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NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400

NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400 1 month 1 week ago #485575

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Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Friday 7/6/18
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NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400 1 month 1 week ago #485576

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Coke Zero Sugar 400 Preview
July 4, 2018
By Micah Roberts

The great equalizer will be in play for Saturday night's Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway's high-banked 2.5-mile layout. It's restrictor-plate racing time, the third of four races of its kind this season and the first two were incredible edge-of-your-seat drama. Best of all, both races were won by someone other than Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr.

The elite teams drop a notch down to the same level as everyone else when the plates get attached. Their edge is stripped. Guys like Harvick and Busch, who are tied for the series lead with five wins each, don't have a car better than anyone like they do almost everywhere else. They're all the same. They're equal. Anyone can win and I love it.

So drop that green flag and let's get this Saturday night party started. And happy birthday America!

If looking at the results from the season-opening Daytona 500, you'll see the top-10 and immediately see something different compared to any other race on the season. Austin Dillon took the checkers at paid out at 50-to-1. The surprising part is not just Dillon winning or seeing the famed No. 3 in Daytona's victory lane again, but it's simply because a Chevrolet won. The new Camaro hasn't won any of the 16 Cup races since. That's another cool facet. I'm a Chevy bow-tie guy forever and they now have a chance of winning with plates on.

Here's the rest of the Daytona 500 top-10 finishers: Bubba Wallace was second followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Chris Buescher to round out the top-five. Paul Menard was sixth, Ryan Blaney was seventh and led the most laps (118), Ryan Newman was eighth followed by Michael McDowell and A.J. Allmendinger. Further down the results sheet are Justin Marks (12th), Trevor Bayne (13th) and David Gilliand (14th). What a diverse crowd.

“I’m excited to get back to Daytona (International Speedway),” Buescher said. “We had a really good showing there to start off the season in the Daytona 500 and I feel like it’s a place that we’ve been focusing on trying to work together with AJ (Allmendinger) and have a gentle clean Kleenex Wet Wipes Camaro ZL1 that we can race at the end. It’s going to be way hotter this time around, even though it’s a night race."

Buescher's lone Cup win came in 2016 at Pocono, albeit rain-shortened. He finished 11th at Talladega in April. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has him posted at 100-to-1. Anything can happen here, for real, even a Buescher win.

Truex Jr. finished 18th, Kyle Busch was 25th and Kevin Harvick was 31st. Those three drivers have won 13 of the 17 races this season, but they're each 0-for-2 in plate races. Logano won his only race of the season on the other plate-race track at Talladega to give him four career restrictor-plate wins. Truex doesn't have any plate wins in 53 career starts.

“It (bad luck) has to change eventually,” said Truex who is 18-to-1 to win this week. “We tried some different strategies in the past but we still found trouble. Our mindset is to try and run up front, collect some stage points and hopefully end the race with a clean car and a top 10 finish in our No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota.”

Nothing against Truex, Busch or Harvick -- they're the best, but I'm hoping someone else gets the glory this week. Another awesome thing about plate racing is the odds board this week with unusually high odds on Harvick at 10-to-1 and Busch as 12-to-1. Odds that high on the top drivers and I still won't bet it. That's how equal things are with the plates on.

I also like being able to focus on other drivers. I rarely talk about Ricky Stenhouse Jr, but in plate races, I have to. He won his first career Cup race at Talladega last spring and then followed it up with a win in this race.

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend," said Stenhouse who is 15-to-1 to win Saturday night. "Jimmy Fennig has done a great job building our superspeedway cars. Last year, we were able to get our Fifth Third Ford into victory lane. Anything can happen in typical plate racing but hopefully, we can once again get our Ford into victory lane and clinch a spot in the Playoffs.”

Stenhouse is one of eight different drivers to win the past eight races at Daytona. There have also been eight different winners in the past eight July Daytona races.

Everyone has a chance to win at Daytona, or least let's narrow it down and say 34 of the drivers. Because of that type of randomness, the usual suspects to win regular races at 3-to-1 or lower are jacked up over 10-to-1 and the sleds that usually are offered at 100-to-1 or higher weekly are chopped down to 50-to-1 or lower.

