The summer Daytona race was always wild. Now that it’s the playoff cut race, NASCAR has dumped fuel on the fire. Chaos looms and long shots are viable on Saturday night. As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, which gets underway Saturday, August 27 at 7 p.m. ET.
Anyone can and anyone has won a plate race. Most of the time, one of the big-team drivers survives and wins. Even when the big boys win, the top 5 is often filled out by the mid-pack and back markers. Bettors have two options: chase a win or a top-5 finish from an underdog. The payouts are good and the chances aren’t bad.
Below is a list of the long shots with sanguine blurbs defending their potential.
Race Winner — Coke Zero Sugar 400
Bubba Wallace (+1500)
His Talladega win should not carry much weight because it was a rain-shortened victory. His four top-5 finishes at Daytona — a podium finish in the last two — are more meaningful because he’s demonstrated that he can survive a full race and battle during the final laps.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2500)
He’s done it before and that matters. Anyone can win a plate race but not everyone has won a plate race. The difference is determination and the willingness to do what others won’t. Ricky isn’t dirty but he’ll do whatever it takes to win at Daytona or Talladega. Not every driver is willing to commit to this philosophy.
Brad Keselowski (+2500)
Team Penske equipment is better at intermediate and short tracks, but at the plate tracks, Keselowski’s RFK car is equal to his former employer’s cars. Any disadvantages that Keselowski has suffered with his new team will vanish for a week. He is one of the best plate track drivers ever, and he needs a win on Saturday night to make the playoffs.
Austin Dillon (+3000)
It would be a surprise to see Dillon win during his dreadful season. It was a surprise to see Dillon win the 2018 Daytona 500 during his dreadful career.
Erik Jones (+3500)
His Daytona summer race win and preseason shootout win came with JGR. He’s no longer with JGR, but his Petty-GMS car has been competitive this season. Even when RPM was underfunded, they still brought quality cars to the plate tracks.
Michael McDowell (+4000)
He won the 2021 Daytona 500 at +10000. Before a driver can finish first, first they must finish. McDowell has a top-15 finish in 11 of the last 13 Daytona races.
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Justin Haley (+10000)
A lot of the Cup Series plate track winners were Xfinity Series plate track winners. Haley is an Xfinity and Cup Series plate track winner. His Cup win was a fluke, but a lightning shortened race at Daytona in the summer isn’t the most random event.
Ty Dillon (+10000)
Once again, it looks like his career may be over. He could be a manager at his Grandpa’s winery next year for all he knows. With that being the case, Saturday may be his last chance for a Cup Series win. Dillon knows how to finish these races. He just needs to learn how to win one.
Corey Lajoie (+10000)
He’s a cold-blooded assassin at the plate tracks. No one is more patient. Lajoie has a game plan and it’s resulted in many near wins at the plate tracks. These odds are too long for a driver that is very close to breaking through.
Daniel Hemric (+10000)
Kaulig Racing owns the plate tracks in the Xfinity Series. Why can’t they win a Cup Series race at Daytona? Hemric is a part-time driver racing to win not for a top-5 finish or a safe top 10.
Todd Gilliland (+15000)
Austin Cindric is a rookie and he won the Daytona 500. Cindric drives for Team Penske, but Front Row Motorsports won the 2021 Daytona 500. Don’t count this rookie out.
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