Among the last wild card races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular year is upon us. Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (1:00 p.m. ET) must create a ton of fireworks on and off the track.
There have only been six distinct winners this season in NASCAR’s premiere division which leaves 10 wild card positions out there. Mix that with this race being very wide open, and you receive drivers making more daring moves than before.
Covers Experts’ Auto Racing Advisor breaks the favorites, value drivers, and also his best bets for its Coke Zero Sugar 400.
*Editors Note: The Coke Zero Sugar 400 was initially scheduled for Saturday but has been postponed due to rain. It will now be run on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Daytona International Speedway
Out with the old, and in with the new. The race in Daytona this weekend will seem a lot different on Saturday night when compared with the past Cup Series race we saw back in February.
The Daytona 500 was run under the old restrictor-plate package, but we’ll see the debut of this tapered spacer in Daytona this weekend. The horsepower will be greater but using a larger spoiler too. Therefore, for the first time since 1986, the cars will not have a restrictor plate on them at Daytona.
The race at Talladega back in April also conducted with this bundle, which generated a wild race. Increase the fact that this is a night racewith much more grip than what Talladega had in April under bright skies, and you may see an even wilder series Saturday night.
It could not get much worse than the single-file racing which we saw control the headlines in February. The reason that the February event hurried as though it did was because of the bundle and advancement to these cars. The frequent theme was that these cars don’t side draft onto the left side quite well anymore and the best method to receive a side draft is to do so on the ideal side of the cars — tough to do on the large side.
The low line struggles to make any headway when all the cars have all of the energy out of the draft up significant. Plus, cars are getting a side draft off the exterior SAFER barrier and getting a run through the corners and off of it.
The Daytona 500 had more double-file racing compared to the Clash and the Duels, but it was nothing like what we saw at Talladega.
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FIVE WINNERS, FIVE Decades When Aric Almirola won the rain-delayed race 2014, he started a new trend for its yearly July race. Almirola, won at the famous No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports entrance that year, and ever since then we have seen a different organization win in each individual year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports) acquired another year followed by Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush/Fenway Racing) and Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing) after.
So, who is next?
When we get a sixth straight distinct organization to acquire, look for Stewart-Haas Racing, Wood Brothers, Leavine Family Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Premium Motorsports, Spire Motorsports or StarCom Racing to achieve Victory Lane.
Leavine Family Racing would be a good choice as Matt DiBenedetto (+3,000) led the most laps in February’s Daytona 500. Paul Menard (+3,000) would also with the Wood Brothers as he had a fast hot rod in February.
Stewart-Haas Racing would be an obvious choice since they are typically strong on superspeedway races and being a Ford group, the blue ovals have won three of those last five Coke Zero Sugar 400’s. But, SHR has only scored five total Daytona wins with Tony Stewart taking the checkered flag in three of them including both in the summer classic.
With how this kind of racing moves, it should come to no surprise that we will likely find a NASCAR overtime on Saturday night.
Five of the past six Coke Zero Sugar 400s have gone to OT, with the lone regulation end coming in a rain-shortened race in 2014. Actually, seven of the past nine years have observed overtime endings in the July night race in Daytona. Get ready to sweat.
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