The calendar has officially turned to 2024, and the focus has officially shifted from the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season to the 2024 campaign, with the halfway mark of the offseason now behind us.
The 36-race season is scheduled to begin next month with the 66th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. No driver has won the Daytona 500 and the championship in the same season since Jimmie Johnson won his second Daytona 500 and his sixth championship in 2013.
Last year's Championship 4 saw two first-time entrants and just one driver who was in the Championship 4 in 2022. Neither of the two returning Championship 4 drivers had ever been in the winner-take-all round more than once before, signifying the strength of the youth movement.
Two co-favorites emerge to win NASCAR Cup Series championship
DraftKings Sportsbook, which is giving fans an instant $150 just for betting $5, lists two drivers with the shortest odds to win the 2024 championship.
No driver has won back-to-back championships since Johnson won five in a row from 2006 to 2010; it has never happened in 10 years of the modern playoff elimination format. Additionally, reigning champion Ryan Blaney of Team Penske finished the 2023 season with only the sixth highest point total among all drivers, so it should be no surprise to see him listed third at +750.
Listed ahead of Blaney are Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson, both of whom made it to last year's Championship 4. They are deadlocked at +550.
Byron led all drivers in wins with six and culminated his first Championship 4 appearance with a third place finish in the standings, while 2021 champion Larson won four races and finished his second Championship 4 appearance behind Blaney as the series runner-up.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell, the only driver to have competed in each of the last two Championship 4 rounds, is listed at +900, the sixth shortest odds among all drivers. Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (+800) and Hendrick Motorsports' Chase Elliott (+850) separate him from last year's other three title-contending drivers.
The Daytona 500 is scheduled to get the 2024 season underway on Sunday, February 18, with Fox set to provide live coverage from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don't miss any of the action from the upcoming season!