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Should You Bet on Pole Position to Win the Daytona 500 in 2020?

By Jennifer Hassan in NASCAR
| February 12, 2020 1:27 am PDT
2020 Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 is a long, grueling, wild ride. If you love NASCAR, this is a good day to place a wager.

In a wide field of drivers, there are a few standouts. I’m sure you have your favorites, but you can also check the odds to see who the bookmakers give the best chances to, and you can use your own intuition and sports knowledge as well. The only thing we can know for sure is that it’s going to be a great race.

One thing worth wondering is if betting on pole position is a good idea for bettors. Is the pole position driver likely to win the Daytona 500? Let’s look into that.

What Makes the Daytona 500 Special?

A couple of variables make the Daytona 500 a significant race. First, it’s a famous race, and it starts the NASCAR season. Kind of like running the championship first and playing the rest of the season later.

Also, it’s a long track and an even longer race. Five hundred miles in a car that’s close to 130 degrees inside tests the driver more than it tests the car.

Length of Track

Both Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway are monster tracks. The extreme speeds that can be generated on these long flats are why speed restrictor plates are now used. Without the plates, cars could get close to 240 mph, making deadly crashes exponentially more likely.

The 2.5-mile-long track at Daytona is significantly longer than other NASCAR tracks, except for Talladega. On shorter tracks, bumps, collisions, and wrecks are more common but less severe as the cars tend to be more evenly spaced around the track.

At Daytona Speedway, cars tend to run in packs, catching each other’s drafts. There will be long stretches of empty speedway, and then a tight clump of cars blocking their opponents so teammates can take the lead.

There are fewer collisions on the longer speedways, but when they happen, cars can go airborne. Richard Petty’s famous 1988 crash at Daytona resulted in him rolling his car eight times along the barrier wall before being slammed again by another car.

Length of Race

You’re in a car going close to 200 mph, it’s burning hot inside, you’re wearing special shoes so the pedals don’t catch your feet on fire, and there are 39 other cars on the track that could cause death or injury if there’s an impact.

If you can just get across the finish line, you’ll be fine. If you’re the first to the checkered flag, you’ll be better than fine.

Except, it’s a 500-miler, and the track is 2.5 miles long.

So, that’s two hundred laps to run the Daytona 500. TWO HUNDRED!! How do you even keep track? Is there a mathematician in the pit crew?

The Daytona 500 is a longer distance than from Boston to Washington D.C., which is just a piddly 441 miles if you take the I-95. So imagine you are driving between those two cities. It’s a pretty long drive, right?

Now imagine you are driving that same distance, but you have to do it by circumnavigating the same few blocks, over and over, ad nauseum.

Unless you are Clark Griswold heading to Walley World, you’d give up. You’d cry. You’d stop for a beer and never get back in the car (rumor has it that this is how people ended up settling in Philadelphia and Baltimore).

Three hours into the race, you’ll understand why it’s becoming more and more fashionable for Daytona 500 drivers to spend hours in the gym every day. The race takes a toll.

Who Takes Pole Position at the 2020 Daytona 500?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will take pole position at the 2020 Daytona 500 on February 16th. He garnered this esteemed spot by winning the Busch Clash last Sunday at Daytona.

If this were a short race, pole position would give Stenhouse an undeniable leg up with the chance to greet the checkered flag. However, if you’re driving 500 miles over the course of hours, it may not really matter who was the first to drive away from the stop sign.

How Often Does Pole Position Take the Win at Daytona?

According to Daytona Beach’s own newspaper, the News-Journal, the pole position holder has only won the race seven times in the Daytona 500’s 60-year history.

That means the pole position holder has a 12% likelihood of winning the race. But life doesn’t always conform to statistics.

There is already some aggression set up to be played out on the field, with Team Penske reportedly at loggerheads over a crash that Joey Logano allegedly contributed to at the Busch Clash. Whether this will affect their team dynamics and prevent them from effectively blocking opponents to give each other an edge remains to be seen.

The crash affected more than just other Penske drivers. So Sunday’s Daytona 500 is going to be about more than just driving and endurance. It’s going to be an opportunity for more than a few drivers to vent their frustration. It’s factors like this that outweigh any real pole position advantage.

Other Factors I Consider When Betting on Daytona 500

  • Driver’s streak the previous year. Since the Daytona 500 starts the season, you don’t have much to go on yet as far as a “streak,” but the previous year’s record tells you whether the driver is on top of his or her game
  • Recent trades. Shaking up the team means a lot of emotional regrouping, even if everything’s going smoothly. Remember the show “Wife Swap”? It’s like that. At the very least, there is jockeying for position as alpha dog of the team garage, and at worst, you get what Team Penske is dealing with right now as tension mounts between Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski
  • Dumb luck. Some drivers have more luck than skill. In a race where a bump can take out ten cars, luck can carry the day

To Sum It Up

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has captured pole position for the 2020 Daytona 500. This may give him a winning edge. However, so much can happen during the three hours of the race that when you are placing your bets at the top NASCAR betting sites, it pays to consider other factors as well.

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