Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bovada Favorite For Daytona 500
The 2015 NASCAR season begins Sunday with the Super Bowl of the sport, the Daytona 500, and the biggest name in stock car racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is the 15/2 Bovada favorite to win the race. Junior is looking for his third Daytona 500 win and to become the first repeat winner since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95.
Last year in a race delayed more than six hours by rain, Junior dominated in snapping a 55-race losing streak dating to 2012 and at a track where he had finished second in three of the previous four 500s. Earnhardt led six times for a race-high 54 laps — all after the rain delay — and seemed to have it under control until things got chaotic near the end. There were 42 lead changes and four multi-car accidents as the field closed in on the checkered flag.
An accident with seven laps to go triggered by pole-sitter Austin Dillon, driving the No. 3 — Earnhardt’s father’s number making its return to the Daytona 500 for the first time since 2001 — set up a final two-lap shootout to the finish. Earnhardt got a jump past Brad Keselowski on the restart. But Denny Hamlin came charging through the field and Earnhardt suddenly had a challenger with one lap to go. Then an accident farther back involving former Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray brought out the caution and the win belonged to Earnhardt.
Junior also won one of Thursday’s Budweiser Duels at Daytona. Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson swept the Duels to give Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2-3 start for the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon had already won the pole and the rest of the field was locked in through the pair of 150-mile qualifying races. Junior led 21 laps overall, including the last 18. Earnhardt on the restart with four laps to go never let anyone challenge him.
Earnhardt is looking to be the fourth repeat winner. Marlin is the only driver whose first two career wins in the Cup Series occurred in the Daytona 500. Richard Petty won this race consecutively from 1973-74, and Cale Yarborough scored back-to-back victories from 1983-84.
Hendrick Owns Front Row
The second of two 150-mile Duels featured a pair of multicar crashes, including a late incident involving Danica Patrick that caused a green-white-checkered finish. Johnson led 40 of the 64 laps in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet and held off a charging Kyle Busch at the flag.
Johnson is the 9/1 second favorite at Bovada with Gordon at 10/1 with former winner Matt Kenseth. Danica is 50/1.
The last 13 pole winners have failed to finish higher than eighth in the Daytona 500, and none led more than 18 laps. The winner of the Daytona 500 has started from the pole position just nine times. The last driver to do it is Dale Jarrett in 2000. Gordon is the only active driver to accomplish the feat (1999). Gordon, competing in his 23rd and final Daytona 500, is starting on the pole for this year’s race.
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