Friday, July 4, 2014

Final Coke Zero 400 Practice Notes: Denny Hamlin still driver to beat

Greg Biffle offers nice value Saturday night at 20/1 odds
LAS VEGAS -- The final Coke Zero practice at Daytona International Speedway got rained out on Thursday, but since we're dealing with a restrictor-plate race, those practices mean very little. It's likely that we may have seen a few drivers not even attempt to run a lap in the final session just because they wouldn't have wanted to risk damaging their cars.

Usually we use this space to relay what we thought we learned about a few drivers based on the practice times. Practices at all the tracks other than Daytona and Talladega can be very enlightening and steer you in the right direction of whom to bet on -- drivers that might not have been keyed on when the week started.

But at Daytona and Talladega, the practices really don't tell the entire story and in some cases can take you off the right side if using the times in the same fashion you might at Kansas and Richmond. The best approach is to throw the practices completely out of the equation and roll to the bet window exclusively with actual race results or information. Qualifying also means very little as a driver near the back of the pack can get to the front within a couple of laps.

In addition to the Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499 at Talladega results from earlier this season, we've also got the performances from the non-point events like the Sprint Unlimited (Shootout) and Budweiser Duels. That's four events to utilize, which is a pretty good sample size, and the leader of the pack in all of those is Denny Hamlin, who won three of them and finished second in the Daytona 500.

The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been extremely strong in plate races the past two seasons, so a case can be made for Hamlin's teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth as well. The edge that Hamlin's team has is likely to be shared with the other two as well. In the lone practice session Thursday, Busch had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average, but again, that really doesn't count for much, so take it with a grain of salt. His associations with Gibbs and Hamlin hold a lot more weight than his performance during practice.

The bottom line here is to roll with what you handicapped with before Thursday. Nothing happened that should sway your opinion, so you can refer to a few drivers we mentioned in our "Odds to Win" piece earlier in the week. The best longer-shot odds on the board look like Greg Biffle (20/1), Paul Menard (30/1) and a real nice roll of the dice with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (60/1).

These types of races really are crapshoots and sometimes the big payout does occur. In Stenhouse's case, he comes from the Roush Fenway Racing fleet of Fords that has performed extremely well in plate races in recent years. In his past three attempts at Daytona, he's finished no worse than 12th, including a career-best seventh in the Daytona 500 this season.

Read More Here....Final Daytona Driver Ratings

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