- Dale Earnhardt Jr won his first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2000, at the DirectTV 500 event in Texas. Since then, the 42-year-old has notched up a host of big wins, including the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014. He has been named Most Popular Driver over a dozen times and has won a total of 26 Cup Series races from 595. He ended the 2016 season in 32nd place overall, and has achieved one top ten finish from his last five races – a 2nd place in the Axalta We Paint Winners 400 in June 2016.
- Brad Keselowski’s first NASCAR Cup Series race win was in 2009, and the 33-year-old was the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion in 2012 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion in 2010. He has won 21 Cup Series races from 269, and his most recent was in the 2016 Quaker State 400 in Kentucky. He has achieved one top ten finish from his last five races, which was a 2nd place finish in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 in October 2016.
- Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 in 2015, just six years after winning his first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2009. Logano has started in 291 Cup Series races, and has achieved 136 top ten finishes, including 17 wins. His last five races saw the Connecticut-born professional achieve a top ten finish in each, with wins in the Alabama 500 in October 2016 and the Can-Am 500 a month later.
- Kevin Harvick has won 35 NASCAR Cup Series races from 574 starts, with a total of 284 top ten finishes. His most recent win was in the Hollywood Casino 400 in Kansas in October 2016, and the 41-year-old has achieved a top ten finish in four of his last five races, with his best being a 3rd place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 400 in November 2016.
- Chase Elliot won pole position for the 2016 Daytona 500 at the age of 20, becoming the youngest driver to achieve that feat. Elliot has again secured the pole for this year’s event and, although he has yet to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, he has achieved 17 top ten finishes from 41 races. He finished in the top ten in two of his last five races, with his best being 4th in the AAA Texas 500 in November 2016.
- Denny Hamlin won his first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2006, and has participated in a total of 398 since his first entry in 2005. He has won 29 of those races, with 195 top ten finishes, and his most recent win was in the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond in September 2016. As well as winning this race in 2016, Hamlin has enjoyed a top ten finish in each of his last five races, including two 3rd place finishes in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and the Alabama 500, both in October 2016.
Like every running of the Daytona 500, this is an extremely competitive event, which makes picking the eventual winner just as challenging as winning the race itself. Dale Earnhardt Jr is an understandable favourite, given his two previous wins here, and he will start this year’s event in second place, having been beaten to the pole by Chase Elliot by a fraction of a second. That said, his recent form hasn’t been his best, so we will look elsewhere for our selection.
Of the drivers who we have highlighted here, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin look to have the best chances according to their overall Cup Series stats. Harvick has the slightly better strike rate of the three for top ten finishes (49.47%), but Hamlin isn’t far behind (48.99%) and has a better winning strike rate (7.2% as opposed to Harvick’s 6%).
That being the case, we will side with Denny Hamlin as an each-way selection, and hope that he can win the Daytona 500 for the second year running.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Denny Hamlin each-way – 12/1
*Please note that odds may fluctuate in the run-up to the race.