The second event of the NASCAR Cup Series’ road course doubleheader is firmly in the rearview. Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron notched his fifth win in Watkins Glen, the most in the Cup Series this season. Now, the grid heads back to Daytona for the second time this season for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. For some drivers, this is the last chance to secure a spot in the round of 16 starting next week in Darlington. Here’s our NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 Picks for the regular season finale.
Playoff drivers favored for victory at Daytona
First, the race is held on Saturday instead of the typical Sunday for Cup Series events. With unusual timing for the NASCAR race this weekend, get your bets in early.
Thirteen of the 16 playoff spots have been secured with race wins and two of those race winners, defending champion Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, lead the way at +1000.
Logano’s one of the better Cup Series drivers at the historic track by average finish. In 29 career races there, the two-time champ has one win but another nine top-10 finishes. Overall, it’s been a down season compared to last year, with Logano taking just one win (Atlanta spring). That win does bode well for his chances here, as does his second-place finish in the Daytona 500. He could make one last statement before the playoffs begin next week.
Blaney’s been a strong superspeedway performer in 2023 as well. Eighth in the Daytona 500, seventh and ninth in Atlanta, and second in Talladega are some of the better showings on the Cup Series grid this year. Blaney went through a rough patch from Sonoma to Pocono in which he only had one top-10 finish. He’s finished no lower than 14th in the four races since, including two top-10 results. He’ll be in the mix for his second win of 2023.
Two more drivers are right behind them at +1100: Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Hamlin’s had a strong regular season in 2023 with two wins but another 10 top-10 results. He’s just 39 points behind Martin Truex Jr. in the NASCAR point standings ahead of this weekend.
Hamlin’s been solid at superspeedways this year and historically is one of the best Cup Series racers at Daytona. In 35 career NASCAR races at the crown jewel track, he has three wins and another nine top-10 finishes. His average finish (16th) trails only Austin Cindric, Bubba Wallace, and Austin Dillon as the best career mark among active drivers. However, Hamlin’s win in Pocono and third in Michigan give some confidence, given the high-speed characteristics of those tracks.
Elliott, by contrast, has neither a strong track record in Daytona nor many good showings at high-speed tracks this season. His best result at such a track was 10th in Pocono a month ago. Between a one-race suspension and missing six races with a leg injury, it’s been a rough season for the 2020 Cup Series champion. He needs a win here in order to avoid losing out on the playoffs for the first time in his Cup Series career.
Another pair of drivers are tied at +1200: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Busch has one win in Daytona in 36 career races and has struggled a lot in the last few years. He’s finished just four of the last 10 races there, including just two top-six results.
But Busch looked poise for a win in the season opener this year and won at Talladega. He also finished 10th in the spring Atlanta race and fifth in the fall event there. This could be the time he breaks through for a second career win at the famous superspeedway.
Keselowski’s the top winless driver in the NASCAR point standings this season. He sits sixth in the standings thanks to his 10 top-10 results in 2023. Similar to Busch, he’s had a string of bad luck at Daytona. He’s finished just three of the last 13 races he’s entered in Daytona. Only two of those three have been in the top 10. He does have strong results in Atlanta (second and sixth) and Talladega (fifth) this season but it’d be a big surprise to see him in victory lane on Saturday.
Longer odds to consider for NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 Picks
With a race like Daytona, the odds are much closer than typical ovals on the 2023 calendar. The high-speed nature leads to less predictable results. You may see more NASCAR duels across the field and at the front over the course of the 160-lap race.
This leaves things wide open for a driver far from the favorites to get a win. Wallace (+1400) is one of the best drivers at Daytona across the field but has longer odds than the likes of Logano, Hamlin, and Blaney. Daytona’s among his best tracks with an average finish of 13th over 12 career events there. He has more top-five results there (four) than any other track. One of his two career Cup Series wins came at Talladega, another high-speed superspeedway.
Wallace is on the bubble for the playoffs with no wins this season. A victory here would cement his spot in the round of 16.
Chris Buescher’s enjoying a late-season rise in performance. After going winless through the first 21 rounds, he’s won two of the last four events. He finished fourth in Daytona in the opener and third in Talladega. At +1600, he’s a sleeper with lots of potential this weekend.
Christopher Bell is a surprise at +2000. Bell may have just one win on the season (Bristol) but he’s been one of the most consistent drivers on the grid. That includes third in the Daytona 500 and Atlanta spring race and eighth in Talladega. A second win on the season wouldn’t be a surprise here.
NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 Picks among favorites, longer odds
It’s the last chance to get a strong performance in before the round of 16 begins next week. Given how much the standings have shuffled in the last few weeks behind leader Truex Jr., it’s a wide-open race.
Of the favorites for victory on Saturday, Blaney looks like the best pick. He’s scored the most points at superspeedways in 2023 and could put a strong final stamp on that.
Of the longer NASCAR odds, look for Wallace or Bell to come through with a better payout. Wallace shines brightest on superspeedways and Bell’s been consistently strong at them this season.
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