The NASCAR Cup Series kicks off today with the 2021 Daytona 500. Read on below to see my prediction for who will win the race, as well as my top 10, dark horse, and driver to avoid predictions.
Winner: Ryan Blaney- Blaney and Daytona have gone hand-in-hand so far in his career, with three top 10 finishes in his last four starts in the Great American Race, including two runner-up finishes. Two of his four career Cup Series wins have come on another superspeedway, Talladega, so Blaney knows how to get it done on this style track. Blaney has been knocking on the door to success at Daytona and I believe that he will bring home the win this year.
Top 10: Denny Hamlin- Hamlin is going to be a huge favorite coming into the race today, winning here in back to back years. In his last nine starts in the 500, Hamlin has finished in the top 5 7 of those times. It’s hard to pick against Hamlin in this race, but winning the same race three years in a row is an extremely difficult task, especially in a race that is unpredictable as this one. Regardless, Hamlin is certainly a lock for another top 10 result.
Dark horse: Michael McDowell-McDowell has been a superspeedway ringer the past five seasons, finishing in the top 15 at the Daytona 500 each of those times, with 2 top 10 results to show for it. McDowell usually finds a way to avoid the big one in order to stay in contention for the final push to the finish. If McDowell finds a way to avoid the big one yet again, I believe he is a lock for another top 15 finish.
Driver to fade: Martin Truex Jr.- The Daytona 500 has not been kind to Martin Truex Jr., with only 3 top 10 finishes in 16 career starts. Truex has gotten caught up in the big one each of the last two seasons and finished outside of the top 30 both times as a result. Truex is a skilled driver, but hasn’t caught any lucky breaks at Daytona in recent years. I believe that trend will continue this year and that Truex will finish outside the top 20 yet again.