Daytona 500 2021: TV Schedule, Odds and Top NASCAR Drivers to Watch
When the green flag waves at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday afternoon, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will be underway. And 200 laps later, one driver from the 40-car field will emerge victorious in the Great American Race.
The 63rd running of the Daytona 500 is set to take place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox. Alex Bowman is starting on the pole after he had the fastest lap time during Wednesday night's qualifying session. William Byron was supposed to start second, but he crashed during the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races Thursday night and is switching to a backup car, so he will be moving to the back of the field.
Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon were the winners of the duel races, earning them starting spots in the second row. The latter will be bumped up to the front row with Byron moving to the back.
Here's a look at the drivers with the best odds to win this year's Daytona 500, followed by a breakdown of several top drivers to watch Sunday.
Top Odds to Win Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin: +750 (bet $100 to win $750)
Chase Elliott: +1000
Ryan Blaney: +1200
Joey Logano: +1200
Kyle Busch: +1400
Kevin Harvick: +1400
Brad Keselowski: +1400
Aric Almirola: +1600
William Byron: +1600
Kyle Larson: +1600
Martin Truex Jr.: +1600
Bubba Wallace: +1600
Alex Bowman: +2000
Kurt Busch: +2500
Austin Dillon: +2500
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: +2500
Complete list of odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook.
On Sunday, Denny Hamlin has the opportunity to do something that no NASCAR driver has done before. After winning the Daytona 500 in each of the past two years, the 40-year-old is looking to become the first driver to win the race in three straight seasons.
However, if Hamlin is going to be victorious again, he will have to work his way through the field, as the No. 11 Toyota is set to start 25th. He has a better starting spot than he had in 2020, though, as he began last year's Daytona 500 in 39th.
Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner, finishing first in the race in 2016, 2019 and 2020. And he could do something that drivers such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Sterling Marlin (each of whom also won two straight Daytona 500s) failed to do.
"This is something that no one's ever done before," Hamlin said, according to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. "Other guys have won championships, obviously. I would want to do something no one else has done."
Last year, Hamlin notched seven wins (second-most in the Cup Series) and finished fourth in the standings. He will look to carry over that momentum and get off to a strong start in the 2021 season.
Chase Elliott won his first career Cup Series championship in 2020, notching five victories, including in each of the final two races of the season. Now the 25-year-old will look to earn his first Daytona 500 win to open the 2021 season.
Although Elliott has never finished better than 14th in five career Daytona 500 starts, he's had strong showings at the track in the past. He won duel races in 2017 and 2018, and he finished second in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in August. Slated to start 12th on Sunday, Elliott won't have far to go to reach the front of the field.
With seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson retiring at the end of the 2020 season, Elliott is the most successful of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers (the others being Bowman, Byron and Kyle Larson). And he will likely again be one of the top championship contenders this season.
"I just want to be a guy who has the opportunity to win every week," Elliott told Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. "You're not going to win every week, but if you assert, you set yourself up among the group that can win every week and you do it for many years, then you have the opportunity to do great things."
It wouldn't be surprising if Elliott sets himself up to contend for the win in Sunday's race.
It's been a strong week for Bubba Wallace, and that could lead to a strong showing Sunday. In Wednesday's first practice, Wallace had the fastest lap time (45.057 seconds). He then had the sixth-fastest time during qualifying Wednesday night and finished second in the second duels race Thursday.
Although Saturday's second practice session was cut short because of rain, Wallace still had time to lay down another impressive lap, as he ranked third with a time of 46.08 seconds. Now, the 27-year-old will look to notch his first career Cup Series victory to open the 2021 season.
After spending his first three years as a full-time Cup Series driver with Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace is now driving the No. 23 Toyota for 23XI Racing, a new team that is co-owned by Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and Hamlin.
"My bosses are a three-time Daytona 500 winner and maybe the greatest athlete who ever lived," Wallace said, according to ESPN's Ryan McGee. "My crew chief [Mike Wheeler] has already won a Daytona 500. I am going to listen to everything they have to say whenever they have to say it, no matter when that is."
What better way for the new team to debut than by Wallace winning the Daytona 500? His best career finish in the race came as a rookie in 2018, when he ended up second. He'll start in sixth Sunday.
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