What’s Happening?

The Daytona 500 is a race that caters to the underdog. Every year, it seems like someone is battling for a win or a top-10 finish that normally is not up there. This year, we try to predict which dark horses could surprise some people in this year’s Daytona 500.

  • To make this list, this driver winning needs to be a reasonable surprise. We will not include drivers who have either already won the Daytona 500.
  • In the last three years, we have seen dark horses win the Daytona 500. Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were all fairly unexpected winners, and they came through.
  • Fans love a good underdog story. Some of the coolest stories in all of sports come from a team or player overcoming the odds to ultimately triumph.

Corey LaJoie

Corey LaJoie has quietly made some impressive starts in the Daytona 500 in underfunded equipment. He had top-10s in 2020 with Go Fas Racing and in 2021 with Spire Motorsports. He also finished in the top 10 in the summer race in 2023.

Spire Motorsports is also primed for a big 2024. They have a brand new race shop and major sponsorship money from Gainbridge. They have more resources than ever before, and they have a driver that can run near the front on a drafting-style superspeedway like Daytona.

Noah Gragson

While Gragson struggled in 2023, he has a good history at Daytona in the Xfinity Series. He has 3 top-10s there including a win back in 2020. He also proved that he can run up front at a superspeedway by running near the front at Talladega, and his best finish being at Atlanta in the spring.

He also joins SHR and Ford, who had a great Speedweeks in 2023. Ford led 123 laps in the 2023 Daytona 500, and Aric Almirola won one of the Duel races for SHR. Not to mention that Chase Briscoe led the most laps in the summer race at Daytona for SHR. Gragson may quietly have a solid horse underneath him for Daytona.

Erik Jones

Erik Jones’ first career win came in the summer race at Daytona in 2018. While he has not finished in the top-10 since 2019 at the track, he has proven that he can win. That win also came with Toyota, whom Jones will be driving for in 2024 as a part of Legacy Motor Club.

While LMC struggled in 2023, the team has plenty of optimism heading into 2024. A new manufacturer, new employees, and the resources of a Key Partner team. They will have a chance to show their muscle at Daytona.

David Ragan

David Ragan joins RFK Racing’s Stage 60 for the Daytona 500. Ragan has two career Cup Series wins, and both came on superspeedways. He also recorded 2 top-10s at Daytona in 2022 for Rick Ware Racing.

RFK Racing was great in the Daytona in 2023. They led 74 laps in the 500, which was the most of any race team, and they finished 1-2 in the summer race. RFK is strong at Daytona, and they have a prolific superspeedway racer behind the wheel.

Bubba Wallace

Whenever the Cup Series rolls into Daytona, Bubba Wallace is always near the front. He’s finished 2nd at Daytona 3 times in his career, including twice in the Daytona 500. For him, it’s all about closing the deal.

He is driving for 23XI Racing, who should have some extra Toyota teammates with Legacy Motor Club joining the camp. Wallace will have the help necessary to win the race, and he knows he can win. He also has the advice of Denny Hamlin, his car owner, who has won 3 Daytona 500s.

These drivers may surprise some people at Daytona next weekend. Which one is your dark horse pick to win the Great American Race?

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