2012 Daytona 500
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona, Florida
2.5 mile tri-oval, 31 degree banking, 200 laps
Sunday, February 26, 2012, 1:15 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
Defending Champion: Trevor Bayne
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
It was just 3 months ago that Tony Stewart clinched his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title with a victory at Homestead. Now the 2012 NASCAR season gets underway with the Daytona 500 as it always does. Last season, because of a new faster surface and some changes made to the cars, the only way to compete at Daytona was to find a car to draft with, creating two car packs. It made for somewhat boring racing. To fix that, NASCAR has implemented new rules packages that encourage pack drafting rather than tandem packs. NASCAR has also banned radio communications between drivers and other teams in order to prevent deals being made.
If the races so far this week at Daytona are any indication it should be a wild race. Last week in the season opening exhibition Bud Shootout, Kyle Busch saved his car from accidents 3 separate times before passing Tony Stewart at the finish line to win by a nose. The first of the Gatorade Duel qualifying races on Thursday was marred by several crashes including one on the last lap involving Danica Patrick, making her Daytona debut in the Sprint Cup. Patrick hit the wall hard but was uninjured. In Saturday’s Nationwide race drivers tried to go 4 wide several times and each time it resulted in a wreck, including one just before the checkered flag that wiped out most of the leaders.
Here is a look at some of the contenders and their odds to win the race courtesy of Bovada. Here is a look at the complete starting grid.
Tony Stewart (8/1)
Though Tony Stewart has accomplished almost everything in his brilliant career, there is one glaring exception on his resume. He has never won the Daytona 500 in 13 tries. He is the defending Sprint Cup Champion with 5 wins last season. He has 3 wins at Daytona, but all in the July race, along with 7 top 5’s and 12 top 10’s. Much like Dale Earnhardt, Sr who didn’t win the Daytona 500 until 1998, three years before his tragic death in this same race, Stewart is trying to get the monkey off his back. He won the first Gatorade Duel and will start 3rd. Stewart is definitely worth a play and barring something unlucky like an accident or engine problems, he should contend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (17/2)
If NASCAR was decided by popularity, then Earnhardt would easily be the best driver out there. Unfortunately, Dale Jr has only one win since the beginning of the 2007 season. Earnhardt is way too talented to have such a long drought. He will eventually break through and win again, especially since he has the backing of the powerful Hendrick Motorsports team. Last season, he had 12 top tens and finished 7th in the Sprint Cup Standings. He won the 2004 Daytona 500, and has 13 top tens here in his career. Earnhardt will start fifth this year. The new rules should benefit him as he excels at pack drafting. This could be the win his many passionate fans are waiting for.
Kyle Busch (10/1)
The younger Busch brother will start 14th in the Daytona 500. He won the July race at Daytona in 2008. Busch is a contender in every race he enters but sometimes has difficulty controlling his fiery temper. He has the talent to be the best driver in the Sprint Cup if he can stop doing stupid immature things that damage his car and his chances to win.
Carl Edwards (11/1)
Edwards will start on the pole for Daytona. He tied with Tony Stewart for the Sprint Cup Championship last year, but lost the tiebreaker because Stewart had 5 wins to his 2. Edwards had an incredible 26 top 10’s last year in 36 races. He has never won at Daytona, but does have 6 top tens at the track. Edwards will break through eventually at this track, and this could be his year.
Kevin Harvick (11/1)
Harvick will start 13th in the race. Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007 and 2010. He finished 3rd in the Sprint Cup Standings last year with 4 wins and 19 top 10’s. You can never count Harvick out, especially at this track.
Jeff Gordon (12/1)
Gordon is a 3 time winner at the Daytona 500, but hasn’t won here since 2005. Gordon will start in 16th for this race. He had 3 wins and 18 top tens last year. Gordon could be a nice semi-dark horse pick for this race.
Jimmie Johnson (14/1)
Last season, Johnson finished 6th in the Sprint Cup standings to snap a string of 5 straight championships. That is an amazing accomplishment that might never be equaled. He had 2 wins and 21 top 10’s last season. Johnson will start in 8th position for the 500. He won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and has 9 top tens here. He has never finished higher than 23rd in the 500 since his win. Still, he could be worth a play, as he can contend in any race he enters.
Greg Biffle (18/1)
Biffle will start second at Daytona. He won the July race here in 2003, and has 4 top 10’s at this track. He had 10 top tens last season with no wins. Biffle could be a contender as he has raced well this week.
Kasey Kahne (18/1)
Kahne is driving for his fourth team and manufacturer in 4 years. This time though he is the fourth driver for Hendrick Motorsports. The stability should help Kahne who is talented but has never been on a team with such deep pockets as Hendrick. Kahne will start in 20th place. He has never won at Daytona but does have 6 top 10’s. Kahne had a win and 15 top 10’s last season. He could be a surprise winner here.
Matt Kenseth (18/1)
Kenseth won the second Gatorade Duel and will start fourth in Sunday’s race. Kenseth had 3 wins and 20 top 10’s last year. He won the 2009 Daytona 500, and has 11 top 10’s here. He is my pick to win his second Daytona 500.
Denny Hamlin (20/1)
Hamlin has never won at this track and has only one top ten finish, a third place finish in the July 2009 race here. He will start in 31st position. Hamlin had a win and 14 top 10’s last year. Despite his struggles at this track he could be a nice dark horse pick.
Jamie McMurray (20/1)
McMurray has 6 career wins and two of them have come at Daytona, including the 2010 500. He had 4 top tens and no wins last season. McMurray will start in 19th position Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (20/1)
Keselowski had 3 races and 14 top tens last season. It was an amazing accomplishment when you consider he raced the last half of the season with a broken ankle. He has never finished higher than 15th at this track, but he certainly has the talent. Like Kyle Busch, he sometimes has problems with his temper.
Danica Patrick (35/1)
Patrick has had a rough week at Daytona so far. She had the hard crash in the first Duel race, and crashed again in Saturday’s Nationwide race. Neither accident was her fault. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when cars were trying to go 4 wide to jockey for position. Patrick has left the Indy Car series to run full time on the Nationwide series. She will run a handful of Sprint Cup races as well. Because of the wreck in qualifying she will have to start from the back of the pack. It would take a miracle for her to win the Daytona 500 this year, and her odds should be 60-1 at least. Her popularity is the only reason she has odds this low.
Other possible contenders include A.J. Allmendinger (30/1), Clint Bowyer (25/1), Jeff Burton (22/1), Joey Logano (35/1), Juan Pablo Montoya (40/1), Kurt Busch (25/1), Marcos Ambrose (30/1), Mark Martin (40/1), Martin Truex, Jr. (45/1), Paul Menard (40/1), Regan Smith (40/1), Ryan Newman (35/1), and Trevor Bayne (40/1). Here are the complete odds.
It should be a great and exciting race and a fantastic kick-off to a new NASCAR season.