Who is the favorite to win Sunday's Daytona 500?
Ask 10 people and you might get 10 different answers. Checking around the sports books here in Las Vegas, there is no consensus, either, as several have Jimmie Johnson favored. Station Casinos has him co-favored with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (for whom the lowest odds can be found at the South Point), and Tony Stewart is the favorite at the William Hill network of books.
To break the tie, I decided to go to the guy who runs the biggest Daytona 500 future book in town at the Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook: Ed Salmons. Well, figures aren't available as to who takes the most NASCAR bets, but I do know that the LVH has had its future book up the longest, as its posted it before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards were held here in town on Dec. 6. Salmons has seen more than 2½ month's worth of bets come across the screen on his desk, so, surely, he must know who the betting favorite will be.
Not so much.
After the Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Thursday night, Salmons updated his odds and put six drivers as the co-favorites at 10-1: Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Stewart, Matt Kenseth (who won Duel 1 on Thursday night), Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Earlier in the day, the LVH had those first five at 10-1, but Salmons lowered Hamlin from 12-1 to 10-1 after he won the second Duel and is trying to become the first to win Daytona's Unlimited, Duel and 500 in the same year.
"The Daytona 500 is the biggest NASCAR race of the year and has all the tradition, but it's the most wide-open race of the year," Salmons said. "As with most restrictor-plate racing, almost anyone in the field can win it.