The Super Bowl has come and gone, which can mean only one thing… NASCAR’s Super Bowl is right around the corner. This week, Cup Series teams return to Daytona International Speedway to kick off the 2024 NASCAR season. Starting Wednesday, we will have cars on the track every day for the rest of the week, starting with Cup Series Qualifying on Wednesday evening. Thursday’s on track action includes Truck Series practice followed by the Cup Series Duel races to set the final starting order for the Daytona 500. On Friday, the Truck Series will qualify in the early afternoon and race in the evening with Xfinity and Cup Series practices sandwiched in between. Saturday’s on-track action includes another Cup Series practice, followed by Xfinity qualifying and the Xfinity race. All of this incredible, non-stop action leads up to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Anyway, back in the 2021 and 2022 season, I wrote articles for every race, but started getting away from it late in the 2022 season. In 2023 I started the We Know Fantasy NASCAR Podcast to try to replace the articles, but this year I’m going to try to do both. Fingers crossed that I find enough time in my week to get these done ever week, but we’re going to give it a shot.
Like in years past I’ll break down a few drivers that I like and a few I would avoid for each race. I’ll try to piece together a DraftKings lineup, but those are usually best assembled after qualifying takes place.
Whether you’re a new NASCAR fan or someone who has loved the sport their whole life, like myself. I’ll try to keep things simple and try to hit a few winners. Last year, my weekly betting cards and season-long bets tallied up to roughly +71 units on the year. I highly doubt I’ll do that again, but I’m excited to give it a try! Make sure to follow me on X (or Twitter if you prefer to call it that) @WKFCody to get my full weekly betting card. I’ll post an early pick or two in this article, but I place the majority of my bets following practice and qualifying on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
So, let’s get to it and take a look at the opening race of the NASCAR season, the 2024 Daytona 500!
The Daytona 500 is a 500-mile (160-lap) race around the 2.5-mile tri-oval at Daytona International Speedway. Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, and the Cup Series has been racing there at least twice per season ever since. Over the past three seasons, six races have been run at the track, with six different drivers winning those six races. Recent winners at Daytona include Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney and Michael McDowell. In last season’s Daytona 500, Stenhouse Jr. picked up his third career Cup Series victory following multiple overtime attempts in the longest Daytona 500 in NASCAR history (530 miles).
Its tough to say any drivers have momentum coming into the opening race of the year, but if anyone does, I can narrow it down to three guys. Denny Hamlin looks to roll into the regular season following a victory at the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum just over a week ago. Outside of Hamlin, its fair to look at last season’s Cup Series Champion Ryan Blaney. Blaney ran runner-up last year at Phoenix to secure the championship, and is also the most recent winner of a superspeedway race, winning at Talladega last fall. Finally, the winner of the final race of the 2023 season, Ross Chastain. Chastain enters the 2024 season with something to prove after falling short in last year’s playoffs. Chastain asserted himself as a championship contender by going out and beating the Final Four drivers in last year’s finale.
Drivers I Like
As I mentioned above, Blaney is the most recent superspeedway winner. Last season Blaney pushed his career win total up to 10. Four of those ten victories have come at a superspeedway style track. Blaney leads all active drivers in average finishing position at superspeedways over the past three seasons with an average finish of 11.4, including seven top-10 finishes in the past 12 superspeedway races. Unfortunately for Blaney, he has found more success at Talladega rather than Daytona, but if you think back to last season, Blaney was leading in the first stage at Daytona before being taken out in a hard crash. Its going to be hard to find Blaney at any longer odds than +1000, but if you can, it may be a bet worth making.
Chase Elliott enters the Daytona 500 having collected a Cup Series-high four top-10 finishes in the last six Daytona races. Elliott has had success on superspeedways in the past, having picked up three career superspeedway victories including two victories in the Gen 7 car in 2022 at Atlanta and Talladega. Kicking off 2024 would be a big jumpstart for a team the failed to pick up any wins in 2023. Team Hendrick tends to bring a lot of speed to Daytona. If Elliott can put his car near the top of the grid in qualifying and holds his track position in the race, he could find himself battling for a win late.
