NASCAR Odds & Liev Jackson Free Picks: Daytona 500 Officially Kicks off NASCAR Season

by Liev Jackson

NASCAR Odds & Liev Jackson Free Picks: Daytona 500 Officially Kicks off NASCAR Season

The practice races and exhibitions are in the books. The most prestigious race in the US is taking place this weekend and for many racing fans that means the countdown to spring is on.

There is a ton of competition at the top of the racing world and this race will go a long way to setting momentum for the upcoming season.

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As if there wasn’t enough motivation to win, the winner gets an automatic booking into the year-end Sprint Championship, and this year is the first on the $400 million newly renovated track.

Playing it safe in picking a winner would be to look at the drivers who finished strongest last season. It is a quick turnaround from late November to mid-February so it is indeed possible to carry some of that momentum forward.

As such at or near the top of the list are Sprint Champ Kyle Busch and his stable mate Carl Edwards. They had six top 10 finishes combined in the last five races of the season.

Not far behind them are the Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski who had one victory and seven top-10 finishes over the same period. Logano also is the defending champ at Daytona, finally tasting victory on the biggest stage. He also came in second last week in the Sprint Unlimited warmup event.

On the other hand the drivers who struggled at the end include drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson.

In between these extremes is a very meaty middle that includes:

Dale Earnhardt: he is a two time Daytona champion and he also won the Coke Zero 400 on this track last summer.

Deny Hamlin: the winner last weekend in the warm up event. He’s now won that event three times and has been close to the top many times with six top-10 finishes in eight events at Daytona.

Jimmie Johnson: he is a six-time NASCAR champion, so clearly he knows what it takes to win on the biggest of stages. He’s been involved in some big accidents here in the recent past, but if he can put them behind him, he’s as dangerous a racer as anyone.

Matt Kenseth: Another two time winner. He did not do well last year, but he’s already showing that he’s got a fast car this year with a spot near the top of the grid on race day.

Chase Elliott: It would be poetic for the rookie to win it all in his first official race replacing the legend that is Jeff Gordon. He’s certainly off to a great start by winning the pole position for this race.

Kurt Busch: If we’re talking about bridesmaids who are due, look no farther than this man. He is near the top of all the stat lines at Daytona including a third and fifth place finish at the two races here last season. But in 15 years he is still looking for his first win on the track.

The Picks:

Favorites: Amongst the favorites we look to Kurt Busch (14-1) to break his drought or Jimmie Johnson (8-1) to add to his legend

Upset: Looking for someone to come from the rest of the field, look no farther than Casey Mears (80-1). He has four top-10 finishes at Daytona in his last five starts at Daytona and an 11th place in the other. He is a savvy veteran who just might sneak through.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. #88   +600
Jimmie Johnson #48   +900
Kevin Harvick #4   +1000
Joey Logano #22   +1000
Brad Keselowski #2   +1200
Denny Hamlin #11   +1200
Kyle Busch #18   +1200
Matt Kenseth #20   +1400
Carl Edwards #19   +1600
Kurt Busch #41   +1600
Chase Elliott #24   +1800
Martin Truex, Jr. #78   +1800
Kasey Kahne #5   +2200
Kyle Larson #42   +2200
Jamie McMurray #1   +2800
Austin Dillon #3   +3300
Ryan Newman #31   +3300
Brian Vickers #14   +4000
Clint Bowyer #15   +4000
Greg Biffle #16   +4000
Ryan Blaney #21   +4000
Aric Almirola #43   +5000
Danica Patrick #10   +5000
David Ragan #23   +5000
Paul Menard #27   +5000
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. #17   +5000
Trevor Bayne #6   +5000
Chris Buescher #34   +6600
Michael Waltrip #83   +6600
Regan Smith #7   +6600
A. J. Allmendinger #47   +7500
Casey Mears #13   +7500
David Gilliland #35   +7500
Ty Dillon #95   +7500
Bobby Labonte #32   +10000
Brian Scott #44   +10000
Reed Sorenson #40   +10000
Cole Whitt #95   +15000
Josh Wise #30   +15000
Matt DiBenedetto #93   +15000
Michael Annett #46   +15000
Michael McDowell #59   +15000
Robert Richardson Jr. #26   +15000
Landon Cassill #38   +12500

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