One Early Daytona 500 Wager All Bettors Should Consider Right Now
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Football season is unfortunately over, but all is not lost! For racing fans/rednecks like myself, NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, is right around the corner. In terms of handicapping this race, the Daytona 500 is unique in that cars hit the track in real race conditions multiple times before the 500 goes green.
In general, experienced NASCAR bettors wait to analyze The Clash and Can-Am Duel races before placing the bulk of their Daytona 500 wagers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t soft early lines to take advantage of as well. After looking over current futures, there’s one low risk/high reward driver offering so much value that I’m locking it in now as my first wager for the 2018 Daytona 500.
The recipe to winning the Daytona 500 is equal parts experience in the draft and quality equipment with a generous pinch of luck. While there’s no way to handicap the luck factor, historical performance and equipment point to Paul Menard (50-1) as a driver undervalued by the current betting market.
Menard falls into the “sneaky good” category when it comes to racing at Daytona. Last season, Menard finished 3rd in the Daytona 500 and 5th in July’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Like I mentioned above, getting “lucky” and avoiding big wrecks at restrictor plate races, like the Daytona 500, does influence finishing position, so let’s expand the sample size.
Over the past eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona, Menard ranks 9th in average running position (among drivers that have started at least half of those races), a statistic that measures where drivers are running on the race track throughout the course of an entire race. This is a more accurate measure of a driver’s true performance than simply using average finish that only measures where a driver runs on one lap, the final one.
Getting a driver with two Top 5’s at Daytona last season and who consistently runs among the 10 best cars at this race track at 50-1 is already a nice value, but there’s more…
This is where oddsmakers aren’t properly projecting Menard’s Daytona 500 upside. For the previous seven seasons, Menard drove for Richard Childress Racing which provided decent restrictor plate cars, but certainly wasn’t on par with the top teams like Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.
However, Menard left Richard Childress Racing this offseason to take over the #21 car for Wood Brothers Racing. The Wood Brothers have a close technical alliance with Penske Racing, meaning Menard will be driving the same chassis, motors, etc. as Penske’s drivers. This is significant because Penske’s recent performance at restrictor plate race tracks can be summarized in one word: dominant.
Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have combined to win six (three wins each) of the past 12 restrictor plate races while ranking 1st and 3rd in laps led, respectively. When Menard climbs into his car for the Daytona 500, he’ll be running very similar “stuff” (how it’s colloquially described inside the NASCAR community) as the Penske cars that has clearly been superior to the rest of the field in recent years.
Based on Menard’s ability and experience at Daytona, as well as the technical capabilities of his new team and racecar, 50-1 is a flat-out bargain. Am I calling my shot with a Menard victory? Of course not. But at this price, avid NASCAR bettors can grab Menard now and still have PLENTY of bankroll available to fill out the rest of their Daytona 500 cards. And for those just looking for action to make the race interesting, throwing a couple of bucks on Menard provides a very low-risk, but high-reward wager to root on for The Great American Race.
The bet: Paul Menard (50-1) to win the Daytona 500.
Photo via Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports