the track late on Sunday and that’s what matters for a top-5 finish bet. To keep the chance theme going, the 9/2 odds he’s at give him an 18.2% chance of nabbing a top-five which just inherently feels a bit long given his track record (pun intended) here.

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At Pickswise we offer free NASCAR picks including analysis and NASCAR betting advice from expert NASCAR handicappers.

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