Thursday, June 30, 2016

Earnhardt Jr. the large Coke Zero 400 favorite, not Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin dominated Daytona Speedweeks in February.
LAS VEGAS -- Denny Hamlin has an incredible 3.2 average finish in his past five starts at Daytona International Speedway, including winning February's Daytona 500, but it's Dale Earnhardt Jr. who opens as the 9-to-2 favorite to win Saturday night's Coke Zero 400.

Despite finishing 36th in the Daytona 500 and 40th at Talladega in May, Junior has loads of respect from the Las Vegas oddsmakers whenever restrictor-plate races come around. The poor finishes by Junior in plate races this year are simply thrown out the window when creating the odds.

He's also the most bet upon driver in plate races from his huge base of fans, which automatically sets his odds lower than what they probably should be. It's a supply and demand story with him every time the plate races come around. Why give what his true odds should be when the bookmaker knows they'll be losers if he wins? Set the price lower, limit liability on the No. 88 car and force action elsewhere is the strategy in Las Vegas.

If looking at the past 10 plates races since 2014, Junior has a series best three wins and 382 laps led. Hamlin, who is listed at 10-to-1 odds, leads the series with an 11.2 average finish and has two wins over that span.

Earnhardt and his crew expect to do well in these races and they're making some adjustments for Saturday's race as he tries to win for the first time this season.

“We looked at some of the things we were doing on the plate car this year that we didn’t have last year — some new ideas and new theories how to get the car to be fast, and we think that has compromised how the car handles," Earnhardt said. "Last year, we finished in the top two or three in every single plate race and we were the best car at Daytona and Talladega, hands down. So, we’re going to go back on our setup to 2015, and hopefully that is going to give me the confidence and the comfort that I need to drive the car and be aggressive with it in the draft. I’m looking forward to Daytona and getting back to our winning ways there.”

In the four plate races last season, his worst finish was third and had two wins, including the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

Here's a look at all the odds posted by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and a look at how each driver has fared at Daytona. 

Odds to win Coke Zero 400
Saturday, July 2, 2016 - 8:05 pm ET

Dale EARNHARDT JR 9/2 - In 66 career plate races, he's got 10 wins and 25 top-five finishes with a 14.4 average finish. He's also led 1,553 laps. Those are all the most in the series now that Jeff Gordon has retired. He's won two of the past five at Daytona and has four overall, including his magical 2001 win the ensuing Daytona race after his father passed. Obviously, this is a very special place for him. However, his ratio of winning at Daytona (four wins in 33 starts) surely doesn't merit low odds like 9-to-2 in the same way like Jimmie Johnson does at Dover or Martinsville or Kevin Harvick at Phoenix.

Jimmie JOHNSON 8/1 - In 2013 he became the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep a Daytona season. He had top-five finishes in both races last season and was 16th in this year's Daytona 500. Expect another strong run this week if trouble stays away from him.

“We have had strong cars at superspeedways this year," Johnson said. "Daytona should be a good race to watch. If the race gets off to a slow start, you can probably bank on a wild finish. We have a special Lowe’s Chevrolet this weekend with the patriotic colors on it – would be nice to win this one to honor all the veterans.”

Denny HAMLIN 10/1 - He started 2016 off with the fastest Sprint Unlimted lap during happy hour, won the non-points race then won the Daytona 500 the following week. He'll attempt to join Bobby Allison (1982) as the only driver to complete the triple and based on his recent Daytona run of excellence and Joe Gibbs Racing's plate package, he's a strong candidate to do so. His winning Daytona 500 car is on display for fans at Daytona all season, but his winning Sprint Unlimited car is available, which he's expected to use this week. Getting the triple would be a nice bargaining chip for Hamlin in a contract year. Coach Gibbs, what are you waiting for?

Read More Here...complete list of Coke Zero 400 odds on

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