|Matt Kenseth had the best car during Daytona speedweeks in February|
To show the disparity in odds from a normal weekend compared to a plate race, all we need to do is look at the Kentucky odds from last week where David Ragan was 1,000-to-1 and Danica Patrick was 500-to-1. This week, Ragan, who won at Talladega in the spring, is 75-to-1 while Patrick, who finished a season-best eighth in the Daytona 500, is 30-to-1.
If there is one beast of a car on the track this week, however, it would be Kenseth, winner of the 2009 and 2012 Daytona 500. During his past few years with Roush Racing, Kenseth has established himself as one of the elite plate-racing drivers and closed out his second-to-last win with the program at Talladega last season.
While Kenseth has yet to win in two plate races this season for Joe Gibbs Racing, he has thoroughly dominated both events. He started out fast during Daytona speed weeks and carried it over into the season by leading a race high 86 laps in the Daytona 500. His engine expired with 51 laps to go and was relegated to a 37th-place finish.
At Talladega, Kenseth was the big dog again leading a race high eight times, totaling 142 of the 192 laps, the type of domination rarely seen there. With two laps to go, he was passed by Carl Edwards and then Ragan took the lead away on the final lap. Kenseth would end up finishing eighth. Chances are, he'll be fast again, though the best car rarely seems to win at Daytona.
The second choice to win this week is Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 10-to-1. Once regarded as one of the best plate race drivers in the series, Junior hasn't claimed a win on them since 2004 when he won the Daytona 500 and fall Talladega race. Since his last win at Daytona, a span of 18 races, he’s been runner-up three times, third-place three times, and has four other top-10 finishes. Over his last 20 starts, no one has a better average finish (12.9) than Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona.
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are listed next at 12-to-1 odds. Johnson won his second Daytona 500 in February while Busch took the checkers in the 2008 summer race. Harvick is a two-time winner at Daytona, and also won the race formerly known as the Bud Shootout -- Sprint Unlimited -- a week prior to this year’s Daytona 500. Harvick will be using that same chassis this week.
Tony Stewart comes in at 15-to-1 odds as the defending winner of this race. He’s never won the Daytona 500, but has won the summer event on four occasions. Six-time Daytona winner Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Kasey Kahne are also listed at 15-to-1. Kahne has yet to win at either Daytona or Talladega in his career, while Bowyer has two Talladega wins.
The largest Las Vegas odds payout we’ve seen in the Daytona summer race in recent years was David Ragan (40-to-1) winning his first career Sprint Cup race in the 2011 Coke Zero 400. Ragan and Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland have to be acknowledged and respected this week simply because of the duo running 1-2 at Talladega two months ago. Both are listed at 75-to-1 this week.
The largest payout ever at Daytona was Trevor Bayne at 100-to-1 following his 2011 Daytona 500 win. Bayne hasn’t cracked the top-25 at Daytona in four starts since that win, but is still listed at a conservative 50-to-1 to win Saturday night.
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