The 2017 season of Daytona 500 is almost a week away, and motorsports aficionados are now talking odds for the Great American Race. The 59th edition of the Monster Energy Cup Series will return to the Daytona International Speedway to host NASCAR's grandest event. Let's look at the chances of the drivers who will be taking action this year.
The Superbowl of NASCAR will enjoy the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who missed the final half of the 2016 season due to concussions. Earnhardt last competed at Kentucky Speedway before being sidelined by injuries he sustained in a crash. The JR Motorsports team owner discussed his move to return during the 35th Annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted this week by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. is Vegas Insider's top pick to win Daytona 500 with 5/1 odds. In second place is Brad Keselowski with 8/1 odds. Tied for third to fifth places are Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. They are followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth.
Fox Sports also sees Earnhardt Jr. bagging this year's championship despite his six-month hiatus from the race. The website describes him as a sensational restrictor-plate racer. Its top five listing is almost identical with Vegas and includes Keselowski, Johnson, Harvick, and Truex Jr.
A win for Earnhardt, Johnson, and Kenseth will be historical. No other NASCAR drivers have won the Daytona more than three times in the last 30 years. Only racing legend Richard Petty holds the most victories with seven titles while Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon have won thrice.
There is a possibility that NASCAR will put a greater emphasis on the younger drivers this season. Those who are remaining such as Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Danica Patrick are beyond their peaks. The retirement of Tony Stewart, Gordon, and Carl Edwards stresses the need for the sport to have young stars who will inherit the vacated ranks.