DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Everyone loves a good Cinderella story right? That’s what moves the needle for the NCAA Tournament each year. Everyone wants to find the small school that can knock off the giants. Well, what about in racing?
Vegas and I agree on the favorites, as all five of mine are in the top seven of theirs.
But, what about some darkhorses?
I list five sleepers for Sunday’s 60th annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Darrell Wallace Jr.
What a story it would be if Wallace could land in victory lane on Sunday. An African American winner in his first full Cup season would be huge. Plus, Wallace has desperately been searching for the right amount of funding to land a full season ride. He got one for 2018, but doesn’t have full funding. A win Sunday would certainly help.
Plus, it would be great for NASCAR to see the up and comer win their seasons biggest race. There’s so many big storylines that could come out of this.
On top of that, think about the storylines that would come out if Richard Petty Motorsports wins the Daytona 500 again. Their last win came with Aric Almirola at Daytona in the July race in 2014. Wallace and RPM winning on Sunday would be a very special and iconic moment.
But, lets go to reasons other than a good story why Wallace could win. He’s legit. This team is legit in Speedweeks. He finished third in his Duel and has a setup that can win.
I like Wallace to possibly win this weekend. He’s listed 66/1 in Vegas.
While Wallace and Newman aren’t teammates per say, they technically are. RPM (Wallace) and RCR (Newman) are in the same shop. They merged teams this offseason. Newman and his RCR teammate of Austin Dillon have been really strong this Speedweeks and I think one could win on Sunday. Newman, is a past Daytona 500 champion and one that I think could win again. He has 55/1 odds.
He has the same odds as Wallace, 66/1, but I think that is a crime. Menard, finished fifth and third respectively at Daytona last year, and this year is driving for the same Wood Brothers team that won the ‘500 with Trevor Bayne in 2011 and finished second with Ryan Blaney last year. Plus, the Wood Brothers are still technically aligned with Penske, meaning that we treat this as a fourth Penske car. If you haven’t noticed, Penske is stealing the headlines this year. Their trio of drivers all are among the top favorites.
Why isn’t Menard?
He will have a shot to win.
Talk about another one with low odds. He’s not even listed. That too is a crime. Both of Ragan’s two career Cup victories have come on plate tracks. His team Front Row Motorsports’ lone Cup victory came by Ragan at Talladega. FRM is a Ford team, the same manufacturer that has won seven straight points paying plate races.
Ragan is also very good on plate tracks, finishing in the top 10 last July at Daytona.
Need I say more?
Kahne has the same odds as Menard and Wallace. I like that. He has a fresh start to the season with a new team, one that’s on the up themselves. Leavine Family Racing produced a fourth place car in the Coke Zero 400 last year and has normally had a very good plate program with Michael McDowell. Now, they have Kahne in their No. 95 Chevrolet, who oh by the way is aligned with RCR too.
Kahne, had his best races in 2017 on plate tracks, finishing seventh, fifth, 18th and eighth last season. While he’s never won a points paying plate race, I think he can steal one on Sunday.