Harvick Favored to Win It All Heading Into Daytona 500
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series began over the weekend with Saturday’s running of the Clash at Daytona, but things don’t start in earnest until this Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2 PM ET, FOX). We’ve got Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the top of the odds list for the Great American Race; he’s a four-time winner at Daytona, and easily the most popular driver on the circuit. But this year’s Cup favorite is Kevin Harvick. The 2014 champion is +650 at press time, ahead of defending champ Jimmie Johnson (+700) and well in front of Earnhardt (+1300).
While there are specific races, like the Daytona 500, where competitors like Earnhardt can shine, NASCAR is very much about the machines, and Harvick’s ride might be smoother this year now that Stewart-Hass Racing has switched from Chevrolet to Ford. Roush Yates will supply the engines for Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Fusion. This could be exactly what Harvick needs to push him over the top, after winning four races and finishing eighth in the Cup standings last year.
From Hass to Hendrick
Stewart-Hass Racing needed to do something if they were going to overtake Hendrick Motorsports. They won the Drivers’ Championship last season with Chevy under the hood, their seventh title in the past 11 years, and Johnson took home the Cup each of those years to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Senior. Earnhardt Junior is also with Hendrick, alongside Chase Elliott (+1200) and Kasey Kahne (+3300).
Joe Gibbs Racing won the 2015 Drivers’ Championship with Toyota, but their team took a hit when Carl Edwards announced his retirement in January. He’ll be replaced in the No. 19 Camry by Daniel Suarez – last year’s Xfinity Series champion. Suarez is nowhere to be found on the Cup futures market at press time, as the rookie sits behind Kyle Busch (+850), Denny Hamlin (+1300) and Matt Kenseth (+1300) in the JGR pecking order.
Team Penske is the other NASCAR team to watch in 2017, with the two-car combo of Joey Logano (+850) and Brad Keselowski (+1100) near the top of the Cup futures market. Also watch for Martin Truex, Jr. (+850) and the nascent Furniture Row Racing team, which is allied with JGR and is expanding to two cars this year – rookie Erik Jones (+2700) being the other driver. And if you’re looking for Danica Patrick (+50000), yes, she’s still in NASCAR, riding shotgun with Harvick, Clint Bowyer (+2200) and Kurt Busch (+2700) on the Stewart-Hass Racing team. See you in Daytona.