Way too Early Daytona 500 Bet: NASCAR Odds, Picks, and Analysis

The Daytona 500 is still nearly two months away, but most books now have NASCAR odds published. I made this bet on my gut alone a few weeks ago using free bets I had. Since then I’ve done some actual analytics on it so I’m ready to fully endorse it.

Drafting tracks (Daytona and Talladega), involve a large amount of randomness. There are lots of accidents and more than other races the winner can be someone who leads just one lap (see McDowell in 2021). Still, there are some drivers who put up consistently strong performances at these tracks. My bet below hasn’t had the chance to be consistent at the Cup level, but has been very good in the Xfinity Series.

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#42 Noah Gragson | +7500 (Caesars Sporstbook)

First let me deal with a knock that some might associate with Noah. Rookies can have a harder time at Daytona and Talladega. They haven’t had the time in the series to develop the relationships they need to form drafting alliances. As we saw last year with Austin Cindric though, that’s not a bar to winning. Noah is a “rookie,” but he isn’t a stranger, running 18 races last year. So he isn’t starting from scratch. I’m not concerned with this issue.

Turning to the positives with Noah, he is a solid drafting racer. He managed a 5th place finish in the chaotic summer Daytona Cup Series race. Last year Noah also won the first Xfinity race at Talladega and finished third at the first Daytona race. Across the four Xfinity drafting races last year Noah led 72 laps. This includes 64 of 230 laps (27.8%) he competed at Daytona.

There is no doubt that in moving up to the Cup Series his equipment at Petty GMS will not provide him with the advantage he had at JR Motorsports. We have seen Petty equipment perform very well last year though. So he isn’t in junk equipment. Also, I have to think Jimmie Johnson joining Petty signals they are going to make efforts to put better equipment on the track. Additionally, Johnson has won the 500 twice, him being in the garage has to be a help to Noah.

Noah is around +5000 at every other book, which is much more in line with where he should be. I wouldn’t bet this under +6600, but at +7500 there is plenty of cushion. I’ve got half a unit on Noah as my early first bet of the 2023 NASCAR season.

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