|Will racing Sunday be like Saturday?|
However, like I say four times a year in the restrictor-plate races, anything can happen. And in the case of choosing Denny Hamlin to win the 58th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, there's a lot of logical backing involved besides stats and trends, but he's got those too.
The first thing to review in Hamlin's case is what happened Saturday in the Sprint Unlimited where he was one of only three drivers to lead a lap. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, helped push Hamlin to the front and then no one could pass him. Hamlin has become a very accomplished plate racer the past three years, which includes a Talladega win. He's won the Sprint Unlimited three times at Daytona, but a points-paying race win there has eluded him.
“We have certainly shown that we have the speed in the car that we need to win at Daytona," Hamlin said. "It’s just a matter of putting it all together in the big race on Sunday. We have put ourselves in position to win the Daytona 500 the last few years, but it hasn’t all come together yet. There are so many other variables involved that need to go your way to win the 500, and hopefully they will come together for our FedEx team this weekend."
Some of those variables involve having all his teammates ready to push him and also getting a few of his top competitors to have some poor luck with a short day. Saturday night he got a little both with his teammates hanging around and also having the favorites of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson get involved in wrecks.
Over the past four Daytona races, Hamlin has finished sixth or better for a 3.75 average finish. His team is strong, he's trending upward and he's also in a contract year. He's got all the motivation needed to win and the means to do it within the JGR stable. Even at 10/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $1,0000), down from 15/1 before Saturday's win, Hamlin still presents value.
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