Daytona 500 2018: TV Schedule, Odds and Top Drivers to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2018

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

The 2018 NASCAR season opens with one of the most prestigious events in all of American sports.

Sunday's Daytona 500 is one of the crown jewels of American motorsports, and it has been won by a first-time champion in each of the last three years.

Alex Bowman sits on the pole for the race at Daytona International Speedway after he guided the No. 88 car to the top of the speed chart in qualifying a week ago.

Denny Hamlin starts next to Bowman on the first row, while Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, who won Thursday's duels, are third and fourth on the starting grid.

Defending champion Kurt Busch kicks off his title defense on the sixth row next to his brother Kyle Busch, who is one of a few stars searching for his elusive first Daytona 500 victory.

      

Date: Sunday, February 18

Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

      

Odds (via Oddsshark)

Brad Keselowski (+700; Bet $100 to win $700)

Denny Hamlin (+1,000)

Joey Logano (+1,000)

Kevin Harvick (+1,200)

Chase Elliott (+1,200)

Kyle Busch (+1,200)

Kyle Larson (+1,200)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+1,400)

Martin Truex Jr. (+1,400)

Jimmie Johnson (+1,400)

Erik Jones (+2,200)

Clint Bowyer (+2,200)

Kurt Busch (+2,200)

Ryan Blaney (+2,500)

Jamie McMurray (+2,800)

Alex Bowman (+2,800)

William Byron (+2,800)

A.J. Allmendinger (+3,000)

Aric Almirola (+3,300)

Daniel Suarez (+3,500)

Trevor Bayne (+4,400)

Ryan Newman (+5,500)

Darrell Wallace Jr. (+6,600)

Paul Menard (+6,600)

Kasey Kahne (+6,600)

Danica Patrick (+7,500)

Chris Buescher (+10,000)

David Ragan (+10,000)

Gray Gaulding (+10,000)

Jeffery Earnhardt (+10,000)

Michael McDowell (+12,500)

Brendan Gaughan (+12,500)

D.J. Kennington (+15.000)

Matt DiBenedetto (+15,000)

Mark Thompson (+15,000)

      

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson has the unenviable task of trying to win the Daytona 500 from the second-to-last row on the starting grid.

The driver of the No. 42 car is going to take a measured approach to the first part of the race as his goal is to work his way up the field without any incidents.

If he can use a few draft partners to move up the track, Larson will be able to join his teammate Jamie McMurray, who starts 19th, and surge further up the field.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16:  Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 DC Solar Chevrolet, talks with Elliott Sadler, driver of the #1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedw
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Keep an eye on the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing drivers once they link up, as they could lead a push toward the front of the field.

Once they get up there, it is going to be a free-for-all in the search for the perfect draft partners and the right racing line.

One thing Larson has on his side is the experience of McMurray, who won the 2010 Daytona 500.

If Larson sticks with his teammate throughout the race and makes some deals with other drivers along the way, he could see himself in the top 10 during the final stretch of the race.

However, if Larson and McMurray lose each other and can't find dance partners in the draft, it could be a rough day for the Ganassi cars, and the driver of the No. 42 car could be stuck near the back end of the field due to his poor starting position.

      

Alex Bowman and William Byron

Some of NASCAR's best young talent will ascend to the top of the sport at some point this season.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and William Byron are at the front of that charge, and they could make an immediate impact on Sunday in their new rides.

Bowman proved what his No. 88 car is capable of in qualifying, as he earned the pole for his first race as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s replacement.

Byron didn't experience the same success, but he has an ally in Jimmie Johnson starting directly behind him on the starting grid to help him move up the leaderboard. Byron starts 33rd with Johnson in 35th.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  William Byron, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by S
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

With some of the best technology in the sport behind them, Bowman and Byron should form an impressive team of young drivers alongside Chase Elliott, and Daytona could be their coming out party.

The two Hendrick drivers aren't the only young faces looking to break into victory lane in a race full of veterans still in search of their first Daytona 500 win.

Darrell Wallace Jr. and Erik Jones should make an early impact from their respective starting positions in Row 4, and they could both benefit from the lack of pressure on them compared to the likes of Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who are still looking to add Daytona 500 champion to their respective resumes.

With so much attention being paid to the veterans of the sport, don't be surprised if one or more of the young guns controls the field late in the race on the way to a possible victory.

      

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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