We’re gearing up for the final race of the NASCAR regular season this weekend when the green flag drops for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Being the season’s final race before the playoffs means it’s also the last chance for drivers outside of the cutline to earn one of 16 postseason spots. It also means the last chance for us to make NASCAR picks before the playoffs start.
What makes this race exciting is it has a history of racers winning their first race of the season at the last possible moment. Five of the last six Cup Series winners at Dayton did not win another race all season, and the most recent three, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, and Ricky Steinhouse, didn’t even come close to another checkered flag.
With everything on the line for many drivers, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 is guaranteed to feature a fair bit of drama.
LAST CHANCE to make the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/BEJGB4jkCe
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 20, 2023
- Joey Logano +1000
- Ryan Blaney +1000
- Denny Hamlin +1100
- Chase Elliott +1100
- Kyle Busch +1200
- Brad Keselowski +1200
- William Byron +1400
- Bubba Wallace +1600
- Chris Buescher +1600
- Kyle Larson +1800
- Martin Truex Jr. +1800
- Alex Bowman +1800
- Christopher Bell +2000
- Austin Cindric +2000
- Aric Almirola +2000
- Daniel Suarez +2000
Elliott Chasing Win at Daytona
But a snowboarding accident left Elliott with a broken leg and unable to make it to the line in six races this season. He had surgery on his tibia to insert screws but avoided tearing his ACL or meniscus.
Despite missing six races, many didn’t think much about Elliott missing the playoffs and assumed he’d notch a win eventually.
Well, eventually has to come this weekend at Daytona. With Elliott winless, it’s first place or a bus ride home for the young star.
Elliott’s mix of skill and desperation makes him a very tempting NASCAR bet at +1100 to earn the final playoff spot this weekend. Considering Elliott has two wins and one second-place finish at Daytona since 2020, he has a lot going for him when he needs it most.
Daytona’s “other race” now becomes Elliott’s season’s most important 400 miles. NASCAR itself is probably hoping Elliott comes through, as he’s one of the sport’s most popular (and marketable) stars. With the start of the NFL season, NASCAR ratings take a hit every year. If the playoffs don’t feature one of the most bankable members of the sport, NASCAR stands to lose a few bucks. While I’m not one to dive into conspiracy theories, if a decision needs to be made by the governing body regarding Elliott at any time, I bet they side in his favor.