The NASCAR Cup Series heads back to Daytona — but not for a Superspeedway race. Instead, this weekend marks the debut of the Daytona Road Course. Drivers will use the same circuit that sports car drivers use during the 24 Hours of Daytona.
— Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) July 8, 2020
We may not have any track history to use for this race, but we can look at drivers’ performances at other road course tracks. The Charlotte Roval is a particularly good comparison, as it’s the only other part-oval, part-road course track used in the Cup Series.
To Finish Top-3: Kevin Harvick (+190) OR To Finish Top-5: Kevin Harvick (+125)
Why is Harvick in the plus money this weekend? The man has finished no worse than fifth since Talladega on June 22nd — that’s almost two months ago! His average finish through 22 races is 5.91.
Harvick’s road course numbers don’t explain why the sportsbooks are low on him, as he has the highest average finish (6.88) through the last eight events. He doesn’t have as many wins as Truex or Elliott, but his three top-fives suggest that he’ll be in the running this weekend.
Buying Harvick to win is too risky (he’s at +700 and we have no track history), and buying him to post a top-10 doesn’t offer much appeal (he’s at -315). But both of these two recommended lines present value and could easily hit on Sunday, so put your money on them while you can.
To Finish Top-10: Clint Bowyer (-130)
Bowyer is my pick to sneak into the back of the top-10 this weekend. He may only have five top-10s this year, but he’s been close on several occasions, as he has 11 top-15 finishes.
More impressively, Bowyer has the second-best average finish in the last eight road course races. He doesn’t have any wins, but he’s notched five top-10 results, and two of his three misses were 11th-place finishes. Bowyer is also two-for-two at the Charlotte Roval for top-fives.
His line of -130 isn’t the most profitable, but I don’t trust him to finish any higher. If you’re feeling lucky, play him to finish top-five (+300). Otherwise, play it safe and bet on him to finish where he usually does at road courses.
Top Chevrolet Car: Chase Elliott (-155)
Chase Elliott has won three of the last eight road course events. He won at Watkins Glen in 2018 and 2019, and he also won the second-ever race at the Charlotte Roval in 2019.
That said, Hendrick Motorsports (and Chevrolet as a whole) isn’t in good form. While Elliott has three top-10 finishes in a row, Alex Bowman is his only teammate to finish better than 10th since June. Kurt Busch (+550) is Elliott’s only competition within the Chevy camp right now, but he’s racing for points, not wins.
Since I expect Kurt to play it conservatively, Elliott should finish ahead of his fellow bowtie drivers, barring an accident.
Top Toyota Car: Denny Hamlin (+275)
Hamlin has five wins this season, and he has the second-best finishing position of all active drivers at 9.36. He’s also been the de-facto leader of the Toyota camp, so it’s shocking to see him with longer odds on this line than both Martin Truex Jr. (+120) and Kyle Busch (+225).
Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota enter in much better form than Chevrolet. They’ve won six races to Chevy’s three, and they’ve got two drivers who compete for wins every week. But Hamlin accounts for the vast majority of those victories, and he’s finished better than both Truex and Busch in three of his last four races.
Hamlin’s line could be this long because of Truex’s three recent road course wins. He’s won three of the last eight, and he’s led at least one lap in every road course event since Sonoma 2016. While Hamlin has a better average finish in the last eight events (8.75 to 8.88), Truex has a better driver rating (123.6 to 92.9). I don’t think there’s much value on Truex’s line, and Hamlin’s recent momentum makes him a great value play at such long odds.
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