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The Potential and the Unexpected Prevail in the 2021 Daytona 500

Editor’s Note: This article on 2021 Daytona 500 betting is posted in collaboration with an outside sponsorship client. The opinions and information contained within do not necessarily represent Frontstretch and its staff. 

Car racing can be unexpected with lots of surprising moments. This especially applies to NASCAR betting, as you need to observe each team’s potential while maintaining reasonable expectations as to whether longshots can pay off. Still, events like the annual Daytona 500 can be unpredictable. If we analyze the 2021 edition from Sunday, Feb. 14 we can see shocking efforts from every driver. There were some new faces as well as familiar ones, all striving to earn that famous Harley J. Earl trophy for winning the race. Let’s evaluate how drivers qualified, setting the starting grid, and evaluate the result of the biggest race on the NASCAR calendar.

The start of the 2021 NASCAR campaign officially kicked off on Valentine’s Day with the Daytona 500. But remember, there are 35 other races on the schedule this year, plenty of opportunities to keep betting on the sport. After this race, everybody is seeking out the NASCAR Cup title odds, where the reigning champion, Chase Elliott, has the best odds to win, along with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

2020 Martinsville NCS Chase Elliott Victory Lane NKP3
Reigning champion Chase Elliott is the betting favorite for the 2021 Cup Series championship. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

The Favorites

Some drivers needed to qualify into this year’s Daytona 500 field due to the fact they didn’t have a charter guaranteeing them a spot. Here were some of those who overcame the odds and went on to have a strong showing in this year’s Great American Race.

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece no longer has a charter for the 2021 season, as JTG Daugherty Racing currently has sponsorship for just 24 races on the schedule. That is why it was vital for him to qualify for Daytona 500 this year. Daytona was a chance for him to make-or-break his career long-term and it turned successful with a sixth-place run in Sunday’s main event with his No. 37 Chevrolet.

Austin Cindric

Austin Cindric also had to make the race through his qualifying duel. The 22-year-old prospect was attempting his Cup Series debut, driving the No. 33 Verizon Ford Mustang with Team Penske. He was driving the robust Roush Yates engine; combined with his organization, people had high expectations from the NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. Many fans were betting on him to do well throughout the weekend, and Cindric came through. Not only did he qualify for the 500, the rookie was threatening to pull off a top-five finish, even leading two laps until a late wreck left him in 15th place.

The Dark Horses

When Thursday’s Duel races were about to begin, all 44 cars attempting to qualify were ready to show their speed and wow the crowd. Everyone looked forward to taking top spots in the NASCAR Cup Series, despite some having to battle hard to qualify for the race.

2021 Daytona I Duel II Field NKP
The field takes the green flag in one of Daytona’s two qualifying Duel races to set the field for the 2021 Daytona 500. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Eight drivers had to fight for one of four spots, all so their names could make it in the lineup. Starting positions at Daytona can make a huge difference in their chances of succeeding in the series long-term. The bonuses for making the field that await them include team promotion, financial support, and a better reputation.

The Cinderella Hopefuls

Drivers such as Noah Gragson, David Ragan, and Ty Dillon had quality teams behind them with past success on superspeedways. However, only Ragan was able to qualify for the race while Dillon and Gragson failed to make the field.

MBM Motorsports, a Daytona underdog had two entries: Timmy Hill in the No. 66 and Garrett Smithley in the No. 13. But their speed wasn’t good enough in either Duel to make it; Smithley wrecked late in his qualifying race.

2021 Daytona I Cup Garrett Smithley NKP
Garrett Smithley was one of the drivers who failed to qualify for this year’s Daytona 500. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Conclusion

The results of this year’s Daytona 500 were surprising, as the winner didn’t take charge of the race until the final lap. Michael McDowell had asphalt open up in front of him after a wreck on the backstretch in the final lap of the race. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano saw their chances melt away in a Big One that involved over a half-dozen cars; McDowell easily powered through the opened pathway to take the lead.

It was the first Cup victory for McDowell in a 14-year career as he was a car’s length ahead of Chase Elliott as the caution flew.

McDowell became just the eighth driver to win his first Cup race in NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

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