It’s been a minute since it was easy to come up with five to 10 potential winners of the Daytona 200. It’s been a real minute since it was difficult to narrow it down to 15 riders with a shot at winning the legendary 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

But here we are.

Tasked with the job of doing just that, we’ve done our best to narrow it down to just 15, and we’ll be sharing that list of racers three at a time, in numerical order, over the course of this week. Since, at the time of this writing, there were 67 riders entered in the 82nd running of the 200, our odds of getting it right are… drumroll, please. One in 67.

So, without further ado, let’s give ‘er a rip. Remember this is in numerical order, not in the order from favorite to least favorite. Also, don’t shoot the messenger.

#1 – Xavi Forés – Attack Performance Progressive Yamaha

Xavi Forés’s Yamaha YZF-R6 will carry the number-one plate that the Spaniard earned while winning last year’s MotoAmerica Supersport Championship on a Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati Panigale V2. With Cameron Petersen opting out of the 200 to make certain he is healthy and ready to battle in the Steel Commander Superbike Championship that begins in April, Forés was snatched from the unemployment line by Yamaha to fill the South African’s boots.

Forés will be riding a Yamaha after a season on the Ducati, but it won’t matter much to a racer of his experience. And the pit stops/endurance aspect of the 200 are a walk in the park for Forés, who has raced in the World Endurance Championship, World Superbike, British Superbike, World Supersport and every class of Grand Prix racing. He’s also riding for an experienced team and that can be a big factor in the Daytona 200 where pit stops are critical.

For all practical purposes, we can ignore Forés’s Daytona debut of a year ago as it lasted just a lap of the 200-mile race before mechanical issues forced him out of the race.

#2 – Josh Herrin – Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati

If you’ve already won a Daytona 200, then you know what you’re doing. Josh Herrin has won two of them (13 years apart), so he definitely knows how to win at the Speedway. He also knows what it’s like to lose close finishes on the run from the chicane to the finish line and the pain from those both lingers and inspires. 

As the defending Daytona 200 Champion and one of three winners of the 200 entered, Herrin can spend the week with his chest puffed out but come Saturday that all goes out the window and everybody who enters feels they have a chance. Herrin’s chances, however, are as good as any. And he has the crew to back him up.

#4 – Josh Hayes – CSU One Cure/J4orce Racing

As hard as it is to believe, Josh Hayes – the four-time AMA Superbike Champion and the winningest rider in series history across all classes – has never won the Daytona 200. Well, at least not officially. There was that one time in 2008 when Hayes crossed the finish line first but was DQ’d for having an illegal motorcycle, and the victory went to Chaz Davies.

Ironically, it was at Daytona that Hayes first made his mark in professional road racing with his first AMA win coming in the 750 Supersport class. Thus, the Speedway has been both good and bad for the man with 88 career AMA victories on his resume.

Can he win in 2024? Well, Hayes has a proven bike in his Yamaha R6 and an experienced crew which, combined with Hayes’s own class-leading amount of Daytona 200 experience, makes him a favorite to finally get the one race win that has eluded him. Hayes has sponsorship from CSU One Cure for the 200 but has no plans for the season beyond Daytona.

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