Daytona is the last chance for some big-name NASCAR drivers to make a championship run

James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media

Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup race, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, is the last chance for 14 drivers to make it to what used to be called the “Chase for the Championship.”

Sixteen drivers will move on to the finals (the other drivers still get to race, but won’t be eligible for the championship,) and Daytona is the final opportunity for some big names who are presently on the outside looking in.

For those drivers who are in the playoffs by virtue of winning at least one race, gathering as many points as possible is their focus. Four drivers will be dropped from contention every third race from now on, until we’re left with the final four, who will battle it out at the season finale, which is November 5 at Phoenix Raceway. Having a lot of points can help keep you in the game.

2022 Coke 400 NASCAR
James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media

Even though they don’t have a win, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick both clinched playoff spots via points this past weekend, leaving one spot available going into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Daytona. Bubba Wallace currently leads Ty Gibbs by 32 points for the final playoff position, with notable drivers like past champion Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, and A.J. Allmendinger all in need of a win to make the playoffs.

Besides Keselowski and Harvick, these drivers have won at least one race to punch their ticket for the playoffs: William Byron (five wins), Martin Truex, Jr. (three wins), Chris Buescher (two wins), Denny Hamlin (two wins), Kyle Busch (two wins), Kyle Larson (two wins), and with one win apiece, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, and Michael McDowell. Shane Van Gisbergen also has a win, but he’s ineligible because he didn’t run the full season with NASCAR.

2022 Coke 400 NASCAR
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images/NASCAR Media

Thirty-nine cars are entered. Even if they win, six drivers are ineligible for the Cup playoffs, because they are full-time Xfinity series racers.

So what are the odds? SportsLine ran 10,000 simulations on the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and Denny Hamlin leads the odds at 10:1. Winless Chase Elliott is 11:1, and 12:1 drivers are Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney.

TV coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and Peacock, and on radio at Motor Racing Network affiliates, including Sirius/XM.

2022 Coke 400 NASCAR
Chris Graythen/Getty Images/NASCAR Media




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