Daytona International Speedway

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It has always been one of NASCAR's cruelest tricks to kick off the season with their most unpredictable race. What it lacks in predictability is made up for in excitement, however.

Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are two of the most difficult tracks to handicap. When Bobby Allison ran over a piece of debris on the Talladega frontstretch in 1987, it forever changed the face of NASCAR. His car punched a hole in the catch fence and scattered shrapnel in the stands.

NASCAR was lucky no fans died, but their response was to limit the horsepower in the engines to reduce speed. Cars that might easily exceed 200 miles per hour now only flirt with that mark – and the entire field is capable of drafting in tight confines. Speed is irrelevant until a driver makes a mistake and then 'Big One' accidents are all but impossible to avoid.

Those accidents are why even the favorites face long odds. Denny Hamlin enters the 2022 Daytona 500 with the most wins among active drivers. He has only three. In 2021, he was posted at +800 for the Daytona 500 and +700 for the Daytona 500. Michael McDowell won the 500 with odds of +6600. Ryan Blaney won the regular season finale on this track with a line of +1400.

Streaks are difficult to come by and seem more like anomalies than anything useful that can be plugged into a predictive model. Last year Chase Elliott and Ryan Preece were the only two drivers who swept the top 10 on this course. Preece came closest to sweeping the top five with a sixth in the spring and fourth in the summer. The 2020 season was much the same with three drivers sweeping the top 10.

Just as drivers need to survive the carburetor-restricted superspeedways, fantasy players and bettors are equally challenged.

For fantasy models, spread the wealth throughout the field.

Your betting strategy should be conservative.

The good news is that in both modes, you will find value picks. Dark horses abound and with long odds for the outright win there are reasonable top-three, -five and -10 odds to be found.

When handicapping races at Daytona, you will find it helpful to consider results from Talladega as well. That track is longer and wider, but drivers the same drafting skills are necessary to be successful.

2022 Races
February 20, Daytona 500
August 27, Coke Zero Sugar 400

Active Winners
3: Denny Hamlin
2: Kevin Harvick
1: Michael McDowell, Justin Haley, William Byron, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Kurt Busch

Career Top-fives
13: Kurt Busch
11: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick
8: Kyle Busch
7: Ryan Newman
6: Joey Logano
3: Martin Truex, Jr., Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, and Brad Keselowski
2: Chase Elliott, William Byron, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
1: Ryan Preece, Tyler Reddick, and Justin Haley

Current Streaks
Chase Elliott: 3 top-10s; 4 lead lap finishes
Ryan Preece: 2 top-10s, 2 lead lap finishes
Daniel Suarez: 7 consecutive DNFs (accidents)

2021 Races

February 21, Daytona 500: 1. Michael McDowell (+6600), 2. Chase Elliott (+1000), 3. Austin Dillon (+2500), 4. Kevin Harvick (+1400), 5. Denny Hamlin (+1400)
Best Bets
Power Rankings After Daytona 1
Latest Lines: Daytona 500
Latest Lines: Daytona Qualification Duels

August 28, Coke Zero Sugar 400: 1. Ryan Blaney (+1400), 2. Bubba Wallace (+3000), 3. Ryan Newman (+4000), 4. Ryan Preece (+9000), 5. Tyler Reddick (+3500)
Best Bets
Dark Horses
Power Rankings After Daytona 2
DFS Gems
NASCAR Pick 'Em
Latest Lines

Carburetor-restricted superspeedways: Daytona International Speedway & Talladega Superspeedway