Just because cars weren't on the track didn't mean this offseason was a quiet one for NASCAR. Since the sport crowned Jimmie Johnson as its 2016 champion in November, much has changed in the world of stock car racing.
First off, Monster Energy replaced Sprint as the series' title sponsor. NASCAR also announced a major change in how championship and playoff points will be awarded in 2017, highlighted by the implementation of race segments. Finally, NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is returning from a concussion that sidelined him for the entire second half of 2016, while Carl Edwards' surprising offseason retirement will turn over the reins of the #19 car at Joe Gibbs Racing to rookie Daniel Suarez.
The offseason was undoubtedly a busy one, but familiarity has once again returned in the form of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, culminating in Sunday's 59th running of the Daytona 500.
Daytona is a unique animal, as NASCAR mandates that all teams run restrictor plates to manage horsepower and ensure speeds remain at a safe and reasonable limit. As a result, cars and drivers don't have the ability to pull away from each other like they do at non-restrictor plate racetracks. This means cars are consistently racing in packs within feet, and even inches, from each other. One false move, wiggle or lack of concentration can lead to massive wrecks that take out large portions of the field. While crashes are fun for casual fans, the unpredictable racing brought on by restrictor plates can make it very difficult to handicap for NASCAR bettors. On the other hand, plate racing does produce profitable wagering opportunities for savvy bettors, highlighted by the three drivers listed below, who are all currently mispriced across the NASCAR betting market.