This week’s magic number for the NASCAR Cup Series is one.
One race of the regular season remains. One playoff spot is still up for grabs.
Bubba Wallace, who is seeking his first career playoff spot, competes in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway with a 32-point lead over rookie Ty Gibbs. Another 11 points behind is Daniel Suarez.
“We know what we have to do and that’s the win,” said Suarez, who achieved his best career Daytona result in seventh place in February. “It’s pretty easy and we want to do our best.”
Meanwhile, Gibbs’ best-ever track finish was just 13th in this race last year.
Of course, a first-time winner in 2023 could end all three’s hopes. On that list is Chase Elliott, former 2020 Cup Series champion, who is 101 points behind Wallace after a 32nd place finish at Watkins Glen last weekend.
Others to keep an eye on are former Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric and previous winners of this race including Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon.
Brad Keselowski leads all non-winners this year as he is 171 points ahead of Gibbs. Kevin Harvick, who will retire at the end of the season, is also winless this year but is just four points behind Keselowski in the likely playoff standings.
Drama still remains in the race for the championship of the regular season.
“Everybody’s in a situation where they absolutely have to win,” Wallace said. “If the last race is Daytona and we’ve seen surprise winners, no one is safe until the race is over. We’re hoping to do things right, continue to take stage points and if there’s a new winner, it’s the 23 car.
“Everyone is fighting for the same real estate.”
Martin Truex Jr. has a 39-point lead over his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
The other drivers who secured their spots in the playoffs are William Byron, 2021 Series Champion Kyle Larson, two-time Series Champion Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, two-time and reigning NASCAR Champion Cup Series Champion Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and this year’s Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
COKE ZERO SUGAR 400
The location: Daytona International Speedway
The date: Aug. 26, 7 p.m. ET
The distance: 160 laps on a 2.5 mile track
Defending champion: Austin Dillon
Cup Series Leader: Martin Truex Jr.
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
5 BEST BETS
Chase Elliott (+1200 at BetMGM)
Elliott now has his back against the wall after his disastrous performance at Watkins Glen. He finished third at Duel 2 at Daytona in February before dropping to 38th in the 500m. Elliott finished 12th at Talladega Superspeedway and fourth at Nashville Superspeedway earlier this season. The fan favorite is the biggest drain on the book this week, leading the field with 9.2 percent of total bets and 11.8 percent of the money backing his win.
Denny Hamlin (+1200)
Hamlin leads the field with three Daytona 500 wins. He is also the second biggest draw for BetMGM as Hamlin is third of all drivers with 5.8 and 8.3 percent of players respectively.
Joey Logano (+1300)
The two-time Cup Series champion previously won the Daytona 500 in 2015. More recently, he also won the Duel 1 at Daytona in February before finishing second in the 500 race. Logano clinched his only win so far this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finished 10th at The Glen.
Kyle Bush (+1700)
Busch is a past winner of the summer race at Daytona. He currently sits fifth in the likely playoff standings, largely due to three wins this year. After two bad races in Michigan and Indianapolis, Busch worked his way up to 15th place last Sunday. However, he hasn’t had a top 10 since Atlanta seven races ago.
William Byron (+1800)
Byron’s win at The Glen was his fifth win of the season – two more than any other rider. With eight stage wins and a total of 876 laps he leads the field.
Bubba Wallace (+2000)
Wallace, who has finished second at Daytona three times, has a 13.0, the best average among drivers with at least five starts at the track. He is the second-biggest liability in the book, as Wallace ranks second out of all drivers with 7.6 percent of the bets and 8.4 percent of the money.
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