Daytona 500 Vegas picks and predictions 2019: Fade Martin Truex Jr, back Denny Hamlin

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No other sport is it considered such a crowning achievement to win the official season opener. But NASCAR is different. The 2019 Daytona 500, the biggest race of the year for the series, is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET, and a win can secure the legacy of a driver. A field of 40 will race around Daytona International Speedway for the opportunity to be presented the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane. Right now, the 2019 Daytona 500 odds have a trio of favorites, with Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski each at 8-1. It's a restrictor-plate race, which means nearly every driver has a chance to compete, as evidenced by 15 drivers at 25-1 or lower odds. With a strategic race expected, you'll want to see the NASCAR predictions from Vegas bookmaker and handicapper Micah Roberts before making your own 2019 Daytona 500 picks.

Roberts went with Jimmie Johnson as a hefty 25-1 long shot at this past Sunday's Advance Auto Parts Clash. The result: Johnson survived a huge crash and went on to win the rain-shortened race as Roberts' followers raked it in. He entered the 2019 NASCAR season after finishing big-time in the black in 2018. Those who wagered $100 on each of his picks last year have $1,750 in profit to show for it. 

His biggest wins came when he went against the grain, taking Keselowski at 12-1 to win the South Point 400 at Las Vegas in the opening race of the NASCAR playoffs and going with Logano, also 12-1, to take the First Data 500 at Martinsville. He also nailed four of Harvick's nine series victories and three of Kyle Busch's nine wins. 

That continued an astonishing run in which Roberts picked nine of the 10 winners in the 2017 NASCAR playoffs. In 2016, he took Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500 at 15-1, and took him again at 40-1 at Watkins Glen later that year. Anyone who's following his picks is up huge year after year. 

Now, he has analyzed the field for Sunday's 2019 Daytona 500 from every possible angle and locked in his 2019 NASCAR at Daytona picks. You can see his projected leaderboard over at SportsLine.

One driver Roberts is fading is Martin Truex Jr., considered one of the top drivers yet to win a Daytona 500. Truex has had runner-up finishes in two races at Daytona, including the 500 back in 2016. But Roberts has other drivers he likes a lot more -- he doesn't project Truex finishing in the top 10.

Roberts, however is finding a lot to like with Denny Hamlin and his 10-1 odds. Hamlin edged Truex by a record 0.001-second margin for the 2016 Daytona 500 championship. Hamlin didn't win a single race in 2018, but he's had a history of competing on this track. If he's close, his 31 Cup victories prove he can get it done.

"He's starving for a win and this is probably his best shot," Roberts told SportsLine. "In the last eight Daytona 500s, he's been on the front row on the last restart five times. His 407 laps led at Daytona are the most among active drivers. He knows how to get up front and that's the name of the game."

Also, Roberts predicts three drivers with Daytona 500 2019 odds of 20-1 longer make a strong run at the title. His picks will shock many, but anyone who backs them could hit it with a massive payday, just like last week. 

So which drivers are must-backs in the 2019 Daytona 500? And which underdogs shock NASCAR? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard from the nation's premier NASCAR handicapper, and find out.

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