Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Cup Series) Predictions, Odds & Picks
- It’s all about the Playoffs—three drivers are competing for two available spots.
- Jimmie Johnson and William Byron vow to work together. But for how long?
- Playoffs aside, someone will win the race, and we’re betting on a familiar face.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 Odds
|Martin Truex Jr.||+1800|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+2000|
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Coke Zero Sugar 400 Predictions and Picks
Throwing darts at the entry list might be as good a way as any to pick the winner of this race, given the random nature of superspeedway racing. But we’re going with a driver who consistently demonstrates his acumen for dealing with the draft. That’s why we’re picking the 2016 winner of this race—Brad Keselowski.
Brad Keselowski +1100
How to Watch Coke Zero Sugar 400
|Coke Zero Sugar 400 Information|
|What||Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR Cup Series race|
|Where||Daytona International Speedway|
|When||Saturday, August 29, 7:30 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBC|
NASCAR was at its sadistic best when it chose Daytona International Speedway for the cutoff race for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Superspeedway racing is unpredictable enough; add a hot, slick asphalt track, and you have a recipe for chaos.
Saturday night’s race will be contested at 160 laps (400 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 50 and 100 laps. Justin Haley won last year’s summer race in his third and last Cup Series appearance of the season. Denny Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 in the most recent race at the 2.5-mile track.
NASCAR Plays Musical Chairs: Three Drivers for Two Playoff Spots
If Friday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 goes according to form, two of the following three drivers will secure the final two berths in the Cup Series Playoffs: Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, and Matt DiBenedetto. Those three drivers are covered by a nine-point spread, with DiBenedetto five ahead of Byron, who in turn is four ahead of Johnson.
If no currently winless driver below those three in the standings happens to snatch a playoff spot with an unlikely victory, Johnson, Byron, and DiBenedetto will be racing to avoid being the odd man out. Though he currently has a small cushion, DiBenedetto has reason to be concerned. The trend line of the driver of the No. 21 Woods Brothers Racing Ford has been decidedly negative of late.
I don’t know if it’s excited or anxious or what the emotion is, says DiBenedetto, who will start 15th on Saturday, behind both Byron (sixth) and Johnson (seventh). “It’s definitely different going to Daytona with so much on the line than if we were going to a regular short track or whatever you want to call it.
DiBenedetto fell into the danger zone last weekend with respective finishes of 17th and 20th in the Cup doubleheader at Dover.
How Long Will Hendrick Teammates Continue to Work Together
Given their respective sixth- and seventh-place starting positions, Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Jimmie Johnson likely will have a chance to draft together in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. Ideally, from team owner Rick Hendrick’s point of view, they will be helping each other finish ahead of Matt DiBenedetto in points, and both will secure playoff spots.
We’ll go down there and hopefully, we both get in, you know? says crew chief Chad Knaus, who worked with Johnson for 17 years and seven Cup championships before moving to Byron’s team. I think we’ve got that possibility. We both run really well at superspeedways. Hendrick Engines and the guys at the shop build some amazing race cars. So, hopefully, we can get out there and get some stage points and race well and get both the No. 24 and the No. 48 into the Playoffs.
Neither driver will be able to hang back and stay out of danger of “The Big One,” the inevitable multicar wreck that wipes out a third of the field. Stage points will be too important. And if it comes to it, and Johnson and Byron are racing for the final playoff berth, the teammate alliance will cease to exist. But that won’t happen until the final laps of the race.
Competition for Race Win Takes a Back Seat to Playoff Battle
With 14 Playoff spots decided and two up for grabs, the race to qualify for the postseason is the most compelling storyline in Saturday night’s race. Then again, someone has to win it, too, and we’re betting it won’t be one of the two most successful drivers so far this season.
Kevin Harvick, a seven-time winner this year, hasn’t triumphed at Daytona since the July race of 2010. Six-time winner Denny Hamlin has won the last two Daytona 500s and three overall, but his history in the summer event in the World Center of Racing isn’t nearly as stellar. Hamlin has finished 24th, 38th, and 26th in the last three July events.
That’s why we’re going with Brad Keselowski to pick up his second Daytona victory. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has a gift for superspeedway racing, as his five wins at Talladega—Daytona’s sister track—attest. Look for Bad Brad to find Victory Lane for the fourth time this season.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association.