Get ready – the 2021 NASCAR season is about to start with the running of the Daytona 500! There are plenty of options for wagering ranging from the classic style of picking out the outright winner to prop bets and head-to-head betting markets.
Regardless of which way you go with your form of betting – including Fantasy play – it’s important to understand a bit about NASCAR, how races are run, and the unbelievable amount of free information (stats) that are available for the sport.
Difference Between NASCAR Wagering and Fantasy
When wagering on NASCAR, you place a bet on a specific thing. Such as picking the “winner” of the race while considering their over/under odds. Other options are covered below.
With fantasy NASCAR games, depending on where you play as different platforms have slightly different rules, you select a team of drivers. Sometimes you can pick alternates in case one of your drivers is running poorly. You can make a driver switch.
Your team of drivers then rack up points. The points can vary between platforms, but they generally deal with where a driver is running, finishing stages, laps led, passes, and more. Again, depends on the fantasy platform. Hopefully, at the end of the race, your stable of drivers racked up more points than other players.
Simply put: Wagering on NASCAR means you place a bet on a specific outcome. Such as the driver to win outright, or the top-three. Again, more info below. Playing fantasy means you select a team of drivers that accumulate points for a combined total score.
Both options can be as simple or as hard as you want to make them. You can dive in with research and stats to help with your picks. Or, you can choose the NASCAR race car with the paint job you like best and place a wager on that driver and car. Similar to a betting newbie placing a bet on a horse with a fun name or an NFL team with the best uniforms.
NASCAR is a governing body that sanctions racing series. The main series is the NASCAR Cup Series followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and the ARCA Racing Series.
The main level is the Cup Series but drivers have a limited number of races they can run in the other series each season. At the beginning of the year, drivers have to declare which series they want to accumulate Championship points for.
The races are run on a combination of Oval, Tri-Oval, and Road Courses. Some tracks, like Daytona, Talladega, and Bristol, are visited twice each season. That’s important to know if you are looking at drivers' stats at a certain track.
Each race is run in stages – aka segments. Points are awarded to drivers for winning or finishing in the top-ten during each stage. Again, important to know during this new era of stage racing. Drivers can no longer linger towards the middle or back during a race in hopes of avoiding a big wreck.
Picking a Winner - Should it be a Big Name Driver?
Pick the winner of the 500 and take home your winnings. That sounds easy, but some fans and media voices will tell you that the Daytona 500 can be won by anyone due to the high speeds and the number of cautions. It’s termed an “equalizer” which means any wreck could knock out any driver despite how good they are or how well funded the team is.
That would open the door to an up-and-coming “Surprise” driver or smaller team for taking the winning Checkered Flag at the end of the Daytona 500. However, the numbers don’t show that happening too often. Over the last ten years, the winners of the Daytona 500 have been big-named drivers from well- known teams.
Daytona 500 Winners List
2011: Trevor Bayne with Wood Brothers Racing
2012: Matt Kenseth with Roush Fenway Racing
2013: Jimmie Johnson with Hendrick Motorsports
2014: Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Hendrick Motorsports
2015: Joey Logano with Team Penske
2016: Denny Hamlin with Joe Gibbs Racing
2017: Kurt Busch with Stewart-Haas Racing
2018: Austin Dillon with Richard Childress Racing
2019: Denny Hamlin with Joe Gibbs Racing
2020: Denny Hamlin with Joe Gibbs Racing
As you can see, the last driver that can be considered a “dark horse winner” of the Daytona 500 was Trevor Bayne back in 2011. And even then, Bayne was a popular up-and-coming driver with a bunch of wins in lesser Series under his belt.
Denny Hamlin has ruled the Daytona 500 for the last several years. But if you want some additional info on how other drivers finish at Daytona then check out the Podium Finish information below.
This one is a bit odd for NASCAR as they don’t do “podium” finishes like F1 or IndyCar. That’s where the top-three finishers stand on a podium similar to athletes in the Olympics winning a Bronze, Silver, and Gold medal.
It’s Vegas giving NASCAR a version of a win, place, or show bet. Who cares who wins as long as it's in the top-three! Here’s my favorite way to consider picks for NASCAR Podium finish bets. I look at top finishes by a driver at a certain track.
Check out NASCAR.com for stats as well as websites such as Racingreference.com. for diving deeper into the numbers. They have NASCAR data going back decades and you can compile information using their “fantasy” numbers tool.
Here’s the breakdown for active drivers at Daytona International Speedway using points and data provided by NASCAR over the last ten Daytona races on the Superspeedway – not the road course.
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Michael McDowell
3. Joey Logano
4. Ryan Blaney
5. Ryan Newman
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Austin Dillon
8. Kyle Larson
9. Kyle Busch
10. Martin Truex Jr.
This may be where your surprise driver pop-up such as Michael McDowell and drivers such as Kyle Busch may not perform as well at Daytona as one would expect.
Prop bets in NASCAR betting are similar to the fun style of wagering you see for the Super Bowl. How long with the National Anthem take, will it be heads or tails on the toss, how many sacks will there be, etc? It all depends on the platform you choose on the options available. You may be able to bet on things such as which manufacturer wins. Pick from Ford, Toyota, or Chevrolet. How many cautions flags come during the race, odd or even number car as the winner, and more.
One of my favorite prop bets for the Daytona 500 is the over and under for the number of cautions during the race. According to NASCAR stats, the last several Daytona 500 races have all had over six cautions with one huge outlier, which was 12 cautions in 2019.
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