Bet the Daytona 500: NASCAR starts its engines and the Eckel 4 like Busch, Almirola, Hamlin, Logano, Truex
Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Can he make history and win it for a third straight time?John Raoux | Associated Press

Bet the Daytona 500: NASCAR starts its engines and the Eckel 4 like Busch, Almirola, Hamlin, Logano, Truex

Daytona 500, Daytona, Fla., 2:30 p.m. TV: Fox

NASCAR is back and so is the “Eckel 4.’’

Sunday marks the return of NASCAR with the sports biggest race the Daytona 500 and a chance at history.

Denny Hamlin, the winner of the last two Daytona 500s, looks to become the first driver to ever win three straight.

When Hamlin won last year he became just the fourth driver to ever repeat and the first since Sterling Martin did so in 1994-95. The 1996 race wasn’t so kind to the two-time defending champ as engine trouble befell him early in the race and he finished a dead last 40th.

It wasn’t much better for Cale Yarborough, who went back to back in 1983 and 1984 only to see his engine expire after 60 laps as he finished 36th.

Finally, “The King’’ Richard Petty won the 1973 and 1974 Daytona races. In 1975 he led for 50 laps only to have to take multiple pit stops for an overheated engine and finished seventh.

While Hamlin is looking for a trifecta and his fourth overall win (he also won in 2016), some notable drivers and past Cup Champions such as Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. are looking for their first-ever Daytona win.

Here’s how the Eckel 4, which includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker, Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney and Barry “Dr. NASCAR’’ Davis see the race.

Kyle Busch (14-1): It’s not often you get Rowdy at this kind of price. And after a miserable 2020 season, he’s looking to bounce back with a huge 2021 season. Winning his first Daytona 500 would be a heck of way to start.

Aric Almirola (16-1): The Tampa native looked very good all week and won the BlueGreen Vacations Duel 1 race at Daytona in preparation for Sunday. The “Dr.’’ and “Left Turn’’ were both impressed.

Joey Logano (11-1): The 2015 Daytona winner also had fourth-place finishes in both 2018 and 2019 so he knows his way around the course. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see him on Victory Lane.

Martin Truex Jr. (15-1): The Jersey native got off to a poor start in the 2020 season and got hot at the end of the circuit. He’ll try to start 2021 the way he ended 2020 with his first-ever Daytona win.

Denny Hamlin (8-1): You would be foolish to leave out the guy going for three straight. Kind of like betting against Tom Brady.

Longshot Plays: Chris Buescher (65-1); Christopher Bell (40-1).

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