NASCAR at Daytona Odds, Picks & Predictions: Saturday Night’s Best Featured Matchup Bet
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones
It appears NASCAR will get exactly what it wanted when it moved the second Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway from its traditional Fourth of July weekend date to the final event of the regular season.
Heading into Saturday's Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBC), there is an epic points battle between Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. to earn the 16th and final postseason berth, and that's not even including the slew of drivers who can steal that spot by winning this race.
Pack racing at Daytona is already exciting and unpredictable, and with so many drivers having a realistic shot to contend for the victory, don't be surprised to see ratcheted up to another level on Saturday.
However, because of this unpredictability, I'm really not all that interested in betting driver matchups, especially this early in the week.
That said, if you’re looking to get down on one of the four featured matchups for Daytona right now, here is my favorite of the bunch.
NASCAR Pick for Daytona
*Odds as of Wednesday morning
I'm bullish on Erik Jones in general ahead of the Coke Zero Sugar 400, so I certainly lean toward him at plus money versus Aric Almirola.
Oddsmakers use previous results at similar tracks as a key factor when setting NASCAR lines and appear to be overvaluing finishing position, which can be very random at superspeedways.
For example, Almirola's average finish of ninth at Daytona and Talladega this season easily bests Jones' 17.5 effort.
However, Jones has been better across key performance metrics.
To start, Jones has the sixth-best driver rating over those two races, while, despite that sparkling average finish, Almirola's rating ranks just 17th overall.
Perhaps the most eye-popping stat is the difference between the two in average running position, which provides a much clearer picture as to which driver has actually been better in these two races.
Jones has the second-best average finishing in the entire NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona and Talladega this season.
Almirola ranks 13th overall.
And finally, Jones is tied for sixth in laps led in these races this year, while Almirola has not led a single lap.
So yes, Almirola does have the better average finish, but Jones has clearly been the better performer, making that +105 price tag the valuable side of this driver matchup for Daytona.
The Bet: Jones (+105) over Almirola at DraftKings