The Daytona 500 is considered the Super Bowl of NASCAR even though it’s also the season-opening race. Three-time winner Denny Hamlin is the betting favorite for the 2022 version of “The Great American Race” on Sunday.
The NASCAR season technically started on Feb. 6 with the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum but that’s a completely different type of race on a short track and is not a points event. Joey Logano outdueled Kyle Busch on the 0.25-mile oval. Logano took the lead of the 150-lap race after a halfway break and won by 0.877 seconds in his No. 22 Ford over the No. 18 Toyota of Busch on the temporary short track. Logano led the final 35 laps for his second victory in the season-opening exhibition race (and first since 2017). It was his first Cup win in nearly a year (since the Bristol dirt race in March 2021).
One thing to take from the Clash was the debut of the Next Gen cars. So far, drivers generally agree that new Camaros, Mustangs and Camrys are more durable than their predecessors and that they put more control into the gloves of the drivers and less inside the laptops of the engineers. A shortage of parts for the Next Gen cars will leave teams with enough cars to race, but possibly not enough spares in case of a crash.
“I think we all like the new cars,” said three-time Daytona winner Denny Hamlin, who drives for one of those superteams, Joe Gibbs Racing, but co-owns Team 23XI, a new organization that is still trying to keep up. “I think we all just wish that we had more of them.”
In theory, the cars on the track more closely resemble what consumers buy at dealerships. The only thing the Next Gen car and the 2021 version have in common is the seat. And that’s because the sport is “returning back to stock car roots,” said Brandon Thomas, NASCAR’s managing director for vehicle systems.
2022 Daytona 500 Race Info
- When: Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2:30 pm ET
- Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL
- TV: FOX
- Radio: MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
- Live Stream: NBCSports.com
Odds to Win the 2022 Daytona 500
- Denny Hamlin +800
- Chase Elliot +1000
- Kyle Larson +1000
- Joey Logano +1200
- Ryan Blaney +1200
- William Byron +1500
- Brad Keselowski +1500
- Kyle Busch +1600
- Kurt Busch +1600
- Bubba Watson +1600
- Aric Almirola +1800
- Kevin Harvick +2000
- Martin Truex Jr. +2000
- Austin Dillon +2000
- Tyler Reddick +2500
- Christopher Bell +2800
- Austin Cindric +2800
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +2800
- Chris Buescher +3300
- Justin Haley +4000
2022 Daytona 500 Practice Runs
In practice runs this week at Daytona, defending champion Michael McDowell posted the best lap time in the opening practice at 46.696 seconds and 192.736 mph. Ryan Blaney turned the quickest circuit during the second go-around at 46.732 seconds and 192.588 mph. Fords swept the top five slots in both portions, even going for all 10 in the latter. For comparison from 2021: Bubba Wallace claimed top rank of Practice 1 at 45.057 seconds and 199.747 mph. Brad Keselowski topped the Practice 2 leaderboard at 45.826 seconds and 196.395 mph.
Who have the best odds to win the 2022 Daytona 500?
Two of NASCAR’s finest superspeedway racers today are Hamlin and Logano. Between them, they have four Daytona 500 wins and nine wins on superspeedways. Hamlin is the +800 favorite Sunday and Logano +1200.
Only two drivers have more victories in the 500 than Hamlin — Richard Petty with seven and Cale Yarborough with four. All three of the other drivers with three wins already have earned admission into the NASCAR Hall of Fame — Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon.
“In general, I just think I have a good understanding of the air here and how it moves around the walls,” Hamlin said of racing at Daytona. “Talladega is different. If you look at our results, we haven’t won as much at Talladega, but we’ve been pretty good. Here, there is just something about, whatever it is, the banking or the width of the track, height of the walls or something that I just kind of know where those little pockets of air are, it seems like, that are a little bit better.”
Which drivers should you keep in consideration for the 2022 Daytona 500?
Oddsmakers are not expecting McDowell to repeat as he’s priced +5000. He was an even bigger underdog last year but got his first victory in the NASCAR Cup Series after the Team Penske cars of Keselowski and Logano collided while racing for the lead on the final lap. McDowell led only the final lap. He did have two previous top-fives at Daytona International Speedway (including a fifth in the 2019 Daytona 500).
Chase Elliott (+900 this week) finished second, followed by Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin. Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet was beside McDowell’s car entering the final corner when the final yellow flag flew, freezing the finishing order on the 200th and final lap.
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson (+900) will start 2022 off the way he ended 2021 – out front. The 29-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver won the pole position for the Daytona 500 with a lap of 181.159 mph in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on Wednesday. For a record fifth consecutive year, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman (+1800) has also earned a front-row starting position in the Daytona 500. He’ll start the No. 48 Chevrolet second.
Who wins the 2022 Daytona 500?
Ryan Blaney at +1400. He won the summer 2021 race at Daytona and was second to Hamlin in the 2020 Daytona 500.