What to Look for in the 2022 Edition of the Daytona 500
The 64th edition of the Daytona 500 will kick off the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, which will bring both familiar and unfamiliar obstacles to NASCAR’s best drivers. This year’s Daytona 500 will be the first official race for NASCAR’s Next-Gen vehicle, the sport’s new car and chassis that has officially become the Cup Series standard.
Much about the Next Gen vehicle, from the complexities of its independent rear suspension to how it reacts in Daytona’s draft, will be unknown at the start, with no assurance of answers by the conclusion.
The blank slate of the Next-Gen car, combined with the draft’s great equalizer, creates an even playing field for nearly every driver, including defending Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell, three-time winner Denny Hamlin, and reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson, for the most difficult 500 to handicap in many years.
Who are the Favorites to Win the Race and Which Drivers are We Most Confident in?
Denny Hamlin may not be the best bet for the Daytona 500, but his Daytona track record speaks for itself. I’m not usually one to back the favorite in a race, but you can make an exception for him. Hamlin is currently a +800 favorite to win.
His three Daytona 500 victories are the most by an active driver, and he is tied for third all-time. His first came in 2016, when he defeated Martin Truex Jr. in the most exciting Daytona 500 finish ever.
In 2020, Hamlin became the first driver in 25 years to win the Daytona 500 in consecutive years. His ability to dodge the huge crash is what makes him so deadly. He does it because he likes to be in the lead.
In his three Daytona 500 victories, he led several laps, but those aren’t his only notable accomplishments. He led 98 laps in 2021 and more than 22 laps in each of the 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2018 Daytona 500s.
Hamlin’s Daytona 500 career is notable for the fact that he has never crashed out of a race. In the Summer Daytona event, he wrecked out of a handful, but never in the season-opener. That’s nearly as astonishing as the fact that you won.
At Daytona, Hamlin is so successful because he goes for the lead and does all he can to keep his opponents at bay. He wants to keep the race under his control.
Hamlin should be considered one of the leading candidates for the 2022 Daytona 500.
When it comes to superspeedway racing, there is an upper-tier among NASCAR drivers. Joey Logano is a close second to Hamlin on the list. Logano is a lot like Hamlin in that he wants to be in charge of the race.
Logano is currently a +1000 favorite to win
Logano is, without a doubt, the most daring driver in the field. This ruffles a few feathers now and again, but it also puts him in the driver’s seat when it counts most.
Logano battled Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin in the last 15 laps of the 2015 race. For several laps, they were three-wide, but Logano drew away with fewer than ten laps to go. To win his first Daytona 500, he was able to maintain control of the race and hold off the field.
It’s fascinating to consider the stats because Logano only led 30 laps in the four seasons after that. At the same time, he earned four sixth-place finishes. We anticipated him to win the race, but in the Daytona 500s, he took it easy.
Who are the Sleepers to Win the Race and Which Drivers are We Most Confident in?
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is someone you can prepare to take a chance on him for the 2022 Daytona 500, despite his odds. Stenhouse Jr.’s odds sit at +2200.
There are a few drivers in NASCAR that compete just for wins at Superspeedways. Stenhouse Jr. is a good example of this. Stenhouse can race well on other tracks, but he has the best chance of winning at the Superspeedway.
In 2017, he won his second career race at Daytona. Stenhouse won his second career race after passing David Ragan on a late-race restart. It was fantastic to win, but that race set off an unpleasant trend. Stenhouse collided with Kyle Busch early in the race, pushing him into William Byron and destroying both cars.
Because of his aggressiveness, Stenhouse gained the reputation as someone who ruins people. Surprisingly, he hasn’t been in contention at Daytona recently.
In his previous eight events, he has only one top 15 result and hasn’t led a lap in his last three. The aggressiveness may land him in trouble, but it’s just what a sleeper needs. The Daytona 500 is one of Stenhouse’s greatest chances to win and enter the playoffs. Someone with his personality must be aggressive.
Ross Chastain is a driver that falls halfway between Hamlin and Stenhouse, Jr. He isn’t even close to Hamlin in terms of total results, but he is in contention on more tracks than Stenhouse.
The Daytona 500 isn’t a must-win for him, but it is one of his best opportunities to qualify for the playoffs. Chastain is a +4000 odds favorite to win.
Following a season with Chip Ganassi Racing, Chastain joined the Trackhouse Racing Team for the 2022 season. This decision influenced the betting market for the 2022 Cup Series season.
Chastain raced in the Cup Series for the first time last season in a competitive vehicle. As a result, we don’t have a lot of Daytona data.
Chastain was a third entry for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2020 Daytona 500. He didn’t lead for most of the race, but he surged to the front late. Unfortunately, he became overly pushy and caused a major accident.
Like a few other drivers we’ve discussed, Chastain is a brawler. We demonstrated how it might lead him to problems, but sometimes necessary.
Chastain had a strong showing at Daytona last season. He was seventh in the Daytona 500 and led 18 laps in the Summer race until being eliminated due to an accident.
In 2020, Cole Custer had a strong rookie season. To get into the playoffs, he surprised Kentucky with a victory. His season was highlighted by a victory, but he also had some solid finishes.
He had a full-fledged sophomore slump last season. Custer is a +5000 favorite to win this year.
Custer finished 26th in the standings with only two top-ten finishes.
Custer has the potential to have a successful season, which would begin with a solid run in the Daytona 500. Custer has only raced in the Cup Series for two seasons, like Chastain, therefore there isn’t much past Daytona statistics in the Cup Series.
Custer has had one top 20 finish in four races. That, however, isn’t the full tale.
In the 2020 Daytona 500, he suffered a mechanical issue. Custer was in the big one with less than five laps to go in the Summer race. He was on the outside of the field, but he couldn’t dodge Logano.
Custer finished a respectable 11th in the Daytona 500 last season. He was in the top five on the previous run, but several vehicles pushed him out of position. Custer’s crew is one of the reasons I believe he can pull off an upset victory. Stewart-Haas Racing had a horrible season in 2021, but a strong showing in the Daytona 500 might kick start their campaign.
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.