This week’s magic number for the NASCAR Cup Series is one.
One regular-season race remaining. One playoff spot still up for grabs.
Bubba Wallace, seeking his first career spot in the playoffs, enters Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway with a 32-point advantage over rookie Ty Gibbs. Another 11 points behind sits Daniel Suarez.
Ohtani tears UCL and the Angels are done
“We know what we have to do and that’s win,” said Suarez, who posted his best career Daytona finish of seventh in February. “It’s pretty simple and we plan to give it our best shot.”
Meanwhile, Gibbs’ best previous finish at the track is only a 13th in this race last year.
Of course, a first-time winner in 2023 could dash the hopes of all three. That list 2020 former Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, who is 101 points behind Wallace after a 32nd at Watkins Glen last weekend.
Others to keep an eye on are former Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric and previous winners of this race, including Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon.
Brad Keselowski leads all non-winners this year as he sits 171 points ahead of Gibbs. Kevin Harvick, who will retire at the end of the season, is also winless this year but just four points below Keselowski in the projected playoff standings.
There is also drama remaining in the race for the regular-season championship.
“Everybody’s in a must-win situation,” Wallace said. “When the last race is Daytona and we’ve seen surprise winners, no one is safe until the race is over with. We’re hoping we can do everything right, continue to get stage points and if there is a new winner, it’s the 23 car.
“Everybody’s fighting for the same real estate.”
Martin Truex Jr. holds a 39-point advantage over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
The other drivers to have secured their spots in the playoffs are William Byron, 2021 series champion Kyle Larson, two-time series champion Kyle Busch, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, two-time and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano, Michael McDowell and this year’s Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
COKE ZERO SUGAR 400
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Aug. 26, 7 p.m. ET
The Distance: 160 laps on 2.5-mile track
Defending Champion: Austin Dillon
Cup Series Leader: Martin Truex Jr.
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
5 BEST BETS
Chase Elliott (+1200 at BetMGM)
Elliott’s back is now firmly planted against the wall following a disastrous outing at Watkins Glen. He did finish third in the Duel 2 at Daytona in February before stumbling to 38th in the 500. Elliott finished 12th at Talladega Superspeedway and fourth at Nashville Superspeedway earlier this season. The fan favorite is the book’s biggest liability this week, leading the field with 9.2 percent of the total bets and 11.8 percent of the money backing him to win.
Denny Hamlin (+1200)
Hamlin leads the field with three Daytona 500 wins. He’s also BetMGM’s second-biggest liability as Hamlin is third among all drivers with 5.8 and 8.3 percent of the action backing him, respectively.
Joey Logano (+1300)
The two-time Cup Series champion won the Daytona 500 back in 2015. More currently, he also won the Duel 1 at Daytona in February before finishing runner-up in the 500. Logano claimed his lone win so far this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway and is coming off a 10th at The Glen.
Kyle Busch (+1700)
Busch is a previous winner of the summer race at Daytona. He’s currently fifth in the projected playoff standings, courtesy mostly of three wins this year. After a pair of poor races at Michigan and Indianapolis, Busch worked his way to a 15th last Sunday. However, he hasn’t had a top-10 since Atlanta seven races ago.
William Byron (+1800)
Byron’s victory at The Glen was his fifth of the season — two more than any other driver. He also leads the field with eight stage wins and 876 total laps led.
Bubba Wallace (+2000)
Wallace, who has three career runner-ups at Daytona, owns the best average finish of 13.0 among drivers with at least five starts at the track. He’s the book’s second biggest liability as Wallace is second among all drivers with 7.6 percent of the bets and 8.4 percent of the money backing him.
—Field Level Media