The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season reaches the halfway point of its 36-race season this Saturday night in grand fashion with the running of the Coke Zero 400 at the storied Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Saturday night’s race is slated to get underway at 6:30 p.m. (ET) and it will be broadcast nationally on TNT.
The following is look at a few of the favorites, contenders, and best valued longshot for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 along with their odds to win as provided by Bovada.
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Much was made about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s four-year winless streak, but that finally came to an end with a victory earlier this season at Michigan. He now has an excellent opportunity to add a second checkered flag to the slate as the 9/1 favorite for Saturday night’s race. The No. 88 car is clearly off to its strongest start ever in the Sprint Cup series with a total of seven Top-5 finishes in the first 17 races that has it in second place in the standings with 622 points and just 11 points out of the lead. The other reason that Dale Jr. is the favorite this week besides current form is his recent performance at Daytona. He has recorded three Top-5 finishes in his last five races at this track, including a second-place finish in this season’s Daytona 500.
Jimmie Johnson has been opened at 10/1 to win the Coke Zero 400 primarily on his current form. His sixth-place finish at Kentucky last week was his sixth Top-10 in his last seven point races. Included in this impressive run are victories at both Darlington and Dover. This has helped lift the No. 48 race team to third-place in the standings with 610 points, putting it just 23 points out of the lead. Draining some value from his odds is the fact that Johnson has not finished better than 20th in his last five races at this track, including a 42nd finish in this season’s Daytona 500 after getting involved in a wreck on the second lap. He did finish second in this race in 2009 to add to his six career Top-5 finishes here.
Another veteran driver that has been opened at 10/1 is Tony Stewart. The reining Sprint Cup champion opened the defense of his title with two victories in the first five point races of the season and recently added two second-place finishes in the last three. Overall, the No.14 car has seven Top-5 finishes in the first 17 point races and is in ninth place in the standings with 545 points. Stewart has also had his share of problems at Daytona in recent years, failing to finish in the Top-10 in his last five races here. Before this string of bad luck, we won this race in 2009 after finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 earlier that year. He has three career victories at this track but an overall finishing position of just 16.7.
Kyle Busch fought off a slow start and put together an impressive run of four consecutive Top-5 finishes starting with a victory at Richmond, but he has fallen back into a bit of a rut with just one Top-10 in his last five races. He comes into this race as the third driver at 10/1, but in light of his current form along with his overall performance at this track, you have to question the value in his odds. The No. 18 car has an average finishing position at Daytona of 17.6 with its only real claim to fame being a win in this race back in 2008. Busch is currently 12th in the standings and holding one of two wildcard positions for the Chase, which is the Sprint Cup’s 10-race playoffs at the end of the season.
Best Valued Longshot
There are a number of quality drivers with longer odds for this race, but at 12/1, Matt Kenseth clearly offers the best value in terms of current form and recent performance at this track. He started this season off with a victory in the Daytona 500 and since then has added seven more Top-5 finishes to his 2012 resume. The No.17 car is now the leader in the Sprint Cup standings with 633 points. Adding to his recent success at this fabled venue, Kenseth also won the Daytona 500 in 2009 and finished second in this race last season. Overall, he has six Top-10 finishes in his last eight races at this track.