Wallace will not be a waste of money this week at Daytona because he actually has a shot to win. He's usually 500-to-1 to win on a regular track but he's 50-to-1 to win this week. He was one of three Chevrolets to finish in the top-five of the Daytona 500. I'm not betting him, but I couldn't criticize anyone for doing so.

The one manufacturer that has shown to have a slight edge in plate races lately has been Ford who has won five of the past eight races at Daytona and the last six at Talladega. The only driver this season to finish in the top-five of both plate races was Logano so I'm sticking with him this week as the best of the bunch.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #22 Joey Logano (10/1)
2) #11 Denny Hamlin (10/1)
3) #12 Ryan Blaney (10/1)
4) #2 Brad Keselowski (7/1)
5) #41 Kurt Busch (12/1)
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NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400 1 month 1 week ago #485629

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Best Bets - Daytona
July 6, 2018
By Daniel Dobish
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.

The MENCS heads back to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero Sugar 400, the second race of the season at the superspeedway. It's also the third restrictor-plate run in four dates on the schedule.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (12/1) gave his team a much-needed boost by winning the pole for the race on Saturday night. It has been a trying year for Elliott and his teammates, so perhaps this race will get them going as a whole unit. The young driver hasn't had a lot of success at Daytona in the past, at least in a Cup ride, posting finishes of 14th or lower in each of his five starts, including four starts 22nd or lower and three starts 32nd or worse. While he might have qualified well, anything can happen at a plate track and he is a risky play given his mediocrity on this track in the past.

Starting alongside Elliott's No. 9 Chevy will be the ride of teammate Alex Bowman (33/1) in the No. 88. He was just one mile per hour slower, almost on the nose, than Elliott in qualifying. Elliott blazed the track at 194.045 mph, while Bowman was clocked at 193.046 mph. He has four Cup starts under his belt at the track, posting an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 19.3. He posted his best run at Daytona in July 2014, turning in a 13th-place showing, and he was 17th in the Daytona 500 back in February. There isn't a lengthy history for Bowman in a Cup car, and just one start in Hendrick equipment. But if practice and qualifying is any indication, he could be quite the betting and DFS sleeper this weekend.

Seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson (22/1) continues to struggle with consistency, and he is well down the list of favorites for this weekend. His past five starts at Daytona haven't exactly went according to plan, as he has posted a dismal 27.0 AFP, including three finishes of 34th or lower. Like his Hendrick teammates, however, there is plenty of optimism after qualifying. He rolled up a best speed of 192.361 mph which has him starting on the outside of Row 2.

It seems like a while ago, but it was a Chevy winning checkers at the 500 back in February. Richard Childress Racing and the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet was back in Victory Lane thanks to Austin Dillon's (40/1) outstanding run. Vegas is rather bearish on his stock heading into Daytona, however, as he is well down the odds list. Yes, it has been a downhill spiral ever since that initial win. He hasn't ticked off a Top 5 finish since that career-changing win, and he has just one Top 10 showing at Auto Club back in mid-March. Other than that he has softly landed in the area of late teens to early 20's finishing spots, and he falls outside of the Top 16 in overall standings as a result. However, at Michigan and Sonoma he finished ahead of his starting spot, and he led a season-high 13 laps at Chicagoland last weekend before disaster struck and smacked him all the way to a season-low 37th-place finish. He has shown some improvement in recent weeks, but will the stage be too big for him on Saturday night? It wasn't back in February, but a lot has changed.

The co-favorites for this weekend are both from the Penske Racing stable, as Brad Keselowski (7/1) and Joey Logano (7/1) face the shortest odds, according to Vegas. Keselowski was particularly impressive in his No. 2 machine in qualifying, posting a top speed of 192.802 mph to land on the inside of Row 2 to start Saturday. Logano wasn't as impressive, and he'll go off from the 11th spot. However, he is perhaps a better DFS value considering the chance to tick off more position differential points. Logano ran aground last July with a 35th-place run, but he has been sixth or better in four of his past five starts at Daytona, including fourth place in February. Kes won the 400 back in July 2016, but has finished 27th or worse in his past three starts at DIS. Still, Logano has a Driver Rating of 93.0 and Keselowski has a Driver Rating of 92.7 across the past five Cup starts at the track, ranking second and third among active drivers with at least two starts at the track.

