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Now that single-car qualifying has taken place, and the two Duels (150-mile qualifying races) have been run, oddsmakers have adjusted their preferences for the first full-points-paying race of the season—the Daytona 500.
The Great American race is the first 500-miler for NASCAR’s new NextGen race car. The event will be contested over 200 laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, with stage breaks scheduled after Laps 65 and 130.
Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell is the defending winner of the race.
If Thursday night’s Duels at Daytona are an indication of what’s likely to happen in the Great American Race, Chevrolet and Toyota drivers might as well pack up and go home.
Fords dominated the action. Led by Brad Keselowski, in his first big-track outing as co-owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, the Blue Ovals finished 1-2-3-4 in the first Duel qualifying race before sweeping the top three spots in the nightcap.
Though a pair of Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, driven by Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, locked in the top two starting positions for the 500 in Wednesday night’s time trials, seven Fords with superior speed en masse will start right behind them on Sunday.
So before you make your betting choice for the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing, think Ford and narrow the field considerably.
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Oddsmakers have adjusted their picks for the Daytona 500 based on Wednesday night’s time trials, but they should have paid more attention to the Duels one day later.
OK, in a qualifying session that decided the top two starting spots for Sunday, defending series champion Kyle Larson won the pole, edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman, who will take the green flag from the outside of the front row.
So, again, pick a driver who fared well in race traffic. That’s a much better barometer of the race itself than single-car speed in qualifying. That means look no further than the Ford camp.
Team Penske driver and 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano was leading Thursday’s second Duel on the final lap, but an ill-fated attempt to block Chris Buescher’s run on the backstretch ended with Logano’s No. 22 Ford colliding with the outside wall.
Given the extent of the damage to his car, Logano will have to start the Daytona 500 from the rear of the field in a backup car. Nevertheless, oddsmakers have made him fifth choice at +1200.
We don’t think Logano is a good value at that price. Instead, we prefer Brad Keselowski at +1400. Though Keselowski has never won the Daytona 500, he’s an adept superspeedway racer with six wins at sister track Talladega.
So we’ll go with Bad Brad as our pick for Daytona on Sunday.
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|Daytona 500 Information|
|Race||Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup Series race|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway|
|Time||Sunday, February 20, 2:30 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||FOX|
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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