Daytona 500: Las Vegas Odds & Surprise Picks

Todd JacobsCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2011

Daytona 500: Las Vegas Odds & Surprise Picks

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no stranger to Victory Lane at Daytona.Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The Daytona 500 is upon us and thus another season of attempting to pick who will win the most unpredictable NASCAR race of them all. 

    Sure Kevin Harvick or Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip had their runs winning the Great American Race, but now the field is wide-open and the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook odds to win reflect this.

    With drivers such as Brad Keselowski as a live dog at 50:1 and former winner and Hendrick satellite driver Ryan Newman at 30:1 there is some value betting the long shots for the Daytona 500. 

    For perspective on how wide-open super speedway odds are, Brad Keselowski was a 300:1 driver last season for most of the year.

Regan Smith—100:1

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    Regan Smith is hoping to improve on his performance in the Bud Shootout.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Regan Smith had a restrictor-plate win taken away from him a few years ago but the Furniture Row No. 78 is not capable of making a run.

Bobby Labonte—100:1

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    Bobby Labonte makes a lateral move over to the No. 47.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Bobby Labonte takes over the No. 47 Toyota and although it is a little better, other than a lateral move, he will run in the middle of the pack for most of the Daytona 500.

Marcos Ambrose—75:1

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    Marcos Ambrose joins Richard Petty and AJ Allmendinger for the 2011 season.Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Marcos Ambrose has improved on the intermediate tracks but his restrictor-plate skills are still a work in progress.

Brad Keselowski—50:1

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    Brad Keselowski steps into the legendary MIller Lite Blue Duece in 2011.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski has one restrictor-plate victory under his belt and as controversial as that win is, Keselowski is still a solid restrictor-plate driver that should have better equipment this year. 

    With Penske Racing going to a two-car team it will allow them focus and become a better unit. Look for Keselowski to run upfront and be in contention at the end.

Paul Menard—40:1

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    Paul Menard Moves to his third team in three years as he tries to latch on with RCR.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Paul Menard is driving one of, if not the best restrictor-plate program(s) in NASCAR now that he joined RCR.

    Menard is an average driver that has improved and showed promise but he is a non-factor in the Daytona 500.

A.J. Allmendinger—40:1

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    A.J. Allmendinger is not afraid to have fun while killing time between races.Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    A.J. Allmendinger has had some good runs on restrictor-plate racing and in this year's Daytona 500 it will be a matter of finishing. 

    His Richard Petty Motorsports car will have a Roush FR-9 under the hood which will help him run upfront.

David Ragan—35:1

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    David Ragan runs well on superspeedways but he is a magnet for crashes on the big track.Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    David Ragan is in a critical crossroads in his career and in this Daytona 500, his focus will be on finishing in one piece, not winning.

Martin Truex Jr.—30:1

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    Martin Truex Jr. is a live underdog at 30-1.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Martin Truex Jr. has talent on restrictor-plate tracks that dates back to his rookie season with DEI. 

    Truex will also have the added advantage of his owner and restrictor-plate racing master Michael Waltrip if he qualifies on Thursday.

David Reutimann—30:1

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    David Reutimann has two career wins but he has good stuff with MWR.Jason Smith/Getty Images

    David Reutimann will also benefit if Michael Waltrip qualifies for this year's Daytona 500. The engine package has not looked strong early in Speedweeks but it may not be an issue this Sunday.

Brian Vickers—30:1

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    Brian Vickers returns after dealing with blood clot issues in 2010.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Brian Vickers is returning from blood clot issues in 2010, but after Daytona practice and testing he looks to have not missed a beat. Vickers also has an experienced teammate that knows how to win, in Kasey Kahne. 

    The two-car breakaway will be important and Vickers has a chance to be upfront on the final lap. It is tough to bet on Vickers but after the Gatorade Duels it may be easier to make a play on him at 30:1.

Kasey Kahne—30:1

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    Kasey Kahne blew his engine in the Bud Shootout.Nick Laham/Getty Images

    I know how to say I am wrong. My pick of Kasey Kahne at 25-1 to win the Bud Shootout went up in smoke and smoked my long-shot pick in the process.

    I can only wonder if the Red Bull Racing team and or Kasey Kahne did not take into account the added strain on their motor with the reduced air-flow on their grill. 

