This week about 70 percent of the drivers will experience the Daytona International Speedway road course for the first time ever. And without practice or qualification, the first laps they take will be behind the pace car. Hopefully, they have good memories to remind them where the corner apexes are located.
Another dozen Cup drivers have raced in sports cars on the track. Most of those competed in various 24 Hours of Daytona endurance events where they have run a few stints while swapping the ride with team members. Not all of them have been competitive in the unaccustomed equipment and few have been part of win-challenging efforts. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr have made starts on the road course; Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin have not.
Bettors have the Charlotte Roval to look to for inspiration. The infield road course of that track is the most similar to Daytona. Beyond that, pay closer attention to Sonoma Raceway than Watkins Glen International because it is the more technical of the two.
For the most part, everyone will be at an equal disadvantage. That is all well and good for the drivers in the top 10 where fewer mistakes are likely to be made. For drivers mired in the pack, this could be a treacherous affair as desperate drivers attempt to move up through the field and steal a victory that would lock them into the playoffs.
One way or another, the GoBowling 235 will certainly be exciting.
Last year Chase Elliott (+400) solidified his place in the Round of 12 with his Charlotte Roval win. He did so in dramatic fashion after blowing the first corner and hitting the tire barrier earlier in the event. Determined to make up for his mistake, he put together perfect laps and earned his sixth career victory. Elliott’s fifth career win came earlier in 2019 at the Glen after he led the field from the pole. Elliott’s first career win came at the Glen in 2018.
If not for a blown engine at Sonoma in June, Elliott would enter this week with a six-race streak of road course results sixth or better. Only two of his career attempts on this track type ended worse than 13th. And while that kind of consistent strength is notable, it is specifically his effort at the Roval that recommends him this week.
The sportsbooks have taken notice not only with his 4/1 odds to win outright, but also because they have basically made him even money (+115) to finish in the top three. He shares those with Truex, so bettors might want to lay equal parlays among the two favorites.
Best Bets for a top five
Martin Truex Jr. (+400) has easily been Elliott’s closest competition on road courses in recent years. Since the beginning of 2016 he has finished seventh or better in all of the road course races with two exceptions. Like Elliott, he blew an engine at Sonoma in 2017. His other failure to finish in the top 10 came in the inaugural Roval race. But if not for a banzai move by Jimmie Johnson, he would have won that event to give him four wins and two runner-up finishes in the last seven events on this track type.
Exceptional value: Ryan Blaney (+800) inherited the win from Truex and Johnson in the final corner of the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400k, but he had to be in position to do so. If he had finished third that afternoon, he would still warrant a lot of attention this week because that kicked off a four-race streak of results eighth or better. With 8/1 odds, he has the biggest upside this week among the projected top-five, but more importantly that drags his top-three odds to +225 and he deserves a much heftier wager there.
It is odd to see Kevin Harvick (+700) listed as anything except the favorite, but this week he is ranked fourth in the Draft Kings sportsbook. Don’t let that fool you because he is still one of this week’s top picks. Not only does he have more momentum than anyone in the field with a nine-race streak of top-fives, but he almost never fails to finish in the top 10 on a road course. Eleven of his last 13 attempts there ended in top-10s with a victory at Sonoma to highlight the list.
This week, we’re going with the odds makers and will favor Kyle Busch (+650). He is great on every track type and from 2015 through 2018 he scored eight consecutive top-seven results on the twisty tracks. That came to an end at the Charlotte Roval when he was collected in a multicar accident entering Turn 1 late in the race. Last year his emotions got the best of him at the Glen. He tore his car up attempting to retaliate for a supposed indignity. He broke a suspension at Charlotte later in the year. If he had not improved his performance in recent weeks, we would have dropped him to the next level, but things finally seem to be going the right way for Busch.
Best Bets for a top 10
Longshot alert: Alex Bowman (+3300) does not have the type of record on road courses that would recommend him for a top-five, but he should easily contend for a top-10. In six career starts on twisty tracks since joining Hendrick Motorsports, he has not finished worse than 14th; three of these were top-10s. What makes him a dark horse for an outright win is his last two Charlotte Roval attempts. He finished fourth and second.
Joey Logano (+1600) has faded on the road courses in recent years. Since 2017, he has only two top-10s in eight starts – and those were barely top-10s with a 10th in the last two Roval races. Before that, however, he earned five consecutive results of sixth or better including a win in 2015 at the Glen.
As with his teammate Logano, Brad Keselowski (+1400) has faded on the road courses in recent years. In that same span of races since the start of 2017 he has only three top-10s. The good news is that they came in the last two events on this track type with a ninth at the Glen last year and a fifth on the Roval.
Longshot alert: While he has been a top dark horse many weeks, bettors should pay special attention to Matt DiBenedetto (+3300) this week. In less powerful equipment last year, he finished 11th or better in all three road course races with a best of fourth at Sonoma. Because of his long 33/1 odds, it’s worth putting a few dollars down on an outright win, but there is also a little to be made at +115 for a top-10 finish.
It should not be too much of a risk to bet Denny Hamlin (+800) will finish in the top 10, but wagering for a top-three or an outright win is going to be risky. That is because he has finished that well only twice in six races during the past two years. Both of those came last year, but his record on the most similar track is not very good: In two starts on the Roval, he has a 12th and a 19th.
Good Values outside the top 10
One need only scroll back to the 2018 Roval race to know just how badly Johnson (+4000) wants to win – and also just how good he can be on this track type.
Aric Almirola (+5000) was consistent on road courses last year with three results ranging from ninth to 14th. His 14th-place finish came on the Roval.
At the beginning of last year we would have made Kurt Busch (+2000) a favorite to finish in the top 10 because his most recent 13 races resulted in 12th or better finishes. Last year he was 13th at Sonoma and 20th at the Roval.
Clint Bowyer (+2000) could surprise us this week and land in the top 10. He finished third and fourth in the first two Roval races and has run well on the technical Sonoma Raceway. His overall numbers this year make him a longshot, however.
William Byron (+4000) has two top-10s in six starts on road courses. The good news is that one of these was a sixth at the Roval last year.
Erik Jones (+3300) has done really well at Sonoma and the Glen with five top-10s in six starts, but that has not translated to success on the Roval where he’s sustained crash damage in both races.
Ryan Newman (+10000) started his career as a top contender on road courses. Last year he earned only his third top-10 in the last 25 races on this track type, however.
Matt Kenseth (+10000) is going to be rusty this week, but one should note that his last run as a full time driver on this track type ended in a second at the Glen in 2017.
Michael McDowell (+10000) is a solid road course driver. Although he does not yet have a top-10 to his credit, he’s been in the front half of the pack in nearly 40 percent of his starts and could earn some money with the right head-to-head matchup.
Someone must have forgotten to tell Brendan Gaughan (+25000) that this Daytona race is on the road course; he usually shows up for the superspeedway events.