The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is fast approaching. Cars hit the track for practice for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 4.
Two weeks later, the 65th running of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500 (2:30 pm ET, FOX), takes place as 40 drivers will vie for their place in NASCAR history.
The sport’s biggest names – Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace – are sure to be popular bets. However, I’m looking further down the odds board for my first bet of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Daytona 500 Best Bet
My best early bet for the Daytona 500 lies with a driver who’s already won at Daytona and has another third-place finish here. He has a runner-up finish at Talladega, and he was leading last year’s spring Talladega race with only a few hundred yards to go.
DraftKings is offering Erik Jones at 40-1 to win the Daytona 500, which I happily jumped on as my first bet of the 2023 season.
Jones was incredible in that Petty GMS car, leading the fifth most laps at drafting tracks (Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta). His 10.5 average running position in those six races was second only to Chase Elliott, leading to the third-best driver rating among all drivers in the Next Gen era at these tracks.
Last year my statistical model was quite consistent on Jones’ winning chances at the drafting tracks. He moved from 2.8% win probability at last year’s Daytona 500 up to 3.5% win probability by the playoff Talladega race. That equates to about 27.5-to-1 odds.
Jones led 23 laps at that Talladega race before finishing sixth. I have no doubt that last year’s strong performance will elevate him even higher in my model.
In addition, Petty GMS has rebranded as Legacy Motor Club with the addition of Jimmie Johnson into the ownership fold. That should only help Jones as the team is likely to draw in more resources and the wealth of knowledge Johnson brings. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jones is going to have an extra drafting partner, should Johnson qualify for the 500.
I’ll happily take the selectively aggressive driver who’s already proven to be a winner at superspeedways at these odds. Especially when he’s shown consistent ability to run up front.
While I haven’t run my full model yet, I’m quite sure it will put Jones in the 25-1 range, or maybe even a bit better, so I’d happily bet this down to +3000.
The Bet: Erik Jones +4000 to Win | Bet then: +3000
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