Picking winners based on the odds for Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC) is pretty close to impossible. Superspeedway races often are more about who can finish the race than who has the fastest or best handling car, and this year's Coke Zero Sugar 400 features an extra element of intrigue.
This is the last race of the NASCAR regular season before the 16-driver playoff field is set for the 10-race postseason. While 13 drivers are locked into the playoffs and can afford to take it easy, others will be driving aggressively in an attempt to either make the postseason or simply win such a high-profile race.
At Daytona, that kind of aggression could lead to what we saw the last time the NASCAR Cup Series raced on the Daytona oval, when only about half the field finished the Daytona 500 in February.
Below are the complete Vegas odds to win Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona, plus our top three picks of drivers who could end up taking the checkered flag.
NASCAR odds to win at Daytona
Denny Hamlin is a logical favorite for Saturday night's race, as he has won the last two Daytona 500s. He and Kevin Harvick also have had the clear best teams in the series all season, which is why Harvick is near the top of the odds board, too.
Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney round out the top five on the odds board in part because their Team Penske cars have been so good on superspeedways. They dominated most the last Talladega race before Blaney earned the win.
Below are the complete odds to win Saturday night's NASCAR race at Daytona, courtesy of Sports Insider.
|Driver||Odds to win Daytona race|
|Martin Truex Jr||+1600|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||+1800|
|John Hunter Nemechek||+6600|
Another reason Hamlin is the favorite to win Saturday night's race is his 88.3 career driver rating at Daytona, the second best in the field behind Kyle Busch's 90.7.
Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth also have had success at Daytona, but their teams haven't had the speed in 2020 required to win a race. Of course, that speed issue may or may not matter come Saturday night.
Below are the top 20 driver ratings at Daytona among those in Saturday night's field. (Driver ratings compiled from 2005-2020 races among active drivers at Daytona.)
- Kyle Busch, 90.7
- Denny Hamlin, 88.3
- Jimmie Johnson, 87.4
- Matt Kenseth, 87.3
- Joey Logano, 87.1
- Ryan Blaney, 87.0
- Kurt Busch, 86.8
- Kevin Harvick, 82.8
- William Byron, 79.3
- Brad Keselowski, 78.7
- Clint Bowyer, 77.8
- Austin Dillon, 77.7
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 77.5
- Alex Bowman, 76.7
- Martin Truex Jr., 76.5
- Ryan Newman, 75.0
- Chase Elliott, 74.7
- Bubba Wallace, 73.6
- Erik Jones, 73.2
- Aric Almirola, 72.5
The formula to determine the starting lineup of Saturday night's race (and all others moving forward without qualifying) took into account points standings and results from the previous race, so of course Harvick will start on the pole at Daytona after dominating last weekend's Sunday race at Dover. Harvick, the Cup Series points leader, both won the race and posted the fastest lap of the race.
Martin Truex Jr., who finished second in both Dover races, will join Harvick on the front row to start Saturday night's race at Daytona. Behind them will be Logano and Keselowski in third and fourth, respectively.
Below is the breakdown of wins by starting position in the 146-race history of the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona.
NASCAR at Daytona expert picks
(Statistics are Loop Data from 2005 – present)
1. Joey Logano
Career stats at Daytona:
- One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
- Average finish of 17.783 (eighth-best)
- Average running position of 16.033 (sixth-best)
- Driver Rating of 87.1 (fifth-best)
We have to pick at least one Team Penske driver to win Saturday night's race since the organization has been so good on superspeedways of late. Logano's only career Cup win at Daytona came in the 2015 Daytona 500, but he also has six top fives and nine top 10 finishes.
2. Kyle Busch
Career stats at Daytona:
- One win, eight top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
- Average finish of 18.967 (14th-best)
- Average running position of 14.308 (second-best)
- Driver rating of 90.7 (series-best)
Busch is locked into the playoffs despite still being winless in 2020, but that doesn't mean the defending series champion isn't determined to enter the postseason on a high note. If Busch is near the front of the field in the closing laps, he will have as good a chance to win as anybody.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Ryan Preece +8000
Career stats at Daytona:
- Three wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s; two poles
- Average finish of 20.258 (16th-best)
- Average running position of 14.876 (third-best)
- Driver rating of 87.4 (third-best)
Would this be a bit of an upset? Yes. Would this mark one of the most significant wins in NASCAR history? Also yes. Johnson's first goal Saturday night will be to simply stay in the running and give himself a chance to take one of the three available playoff spots. If he does that, though, he will have both the car and the experience required to win his first race in more than three years.