    Kahne was the only driver to lose his motor in the Bud Shootout, which raises questions as to their compensation and strategy with the unexpected rule change. 

Greg Biffle—30:1

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    Greg Biffle looked comfortable in the two car breakaways.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Greg Biffle has a restrictor-plate win under his belt and has shown he can run upfront and out-front in the past. The new Roush FR9 has come of age and it will be put to the test for 500 miles this year. 

    Biffle is not a bad play to consider since his car has shown it can run through the field quickly in two-car breakaways.

    Remember that the qualifying races are basically 150 miles of drafting practice so don't take much of that race into account.

Matt Kenseth: 30-1

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    Matt Kenseth has three teammates and two of them are experienced drafting partners.Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth is another Roush driver that will have a strong power plant under the hood.  Kenseth has won a restrictor-plate race but only owns three top-fives at Daytona with 10 top-10s. 

    If Kenseth keeps his nose clean he will be a player in the final push but it is unlikely he will find Victory Lane.

Jeff Burton—25:1

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    Jeff Burton has three RCR teammates that are strong restrictor plate racers.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Jeff Burton has one win on the high banks of Daytona but he also has seven top-fives.

    He is a solid restrictor plate driver that is trusted by most of the drivers on super speedways and two of his RCR teammates are among the best restrictor-plate drivers on the NASCAR circuit.

    All things considered, Burton may not be the best choice at 25:1.

Juan Montoya: 20-1

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    Montoya was caught up in the largest crash of the Bud Shootout Saturday night.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The Earnhardt Childress Racing engine package is a strong motor and anyone with a strong motor has a chance to win the Daytona 500. Kurt Busch was pushed by Jamie McMurray's ECR engine when he won the Bud Shootout Saturday. 

    The problem with taking Montoya at a restrictor-plate race is patience. Montoya makes most of mistakes in tight quarters but this race may be a different animal. 

    Keep an eye on how he looks in Gatorade Duels.

Joey Logano—20:1

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    Joey Logano once again crashed out of the Bud Shootout.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Joey Logano is on one of the best teams in NASCAR but the driver once known as "Sliced Bread" has been overshadowed by his two talented teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

    Logano has come a long way since his first restrictor-plate race but it is obvious most drivers have not given him the trust in key situations. 

    Look for Logano to learn more as he races this weekend in the Gatorade Duels and the Daytona 500.

Mark Martin—20:1

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    Mark Martin and Kyle Busch had difficulty bump drafting Saturday night.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Mark Martin has had chances to win the Daytona 500 but this year may be his last chance in a competitive Hendrick Motorsports car. Martin's 2012 season is up in the air and he is the sentimental favorite to take home the hardware this Sunday.

    Martin has been inches away from victory in the past at this storied track and he does have one win in the summer on the legendary two and a half course.

    Martin is worth a look at 20:1 to win the Daytona 500.

Kurt Busch—15:1

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    Kurt Busch is looking to back up his Bud Shootout win with his first Daytona 500 win.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Any time you can get the bud Shootout winner at 15-1 for the Daytona 500 you aren't going to have any better ideas. 

    One thing to remember before taking Busch in the Penske Dodge: 

    Busch said in Victory Lane that Jamie McMurray's motor was the stronger motor and that he would never have won without him pushing.

    Busch said his Dodge did not have the output of the ECR engine package or the Hendrick Motorsports engine package.

Carl Edwards—15:1

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    If Edwards can keep his car pointed in the right direction he has the motor and the team.Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Carl Edwards ranks 10th on the Daytona power rankings issued by NASCAR's media department. 

    He has three top-fives and five top-tens on the big track. 

    Edwards is hit-or-miss on Daytona and if he is on, his engine package and new Roush aero package will keep him upfront for crunch time.

Jimmie Johnson—12:1

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    Jimmie Johnson looked strong in the Bud Shootout.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Jimmie Johnson enters this year's Daytona 500 with his best chance in several years. Johnson ran up front in the Bud Shootout and his car ran well in the car breakaways. 

    Strong engine package plus a clean aero package gives Johnson an equal shot with his two Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

    At short odds of 12:1 it is tough to make a play on him but he could be a cover bet.

