NASCAR Betting Guide: Coke Zero Sugar 400
We've got a whole lotta factors to consider heading into Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona. And none of them scream, "predictiveness!"
First, it's a race at Daytona. The brown stuff is gonna hit the fan at some point, and more likely at multiple points. You could have a great bet get ruined through no fault of your own, which is always a fun feeling.
Second, this is the final race before the Cup Series playoffs begin. That means some drivers -- Matt DiBenedetto (+3500 on FanDuel Sportsbook), William Byron (+3200), and Jimmie Johnson (+2400) -- may emphasize points rather than getting a win. There are (at most) two spots up for grabs via points, so somebody has to be aggressive at some point. But that could play into consideration for them.
A lot of drivers, though, will need a win in order to make the playoffs. There will be no conservative racing there; it's going to be flat out, hair-on-fire, checkers-or-wreckers for them. For outrights, that's certainly not a bad thing. But having these agents of chaos in the field makes everything a little bit dicier.
So there's a lot on our mind entering the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and we may not be able to get a firm grasp on this race. But once we weigh everything, who stands out as a value based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook? Let's check it out.
Joey Logano (+1300)
Denny Hamlin (+650) is the deserved favorite for this weekend. He has won two straight Daytona 500s and was third the year before that. There's a reason Hamlin is at the top of the odds board.
But he's not first in my model. Instead, that's Joey Logano, whose odds are twice as long as Hamlin's.
Three of the top five spots in my model are members of Penske Racing. Ryan Blaney (+1400) is fourth, and Brad Keselowski (+1300) is fifth, and team strength does matter here. The more teammates you have at the front of the pack, the more help you can get late in the race in order to surge toward the front. Penske has combined to win three of the past nine pack races, though all three were in Talladega, and two were by Blaney.
With that said, Logano is certainly no slouch in Daytona. He won here in 2015 and has three top-fives in the past eight races. He has had the field's best average running position each of the past two races; he just hasn't gotten the finishes to show for it. Eventually, all that running at the front will pay dividends.
You can justify any of these Penske drivers for this weekend. Logano and Blaney, specifically, are near the top of the list. You can justify going either way depending on your preference. Personally, I'm going to trust the model here and go with Logano as my top option among the favorites.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2400)
You want chaos? You got it, baby.
They don't call Ricky Stenhouse Jr. "Wrecky" for no reason. He fully adopts the Ricky Bobby mantra of, "If you ain't first, you're last." But for our purposes, we'll be pulling for the former on Saturday.
Stenhouse is one of the drivers whose only route to a playoff berth is via a win. So his high-variance nature is likely to be even more extreme on Saturday. But as mentioned, that's not a bad thing, and we know he can hit the high end of his range of outcomes.
Stenhouse has two career Cup Series wins, both of which have come in pack races. One was at Daytona in 2017 when he won the July race, so we know he can get it done here. He hasn't finished better than 13th since, and Talladega is his better track between the two, but he has led at least 10 laps in five of the past six Daytona races, so he will run at the front at some point. Stenhouse has proven he can be there when it counts, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see him launch a Hail Mary and get into the playoffs with a win.
Erik Jones (+3100)
Erik Jones is in a similar boat to Stenhouse in that he likely needs a win to make the playoffs. Jones has one big advantage, though: he drives for an elite team.
Jones -- at least for the next 11 races -- drives for Joe Gibbs Racing. As mentioned, Hamlin has won two of the past three races in Daytona. The driver who won right before that streak was Jones, who got his first career win here in July of 2018.
That wasn't a blip on the radar for Jones, either. He followed that up with a third-place run in the 2019 Daytona 500, a race in which JGR cars swept the podium. Jones also won the Busch Clash at Daytona this year, though that was only because Hamlin decided to push him there while running a lap behind. Getting a guy who has a win and two top-fives in the past four points-paying races at this track for +3100 feels like stealing, but that's what we get with Jones.
We know Jones will have help at the front at the end of the race. We also know he'll have motivation to be aggressive and get a win with the playoffs on the line. Blend that all together, and Jones stands out as being one of the best values on the board entering Saturday.
Chris Buescher (+4700)
At Daytona, if you put yourself in the mix often enough, you'll eventually break through for a win. That's what Chris Buescher has done here in the past, so he stands out as a desirable longshot at +4700.
In 175 career Cup Series starts, Buescher has six top-five finishes. Half of those have come at Daytona, and all three have come within the past five races here.
Buescher almost got a win back in February. He was passing Hamlin on the outside with just a few laps to go, but a caution froze the field before Buescher could complete the pass. He wound up finishing third despite being involved in an accident with less than 25 laps left in the race.
Buescher had another solid run in Talladega a few months ago, coming home with a sixth-place finish. He has talent on these tracks, and his teammate -- Ryan Newman (+4700) -- is always lurking near the front, as well. Buescher doesn't have the proven winning history in Daytona like Stenhouse, Jones, and Logano, but if he keeps running the way he has, that's something he's likely to change soon.