Coke Zero Sugar 400 Race Odds & Predictions
Date: Saturday, August 28, 2021
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Time: 7 pm ET
What Did We Learn From Last Week?
That was one of the best Michigan races in recent memory! From what seemed like out of nowhere, Ryan Blaney took the lead late in the race and captured the win, making that the second checkered flag of the season for him. While he already punched his ticket to the playoffs, the season has been a little inconsistent. In fact, the season has been a little wonky for the entire Penske garage. While all three drivers are secured in the post-season right now, it’s definitely not been their best year. In fact, Blaney leads the pack for Penske in wins this season. Keselowski won at Talladega, and Logano won at the inaugural Bristol dirt race. While Brad is traditionally good at Talladega, that’s still an unpredictable race. The dirt track at Bristol was completely new territory for all of the drivers. That being said, it’s a bit of an anomaly that neither one of those guys have more to show for the 2021 year so far. Logano usually shows a lot more pressure in some of these tracks, but we have yet to see him push the issue. Keselowski, well, he’s having a unique season. The last two races, in particular, were pretty entertaining, actually. Unfortunately, he was having some major brake control issues at the road course at Indy. That caused him to spin multiple times. At Michigan, Keselowski got into Austin Dillon after the caution flew after the second stage. For Dillon, it was a disaster. He’s trying to point or win his way into the playoffs still, so for him to be taken out during a race where he had a top 10 car, if not better, was disappointing, to say the least.
While Dillon will have to win at Daytona to get into the playoffs, Kevin Harvick managed to secure his spot with points alone despite also not having any wins this season. That’s pretty telling. It’s a weird year when Harvick hasn’t won. Maybe he’ll pull a Tony Stewart and win everything in the playoffs to make up for it. Who knows. Michigan still wasn’t a great accomplishment. He finished 14th overall, which allowed him to clinch the 15th position, leaving only one slot unclaimed as the drivers head into the unknown of Daytona. Other drivers have seen a lot more consistency through the season. William Byron, for one, has quietly been a force for Hendrick. He had a heck of a car on Sunday but just couldn’t best Blaney in the closing laps. He came away with a second-place finish. Teammate Kyle Larson also had an excellent car but was disrupted by Denny Hamlin in the last few laps, leaving him unable to close the gap on Byron and Blaney. Still, there’s nothing to be upset about with a 3rd place finish. Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5 spots.
Where Are We Headed This Weekend?
This weekend, the drivers are headed to the infamous superspeedway of Daytona. I’m on the fence about this being the last race of the regular season. On the one hand, it stinks that a crapshoot can determine the final slot of the playoff contenders. On the other hand, if you haven’t managed to secure your spot in the playoffs by now, then that’s on you as the driver and team. Nevertheless, here we are. The drivers are going to have to battle it out to secure the last open slot here at this 2.5-mile asphalt oval. The turns boast 31 degrees of banking while the tri-oval has 18 degrees and the back straightaway has a mild 2 degrees. The track is fast. It’s unpredictable. It can be treacherous. With the drafting that these guys end up doing, it only takes a split second or the blink of an eye for a day to be ruined for one or many. We will inevitably see a collection of cars wrecked at some point. While that hasn’t been necessarily the norm under the new aero packages, with the stakes so high this weekend, I think we will see a lot of aggressive driving leading to some unfortunate outcomes.
Odds and Value Picks
When it comes to picking a winner at Daytona, we always have a handful of favorite drivers that excel at the superspeedways. We also have to look at recent trends, though, as we’ve seen some of these drivers having less than stellar seasons. Brad Keselowski is someone to watch. He won Talladega this year and has a knack for speed and horsepower. The caveat is that Daytona is not his best track. He had one win here back in 2016, but since then, he hasn’t managed to crack the top 10, with the exception of a 10th place finish in late 2020. Brad’s teammate, Joey Logano, is following a similar trajectory recently. His best finish here was a 1st place in 2015. Since then, he’s had two 4th place finishes, with the rest being in the 20s or 30s with the exception of a 12th place finish this year. I’m going to set the Penske garage to the side this weekend. I’m not saying they won’t be competitive, but I think that there are many other teams that are coming in hot. Let’s take a look at your potential winners heading into Daytona with the odds listed at Bovada.
- Favorite: Denny Hamlin +750
- Mid-Pick: Austin Dillon +1400
- Dark Horse: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +2200
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Stenhouse is truly a Hail Mary pick. Whatever. It’s Daytona. The whole race is a Hail Mary race. Stenhouse has a couple of wins under his belt here, so he’s no worse off than anyone else. Stenhouse is one of those drivers that, if he can get up front, look for him to take charge. Without a berth in the playoffs at this point, he has nothing to lose. Austin Dillon is another driver that must win. He’s one of the best-rated drivers at this track. If he can pull something off, this might be his best shot. He’s got an average finish of around 11th place. He also has a win here back in 2018 and most recently finished 3rd at this track in February. They’ll all be chasing Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has been relentless lately in his pursuit of a win. He’s also winless for the season. It’s hard to believe that he’s been at the top of the leaderboard until recently without a single win. I think that he really wants to show everyone that he deserves to be in the playoffs. With some strong racing and strong finishes, I believe that he will find his way to the front of the pack and stay there this weekend. He’s 28 points behind Kyle Larson for the regular-season points right now. Let’s see how these guys are stacking up as they head into their last chance to make the cut.
- Kyle Larson
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Busch
- Chase Elliott
- Ryan Blaney
- Alex Bowman
- William Byron
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Brad Keselowski
- Kurt Busch
- Christopher Bell
- Michael McDowell
- Aric Almirola
- Tyler Reddick
- Kevin Harvick
Those are the points as they stand if the drivers were to head into the playoffs right now. Tyler Reddick hopes to stay in good graces in terms of points this weekend to maintain his spot. Teammate Austin Dillon will have to make some drastic moves to obtain a win or hope and pray the rest of the field wrecks out. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But, honestly, you never know what Daytona is going to bring us. Stay tuned for this weekend’s Saturday night race at Daytona to close out the regular season for the 2021 Cup Series!
Hey Y’all! My co-workers Kevin, Ted, Keith, Loot and Jay will be posting their NFL football picks with analysis for the upcoming season. Always free! Please check’em out! They’re good!