Brad Keselowski brought some absolute rocket ships to the superspeedway tracks last season but was unable to capitalize by getting a win. Kes led 42 laps in last season’s Daytona 500 but was taken out in a late crash. He could have and should have won at Atlanta last season, but he was passed by Joey Logano in the closing laps and came home second. He also finished fifth at Talladega, led 19 laps at the second Atlanta race, and finished second to teammate Chris Buescher in the regular season finale at Daytona. RFK Racing seems to thrive at superspeedways and it’s only a matter of time before Keselowski breaks through for his first win as an owner/driver.
Joey Logano won just one race in 2023, but that was a superspeedway win at Atlanta. Logano finished runner-up to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in last year’s Daytona 500 as well and has led 99 laps at Daytona in the past six races there. He also won a duel race prior to last season’s Daytona 500. He’s had speed in this race in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up front again this year.
Drivers to Avoid
Daniel Suarez needs a big season if he wants any hope of keeping his Cup Series ride in the #99 car for Trackhouse Racing, but Daytona is not the place that it will be likely to happen for him. Suarez has just one top-10 finish in the last six Daytona races compared to three DNFs. Over the course of his entire career, Suarez has ended up crashing out of more Daytona races (9) than he has actually finished (4). I’m not banking on Suarez breaking through this weekend.
Another driver that just hasn’t had much luck at superspeedway racing is Tyler Reddick. There will be a lot of races over the course of the season that Reddick will find himself as a favorite in, but Daytona is unlikely to be one of those places. Reddick crashed out of last season’s Daytona 500 and has crashed out of five of the last nine Daytona races. He also only has two career finishes at Daytona better than 25th.
Chase Briscoe has also struggled at Daytona in the past. Briscoe did qualify on the pole for last fall’s Daytona race, but he has crashed out of three consecutive Daytona races and four of six in his career. Despite Fords often having success at superspeedways, Briscoe hasn’t seemed to step up as a consistent contender.
Keep an eye on…
David Ragan will be attempting to make the Daytona 500 in a third entry for Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing. Ragan has a solid history on superspeedways including a 2011 victory in the summer race at Daytona. Ragan has finished top-10 in three of his last four Daytona attempts, and as I mentioned earlier, RFK has been bringing speed to the superspeedways lately. If Ragan makes the race, he will be a strong contender to run up front. As of writing this, Ragan is 100/1 at FanDuel.
Jimmie Johnson also returns for the Daytona 500 in a third Legacy Motor Club entry. Johnson had a pretty rough go of things in the #84 car last season, crashing out of all three races he attempted. He will attempt to run nine races this year and I’m sure he certainly hopes to complete more laps. I’m excited to see how Legacy’s switch from Chevrolet to Toyota may benefit them. The Daytona 500 will be an early test for the team. Johnson currently sits at 80/1 on FanDuel.
Daniel Hemric makes his return to full-time Cup Series racing with Kaulig Racing this season. I expect Kaulig to take a step back in 2024, but superspeedway racing can be anyone’s game. Hemric has one career top-5 finish in the Cup Series which just so happened to come at Talladega. Hemric sits at 90/1 for an outright win at Caesar’s Sportsbook.
You can never count out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when we come to tracks like Daytona or Talladega. He has three career wins, all coming at superspeedways. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Stenhouse always seems to find a way to the front at these types of races. Stenhouse is coming off an impressive 2023 season where he posted a career high in top-10 finishes and his best average finishing position since his two-win season in 2017. The best number I can find on Stenhouse is 30/1, but it may be a bet worth making in case he unloads at Daytona later this week with great speed.
Ryan Blaney to win (+1200)
David Ragan to win (+10000)
Be sure to follow Cody (@WKFCody) on X for his most up-to-date NASCAR bets and weekly NASCAR betting card posted on Sunday mornings. Also, listen to the WKF NASCAR Podcast anywhere you get your podcasts. The WKF NASCAR Podcast comes out at 7 a.m. every Friday morning over the course of the season.