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2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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Fourth of July weekend and Daytona under the lights, what a wonderful weekend we have in front of us. After last weekends domination by Brad Keselowski, we are in store for the exact opposite. There won’t be any single driver leading just about all the laps. As with all restrictor plate races, we should have plenty of lead changes and plenty of wrecks. In addition to the exciting races we have grown accustom to here, this year the new Chase format could result in a real underdog earning a spot in NASCAR’s postseason. So many teams have had this weekend circled on their calendar from the moment the schedule was released. This race should more than make up for last weeks trip to Kentucky, at least as far as us fans watching on television, go.


Stay Away From

Denny Hamlin 12-1

So far this season I have put Denny in this “Stay Away From” category for both of the restrictor plate races we have raced at. Denny has certainly made me look silly in both of them with a second place finish at Daytona and a win at Talladega. Not to forget the fact that he won both of his preseason races at Daytona. In other words in four restrictor plate races this year, Denny has won three times and has a worst finish of 2nd, yet I find myself putting him back in this category. Yes, he has been exceptional in these races in 2014, but I am still playing the odds based on his history in these races.

First off, his win at Talladega was his first and only win in a points race at a restrictor plate track. Second he has an average finish of nearly 20th and has just nine top 10’s in 34 career starts. At just Daytona the numbers are even worse. His average finish is outside of the top 20 and he has finished inside the top 10 just three times in 17 starts. So yes, he has been on a tear this year in these races, the numbers say he is due to get caught up in one of the wrecks we will see tomorrow night.

12-1 just has no value in my opinion, especially when you factor in how poorly he has run of late. While he started off the month of June with two top 5’s, at Dover and Pocono, his last three weekends have ended with him finishing 29th, 26th, and 42nd respectively. This weekend just sets up for him to record one more poor finish before heading to Loudon, a flat track which he seems to excel at.

Kasey Kahne 15-1

At 15-1 you can either get Tony Stewart who has won 19 times in his career at Daytona, including this race four times, or you can have Kasey Kahne who has never won a restrictor plate race and has just seven top 10’s in 21 career starts at Daytona. Nevermind the fact that in 42 career starts in restrictor plate races, Kahne has just 12 top 10’s. The oddsmakers must have started their Independance Day drinking a bit early this week.

Carl Edwards 20-1

Carl, like Kahne, has struggled finding any success in these types of races. However, there is no reason his odds should be longer than Kahne’s. He has a better average finish at Daytona and twice as many top 5’s in two fewer starts. While I would still advise you not to bet Carl this weekend, his two wins give him an advantage over Kahne here as well, since he can gamble a bit more. Either way neither of them would make for a smart bet.

Best Bets

Dale Jr. 9-1

Junior is looking to match his teammate, Jimmie Johnson’s, feat of sweeping Daytona. Everyone knows how good he is in the draft and with a pair of wins he has the freedom to take some chances some of these other guys can’t afford to. Even without those two wins he deserves to be the favorite seeing that his average finish at Daytona is nearly 2.5 positions better than the next active driver (Kevin Harvick). That may not seem like much but there are six drivers within 2.5 spots behind Harvick. These tracks tend to even the numbers out, since it’s a bit of a crapshoot. But there are a handful of drivers that just excel here and Dale Jr. is certainly one of, if not the best in these races.

Jimmie Johnson 12-1

Just a simple rule of thumb pick. When Jimmie Johnson’s odds are in double digits, you bet him. I don’t care if it’s a race at Daytona, a 5k foot race or if him and his buddies are drunk and looking to race tractors, you take that value.

Kevin Harvick 12-1

Again only Dale Jr. has a better average finish at Daytona, among active drivers with five or more starts. He is a two time winner here at Daytona and is looking to find his way back into Victory Lane for the first time since April. Arguably he has been the fastest all season long and since his last win he has finished in the runner up spot three times. Despite having two wins, he has had some bad luck this year. If you flipped his luck he might have five or more wins at this point. Look for Happy to drive the wheels off that #4 machine on Fourth of July weekend as he guns for his third win of the season. 12-1 for Harvick is some of the best value you will get all season.

Matt Kenseth 12-1

Kenseth has had quite a great year despite not having earned his first win of the season and in a lot of ways his great season has been overshadowed by that fact. But he is one of the drivers that always seems to be competitive in these races. I have especially high hopes for him after he finished 37th at Talladega. Look for him to find his former teammate, Greg Biffle, and navigate his way through the draft to the front and maybe even be in position to knock that monkey off his back in Victory Lane.

Greg Biffle 20-1

The Biff has found some success in these races. While he seemed to benefit from having Matt Kenseth as a teammate for a while there, he learned quite a bit to make him a better driver in these races. Only Dale Jr. has a better average finish, among active drivers with eight or more starts, at Daytona and at all restrictor plate tracks since 2012. He is a former winner here at Daytona, so at 20-1 you are getting some incredible value. He should be around the front when the white flag waives and he has the talent to grab that win that he wants so badly to help him get into the Chase.

Best Value Bets

Clint Bowyer 18-1

When you think of Clint Bowyer, you don’t tend to think about racking up the wins and you probably don’t think of him as a great plate driver, but the numbers may surprise you. Only Junior, Harvick and Gordon have a better average finish, among active drivers with five or more starts, at Daytona. When you factor Talladega in as well, only Dale Jr. has a better average finish. He is a two time plate winner and while both of those came at Talladega, the numbers don’t lie. At 18-1 you are getting one of the better plate drivers out there.

Jamie McMurray 20-1

Jamie Mac is really a hit or miss pick here. While I do wish his odds were a bit longer, he always seems to find his way to the front at some point in the race. His average finish at plate tracks are vomit inducing to look at, but what isn’t is his two wins at Daytona and his two wins at Talladega. He has the talent to drive that #1 machine to Victory Lane, it’s just a matter of if he can stay out of trouble when the big one hits. That is certainly a big if, but I guarantee you will see him inside the top 5 at some point during tomorrow nights race.

David Ragan 75-1

Anytime I can get 75-1 odds on a guy that has won at both restrictor plate tracks, I am going to pounce on it. I understand he is the furthest thing from consistent at these places, but he has the ability to win these races and with the new Chase format you know they had the three plate races, in the regular season, circled, highlighted and probably cut out and blown up and hung up next to the full schedule the moment it was released. Ragan has proven he can win here and that team will do whatever it takes to win this race.

My Pick

Tony Stewart 15-1

Could this be the weekend in which Smoke earns his 20th career victory at Daytona? I say yes. After a tough first half of the season Stewart has settled in a bit and found some speed. Since the All Star race his worst finish is 19th. There have been a few weeks where he had a top 5 car and possibly even a race winning car, but had some bad luck that dropped him back in the pack a bit. This is the race Smoke has been looking forward to for a while now. It is now July and he is without a win, but traditionally this is the month where he heats up. 15 of his 48 career wins have come in the months of July and August. The time is now for Stewart to heat up and earn his first win of the season. Also a win would mean he has won at least one race in all sixteen seasons of his career. 15-1 is silly of the oddsmakers for arguably the best restrictor plate driver as well as arguably the best driver ever at Daytona.

Have a great Independance Day and thanks to all of those that have served this country and to those who strive to make this country better every day.


Friday, July 4, 2014

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