Tha Sports Junkies 101

Drivers to Watch for in the Daytona 500

Photo by Kristaps Gode via Flickr


With the Daytona 500 under 48 hours away, who are the favorites to win it? Who has a legitimate shot at an upset? Lastly, who has the best shot to win their first Daytona 500? Here are some of my drivers to watch for in Sunday’s big race.

Daytona 500 Favorites

By all accounts, the strongest manufacturer at Daytona in recent memory has been Ford. Ford drivers swept all 4 restrictor plate races in 2017, and have looked strong all Speedweeks long. Last Sunday in The Clash, Brad Keselowski led a 1-2-3-4 Ford sweep.

In the Duels on Thursday night, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano finished 1st and 2nd. The Penske Fords in particular (Keselowski, Logano, and Blaney) look especially strong when working together.

However, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman each have very fast Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets that could lead to victory on Sunday.

According to Las Vegas odds, do not count out the Toyota of Denny Hamlin, or the Ford of Kevin Harvick. Both are previous Daytona 500 winners and have the knowledge and skill to move their way to the front of the pack at Daytona.

Upset Drivers

‘Anyone can win at Daytona.’ It’s been said so much that it is almost a cliche. However, there are many drivers capable of surviving 500 brutal miles and winning on Sunday.

In his new seat at the Wood Brother’s Racing Team, Paul Menard was one of several fast Fords in his Duel race on Thursday. In last year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Menard finished 3rd. He also has 3 top 5 finishes at Talladega, so Menard is a very underrated plate racer. In the satellite team for Penske, Menard could pull off a miracle win on Sunday. It would also be win number 100 for the Wood Brothers.

Another driver, in particular, surprised me in Thursday’s Duel races with his speed and ferocity. I am referring to Jamie McMurray. A 2-time winner at both Daytona and Talladega, McMurray’s number 1 McDonald’s Camaro is one of the fastest Chevrolets at Daytona. While Vegas odds have him at 25-1, expect McMurray to be a strong contender on Sunday.

While I may not see her as a lock for a potential race-winner, I do want to mention Danica Patrick and her Premium Motorsports team. Daytona is arguably Danica’s best track in terms of results, and Michael Waltrip took this team to an 8th-place result in last year’s Daytona 500. While it may be a very long shot, Danica has the potential for a strong run in her final NASCAR start.

First-Time Daytona 500 Champion?

Some of the most successful NASCAR racers in history never won the Daytona 500, such as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, and Tony Stewart. Only 8 active drivers have won the 500, so there is a large chance that a driver wins their first Harley J. Earl Trophy on Sunday. Notable current drivers without a Daytona 500 win include Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott. If any of these drivers can survive the race and pull off the right strategy, they could pull into Victory Lane.

In all reality, any of the 40 drivers have some chance of winning the Daytona 500. I hope that my personal thoughts on which drivers to watch for can help anyone in a fantasy racing league or offer insight for newcomers. Without a doubt, this year’s Daytona 500 is sure to be a fantastic race with plenty of storylines and emotions. Do not miss a second of coverage of Fox this Sunday, as NASCAR RaceDay will start at 11:30 EST.