NextEra Energy 250 (Truck Series) Predictions & Odds

NextEra Energy 250

  • A huge entry list for the Daytona race bodes well for an extremely competitive field.
  • Sheldon Creed embarks on Truck Series title defense in NextEra Energy 250.
  • Hailie Deegan, Chandler Smith headline strong Camping World Truck rookie class.

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The first points race of the 2021 NASCAR season is Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the season opener for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The race is a 250-mile sprint, 100 laps around the 2.5-mile superspeedway with stage breaks after 20 and 40 laps.

There are just four former Daytona winners in the field this weekend—Johnny Sauter, who has won three times at the Birthplace of Speed, and Timothy Peters, Austin Hill, and Grant Enfinger, who have one victory each on their respective resumes. Hill is the most recent of six current and former Camping World Truck Series drivers who have claimed their first victory in the series at Daytona.

How to Watch NextEra Energy 250

NextEra Energy 250 Information
What NextEra Energy 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race
Where Daytona International Speedway
When Friday, Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch FS1

Huge Entry List Guarantees Strong Starting Field for Daytona Opener

All told, 46 drivers signed up for the NextEra Energy 250, representing a surfeit of driving talent. Unfortunately, 10 of those drivers won’t have the opportunity to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener when the starting field is trimmed to 36 entrants during qualifying on Friday afternoon.

Joining reigning Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed on the entry list are four other former title winners—three-time champion Matt Crafton as well as Johnny Sauter, James Buescher and Brett Moffitt. Buescher has come out of retirement to driver the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet as a teammate to Moffitt and rookie Carson Hocevar.

Crafton, Sauter, and their ThorSport Racing teammates, Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes, are driving Toyotas this season after returning to the brand after a stint in Ford F-150s. With another championship, Crafton would tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. for most ever in the series. But in this race, it’s hard to pick against Sauter (+1600), who suffered through a winless 2020 season but is dynamite at Daytona. And the price is certainly right.

Sheldon Creed Starts Truck Series Title Defense in NextEra Energy 250

Sheldon Creed was winless in his first 30 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Then came 2020. In the seventh race of the season, Creed won on the Kentucky Speedway oval. Then came three more victories, as Creed put his No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado into the Championship 4 event at Phoenix Raceway.

Creed saved the best for last. Charging through the field in a two-lap shootout to decide the title race, Creed claimed his fifth victory of the season and the championship. Given the strength of the GMS Racing organization, which also fields trucks for Zane Smith, Raphael Lessard, and rookie Chase Purdy, Creed has to be considered a formidable contender for a second straight title.

At Daytona? Not so much. In four starts on superspeedways—two at Daytona and two at sister track Talladega—Creed has a best finish of ninth (2019 Talladega and 2020 Daytona). That said, he may not be the best choice to win the season opener, even though he has been posted as the favorite at +900 according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Hailie Deegan, Chandler Smith Headline Strong Truck Series Rookie Class

Ford development driver Hailie Deegan and Toyota driver Chandler Smith are two of the best-known NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookies in a class that also includes Kris Wright, Chase Purdy, Carson Hocevar, and Tim Viens.

A three-time winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series, Deegan finished 16th at Kansas Speedway in her only Truck Series start last year. She’s available in the field bet at +2500. Smith, on the other hand, already has considerable experience in Trucks—16 races in 2019 and 2020 combined.

The driver of the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota posted eight top-fives in those 16 starts and has to be considered a contender not just for rookie-of-the-year honors, but also for the series championship. Smith, an 18-year-old from Talking Rock, Ga., might just be a sleeper for the Daytona opener—in his only superspeedway race to date, he finished third at Talladega last season. He’s posted at an excellent price of +2000.

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

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]