Chase Elliott’s Watkins Glen disaster means he must win at Daytona on Saturday night to make the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Elliott’s car ran out of fuel at the Glen as his team was trying an alternate fuel strategy to gain positions on the leaders. Elliott’s stalled car brought out the only caution of the race as he finished 32nd of the 36 drivers who started the race.
The fuel miscalculation means Elliott enters the final race of the regular season (7 p.m. ET, NBC) in 21st in the points standings. It’s mathematically impossible for him to make the postseason via points because of the seven races he’s missed. He has to get to victory lane to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in his Cup Series career.
If Elliott wins, he’ll knock Bubba Wallace out of the playoffs. Thirteen drivers currently have wins over the first 25 races of the season, and Wallace ranks third among the drivers without a win. At 14th in the standings overall, Wallace is 32 points ahead of Ty Gibbs and 43 points ahead of Daniel Suarez for the final playoff spot heading into Daytona.
Those aren’t insurmountable margins, especially if Wallace is involved in a crash early in the race. But Wallace has to be feeling fairly good about that margin over Gibbs and Suarez and may be sweating out the threat from Elliott or another winless driver getting to victory lane more than either of those two drivers passing him in the points standings.
The odds say Elliott is the favorite to win Saturday night. He’s tied with Denny Hamlin at +1200 atop the board as he faces his win-and-in scenario. And while Elliott is one of the favorites on a near-weekly basis, his odds may be juiced a little more than usual this weekend. After all, he’s the most-popular driver in the Cup Series and his fans are extremely loyal. Betting on an Elliott win in a storybook scenario is enticing.
Here’s what you need to know to bet on Saturday’s race. All odds are from BetMGM.
Chase Elliott (+1200)
Denny Hamlin (+1200)
Joey Logano (+1300)
Ryan Blaney (+1300)
Brad Keselowski (+1300)
The odds are all bunched together this weekend because of the unpredictable nature of Daytona. Elliott has just two top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in 15 starts at the 2.5-mile track. Hamlin, meanwhile, has three Daytona 500 wins and 11 top fives in 35 starts.
Logano has won just once at Daytona and has seven top fives in 29 starts. Blaney has seven top 10s in 16 starts, and Keselowski has six top-10 finishes in 28 starts. His Talladega success hasn’t really been replicated at Daytona.
Good mid-tier value
Ross Chastain (+2500)
Christopher Bell (+3000)
Chastain has three top 10s in 10 starts; that’s a pretty good ratio all things considered. Bell has just one top five in seven starts but is great value at those odds.
Don’t bet this driver
Martin Truex Jr. (+2500)
Truex has six top-10 finishes in 36 starts at Daytona. Three of those have come since the start of the 2018 season. He also has five finishes outside the top 20 in that span.
Looking for a long shot?
AJ Allmendinger (+4000)
There aren’t too many long shots this week given how clustered the odds are. Allmendinger is worth a flier given his seven top 10s in 20 starts. Five of those seven top 10s have come in his last five starts.