Daytona 500 Odds: Earnhardt Jr. in the spotlight

By: Michael Robinson | Friday, February 18, 2011

The 53rd Daytona 500 takes place Sunday and it’s only fitting that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leading most of the pre-race news. Fox will have the ‘Great American Race’ at 10 a.m. (PT).

Jamie McMurray was victorious last year, becoming the ninth different winner in the last nine years.

Earnhardt Jr. earned this year’s pole position last Sunday with a lap of 186.09 miles per hour. However, he wrecked his car during a practice run on Wednesday and by rule will have to start at the rear in his backup.

This race will mark the 10-year anniversary of when dad Dale Earnhardt died during the final lap of the 43rd Daytona 500. Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in 2004, but has struggled overall since. That was supposed to change in 2007 when he moved to Hendrick Motorsports, but he’s placed just 12th, 25th and 21st in the last three season standings.

Team owner Rick Hendrick had seen enough, especially considering Earnhardt Jr. hadn’t won a race since 2008. He is now teaming with crew chief Steve Letarte, who used to be with Jeff Gordon.

Despite all the travails, and the Wednesday crash, Earnhardt Jr. is tied for second in the Daytona 500 odds (plus 900) at Bodog.com. He has four top-5 finishes in 11 Daytona 500 starts.

Earnhardt Jr. has two wins overall at Daytona International Speedway (22 starts), also taking the Pepsi 400 in 2001.

Kevin Harvick (plus 800) is the favorite for Sunday after finishing third in the season standings last year. He won the 2007 Daytona 500 and has four top-5 finishes in nine starts. He has two total wins at this track (19 starts), also taking the Coke Zero 400 in 2010.

Kyle Busch (plus 900) is dangerous on Sunday despite never winning the Daytona 500 in six tries and having just one top-5 finish. He does have one win at Daytona International Speedway in 12 starts (Coke Zero 400 in 2008). He finished eighth last year in the season standings as he looks for that elusive first championship.

Tony Stewart (plus 1000) is a two-time season champion (2002, 2005), but has never won in 12 Daytona 500 starts (just three top-5 finishes). He does have three wins at this track (24 starts), with the most recent the Coke Zero 400 in 2009.

Kurt Busch (plus 1000) won Thursday’s first qualifying race in addition to the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last Saturday. He has never won at Daytona International Speedway (20 starts). That includes 10 at the Daytona 500, although he does have four top-5 finishes.

Jeff Gordon (plus 1100) is a three-time winner at the Daytona 500, the last time in 2005 (the others 1999 and 1997). He has six overall wins in 36 tries at Daytona International Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson is plus 1400 on Sunday despite winning the last five season championships, an unprecedented feat. He has one lifetime win at this track (18 starts), the 2006 Daytona 500. He’s has four top-5 finishes in nine overall Daytona 500 starts.

Other Daytona 500 favorites at Bodog.com are Clint Bowyer (plus 1200), McMurray (plus 1200), Carl Edwards (plus 1400), Denny Hamlin (plus 1400) and Jeff Burton (plus 1400).

 
 
 
 
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