The offseason between the 2023 and 2024 NASCAR Cup Series seasons has passed its halfway point, and the focus is slowly but surely beginning to shift to the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February.
Team Penske's Ryan Blaney, the reigning Cup Series champion, is listed as the early favorite to win the 66th running of the 200-lap "Great American Race" around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.
Not since 1999 NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett won the 2000 Daytona 500 has the reigning series champion won the Daytona 500 the following year.
Blaney is listed by DraftKings Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $150 just for betting $5, at +900 to become a Daytona 500 champion next month.
Ryan Blaney is Daytona 500 favorite, four tied for second
The driver of the No. 12 Ford has established himself as one of the sport's top superspeedway drivers, having won three times at Talladega Superspeedway and once at Daytona before. His four victories at these two tracks account for 40% of his career win total.
However, he has yet to break through and win the Daytona 500, with his best finishes being a pair of second place results in 2017 and 2020. He also finished in fourth in 2022, and he overcame his involvement in a number of incidents to finish in eighth last year.
In Cup Series terms, +900 odds are relatively long odds for a race-winning favorite, with favorites usually listed between the +400 and +600 range. But superspeedway races are generally such wild card -- and usually wreck-filled -- races, so it is nearly impossible to put a finger on who might come out on top. They are largely known as "equalizer" type races, where everybody has a shot.
Just look at the last three winners: Front Row Motorsports' Michael McDowell, Team Penske's Austin Cindric, and JTG Daugherty Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Aside from their Daytona 500 victories, they have just three career Cup Series victories, with McDowell's 2023 victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course being the only non-superspeedway win of the group.
And that explains the cluster behind Blaney on the odds listing. There are four drivers tied for second favorite at +1100, including Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, Hendrick Motorsports' Chase Elliott, RFK Racing's Chris Buescher, and RFK Racing's Brad Keselowski.
Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner, Elliott owns three superspeedway wins, Buescher won at Daytona last August, heading up a 1-2 RFK Racing finish, and Keselowski owns a series-best seven superspeedway victories, despite having not yet won the Daytona 500.
Reigning winner Stenhouse is listed at +2200 to repeat.
Single-car qualifying for the Daytona 500 is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, February 14. The Bluegreen Vacations Duels are set to solidify the starting lineup on Thursday, February 15. The race itself is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 18, with live coverage from Daytona International Speedway set to be provided by Fox beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss any of the action!