The NASCAR Cup Series is officially winding down with the last race of the regular season set to take place at the Daytona International Speedway. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is the last chance for drivers who are on the cusp of making it to the playoffs, to give a final push. Earlier this month, with a win at Go Bowling at the Glen, Kyle Larson extended his lead in the standings into the last race of the season. He remains 22 points up on second place driver Denny Hamlin, as the top two drivers continue to pull away from the rest of the field. This is a two-horse race heading into the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and one has to like Larson’s odds of finishing high enough to stave off Hamlin.
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is a 160-lap, 400-mile race on the asphalt track at Daytona. Weather for the race is supposed to be pristine, as usual in Florida in August, so don’t expect any weather-related impact. Last year, 23-year old William Byron took the race in the No.24 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports. Byron currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings but remains 141 points behind second-place, Hamlin.
Perhaps the most famous course in all of NASCAR, the Daytona International Speedway is the setting for the Daytona 500 and several other marquee races. The course is a classic tri-oval-shaped NASCAR track with four turns and plenty of straightaways to maximize speed. As mentioned, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 runs 160-laps and 400 total miles and is an asphalt track.
Chevrolet and Ford are neck and neck in terms of total wins by manufacturer, with 20 and 19 respectively. The two manufacturers have dominated the race over the past decade, as a Chevrolet or Ford car has won ten of the last eleven Coke Zero Sugar 400 races, including the last two by Chevrolet. While it isn’t a difficult course compared to others, many drivers have called the Daytona 500 the most difficult race to win. There seems to be an aura that surrounds driving at the Daytona International Speedway, so drivers need to get over the psychological advantage that the track has.
Three drivers to watch out for at the Coke Zero Sugar 400:
Kyle Larson (Insert Odds): Larson is the man to watch to see if he can stave off Denny Hamlin and take home top spit in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season. Larson will be driving alongside his teammate and last year’s winner William Byron, as he tries to close out his first season racing for Hendrick Motorsports, a successful one. His odds are low at just ___, but Larson has to be one of the odds on favorites heading into the race on Saturday,
Denny Hamlin (Insert Odds): At this stage in the season, it’s all about the NASCAR Cup Series rankings. This season, it’s all about Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin. The veteran Hamlin still has a shot of overtaking Larson in the standings, despite not winning a single race this season. Hamlin has what it takes to win, even though he has traditionally struggled in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 race with third being his best career finish. He has, however, won three Daytona 500s, so the track should not intimidate the veteran driver.
William Byron (Insert Odds): As I said, this year’s race is all about Hamlin and Larson. I normally do not recommend betting on drivers who won the race the previous year. The odds are always lower for them to win outright, and NASCAR is a sport where previous success on a track or race doesn’t always lead to future outcomes. With that being said, since the standings are down to Larson and Hamlin, another interesting storyline will be to see if Byron can repeat and jump ahead of the third-place driver, Kyle Busch.
NASCAR has actually taken the sports betting world by storm over the past couple of years. As the industry gains popularity, bettors are drawn to more fringe sports like NASCAR to indulge in betting. Of course, the most popular bet for NASCAR races is the Win Outright bet. Like other sports tournaments like PGA golf and Tennis, the Win Outright offers large odds for potentially massive payouts. Other popular bets include Top 5 Finish, individual Race Match-Ups that are created by each sportsbook, and even bets like who the Winning Manufacturer will be.
As for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 this Saturday, I actually prefer Hamlin to take back the lead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. His odds are reasonable, and I think they are slightly higher than they should be as he still has not won a race yet this year. Everyone will be betting on Larson, but I expect Hamlin to show up. For a dark horse, I am going back to a previous pick in Martin Truex Jr. I suggested him as a dark horse for the Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen, and he came in third. I just like how Truex has been driving all season long and rarely gets inflated odds for winning the race!