Often overlooked by casual fans is Penske third-wheel Ryan Blaney (10/1). Vegas isn't overlooking him, however, as he is tied for the third-lowest odds to win this weekend's race. And for good reason, too. He has a 101.8 Driver Rating over his past five starts at Daytona, running 80.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 during the span. He is also just one of three drivers to lead at least 100 laps during the stretch, joining Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (10/1) in that exclusive club. Blaney was seventh at the track in February, and had a runner-up finish in Feb. 2016.

As far as Hamlin is concerned, he is looking to get back into Victory Lane at Daytona since rollng to a 500 win in Feb. 2016. He came up just short in February, posting a third-place finish, one of six Top-10 runs over his past nine starts at the Northeast Florida superspeedway. While he has run just 65.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts at Daytona, he has 140 laps led and 16 fastest laps while posting a 12.4 AFP during the stretch. He leads all active drivers with 407 laps led at the track, posting a win, seven Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an AFP of 16.8. Hamlin seems to be able to avoid the 'Big One' at Daytona, managing just two DNFs in 25 career starts.

Roush Fenway Racing's Darrell Wallace Jr. (55/1) is another young gun trying to join the Chase party, and he nearly spoiled everyone's February when he ended as the runner-up in the 500, highest-ever finish by an African-American driver. He has just two races under his belt at this track in a Cup car, but he has a solid 15th and 2nd. As such, he is a nice sleeper for bettors, and DFS players will want to find a way to squeeze him in as a No. 5 or No. 6 driver. Like Dillon, he has struggled since his breakthrough race, but he ended up eighth at Texas in early April and was a respectable 16th on the superspeedway at Talladega in late April. On the fast tracks, he has proven to be a speed demon in the upper half of the leaderboard, and his first-ever Cup win is almost certain to come at a plate track.

Perhaps this is the longest into a column we've gone without mentioning Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (9/1) or Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (20/1). However, neither should obviously be ignored on the big stage. Harvick just hasn't fared well at Daytona lately, and it's hard to figure out what went wrong. He had three straight Top 5 showings, including a runner-up in the 500 back in Feb. 2015. He has been 22nd or lower in each of his past four DIS starts, including three finishes of 31st or worse. That's just hard to believe considering how dominant he has been this season, and how well SHR's program is historically on restrictor-plate runs.

MTJ has also struggled over his past four Daytona stops, posting an AFP of 23.5. He was a runner-up to Hamlin in that Feb. 2016 race, however, but he has a dismal 22.4 AFP in 26 career starts. That runner-up was actually his only Top 5, and just one of three Top 10s, in his career at the track. He has led just 72 laps at Daytona in his career.

You might save some DFS salary by avoiding Harvick and MTJ, and rolling with a more affordable option like RFR's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (14/1). Vegas isn't hiding the fact he is a moderate threat, and he has won at Daytona in 12 career Cup starts while posting just five finishes outside of the Top 20 at the track. His AFP of 18.9 is better than Bowman (19.3), Kasey Kahne (3/1) (20.0), Aric Almirola (12/1) (20.3) and Keselowski, and basically about the same as last week's Chicagoland winner, Kyle Busch (10/1), who has just one win in 26 starts with a similar 18.7 AFP.

Speaking of Busch, he has just seven Top 5s in 26 career Daytona starts. His brother, SHR's Kurt Busch (12/1), has been a lot more dependable at the track. He has just one win in 34 DIS starts, but he has 13 Top 5s and a solid 17.1 AFP with just three DNFs. In fact, his AFP is fifth-best among all active drivers with at least three Daytona starts under their belt. His teammate Clint Bowyer (12/1) is also always a threat on plate tracks, posting 12 Top 10s and a stellar 15.8 AFP in 25 career Daytona starts, although he is still searching for that first elusive DIS checkered flag.
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