Denny Hamlin—12:1

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    Denny Hamlin was robbed of the win Saturday night but will be a solid favorite Sunday.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Denny Hamlin learned his lesson at the right time when he was penalized 12 positions by NASCAR after the Bud Shootout.

    Going below the double-yellow line did not cost him a Daytona 500 victory and it did not cost him valuable points.

    Now Hamlin knows NASCAR will enforce the rule in every circumstance and be assured if he is in that situation this Sunday instead of going below the double-yellow line he will bury the throttle and drive through the car in front of him.

    Possible cover bet at 12-1 but nothing more on Hamlin.

Jeff Gordon—12:1

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    12-1 on one of the greatest restrictor plate drivers of all time?Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Jeff Gordon ranks fourth among drivers in the NASCAR Daytona power rankings.

    Gordon's six wins and 12 top-fives are tops among drivers entered in the Daytona 500 this Sunday.

    Gordon has slacked off in recent years but as his career is entering it's final chapters, Gordon is looking like a rejuvenated driver as he prepares for the Daytona 500.

    Gordon is another driver worth a look at 12:1 for a cover bet.

Dale Earnhardt Jr—12:1

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. sits on the pole for this years Daytona 500.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    This week the focus will be on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. is on the pole and a sentimental favorite to win this race on the tenth anniversary of his father's death.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. exercised some of those demons last July when he won the NASCAR Nationwide in a Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Wrangler-sponsored car just like his father used to drive. 

    The car was Dale Jr.'s favorite car in his father's storied history and winning the race in July was a cleansing act for Dale Jr. who's has been living in his father's shadow his entire life.

    For betting purposes is it a bad bet to bank on Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 12:1?  Absolutely not! When betting Dale Earnhardt Jr. do not make it more than a cover bet.

    His odds have not come down since winning the pole because qualifying does not mean much at Daytona.

Clint Boywer—12:1

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    Clint Bowyer is the last driver to win a restrictor plate race on the NASCAR Cup circuit.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Clint Bowyer is the last man to win a restrictor plate race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.  His win at Talladega on Halloween weekend was a controversial win, but a win nonetheless. 

    Boywer's ranking at Daytona is eighth among the drivers entered and his two top-fives and six top-tens show that he has run up front on these tracks consistently in his short Cup career.

    Bowyer cannot be counted out in the win department but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Pass on Bowyer and cross those fingers that he doesn't get lucky and win two restrictor-plate races in a row.

Tony Stewart—8:1

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    Tony Stewart had some difficulty drafting with Michael Waltrip.John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Tony Stewart is the highest-ranked driver at Daytona according to the NASCAR power rankings. Stewart has shown he is one of the best drivers on both restrictor-plate tracks, but Daytona is his mission this season.

    Tony Stewart has never won the Daytona 500 but he has won the July race three times.

    Stewart has finished in the top-five seven times and top-ten 12 times in his career on the Daytona high banks, but has suffered some of his hardest NASCAR crashes on the track also.

Kyle Busch—8:1

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    Kyle Busch met his demise with Mark Martin as they failed bump drafting in the turn at Daytona.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Kyle Busch is the Charlie Sheen of the NASCAR Cup circuit. That boy is all over the place.

    Busch is the most talented driver in all three NASCAR series but he races every race on the edge, of out of control. The Daytona 500 is a race Busch desperately wants to win.

    Busch is ranked second in the NASCAR power rankings for Daytona just ahead of his brother and just behind Tony Stewart. Busch has one win and seven top-fives at Daytona with the one coming in the July race.

Kevin Harvick: 6-1

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    Kevin Harvick has become a formiddable force on the restrictor plate tracks.Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Kevin Harvick can take the mantle of best active restrictor-plate driver by winning his second Daytona 500 this Sunday. Harvick has five top-fives and eight top-tens to accompany his 2007 Daytona 500 victory.

    The tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death is this week and Harvick, his successor, is the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas. 

    Although Harvick has one wins and five top-fives at Daytona he ranks seventh in NASCAR driver ratings—but ratings won't mean much when the white flag is unfurled and chaos breaks out on Sunday.

    Final Picks:

    Long shot—Brad Keselowski 50:1

    Medium Shot—Martin Truex Jr. 30:1

    Cover Bet—Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12:1