NASCAR Saturday: Eckel 4 pick the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona – Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin vie for top spot

The final race before the playoffs starts at 7 pm EDT.
Are you ready for some racing? Daytona is.
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Coke Zero Sugar 400, Daytona, 7 p.m. TV: NBCS

If there is anything predictable about a race at Daytona Super Speedway, is that it’s unpredictable.

NASCAR returns to Daytona Saturday night for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in the regular-season final with both the top spot in the standings and the final playoff spot on the line.

The red-hot Kyle Larson leads winless Denny Hamlin by 28 points for the overall points leader title, while Tyler Reddick remains 25 points ahead of teammate Austin Dillon for the 16th and final playoff spot.

Dillon actually has the 13th most points, but wins from Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola earned them automatic spots in the playoffs, which begin a week from Sunday in Darlington.

The Eckel 4, which as always includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker, Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney and Barry “Dr. NASCAR’’ Davis, is all over the course this week. The four selectors mentioned eight different drivers and only two drivers were mentioned by two of the selectors.

Here are your picks for the regular season finale.

Kyle Larson (14-1): That’s pretty good odds for the current points leader who has finished in the top five in 11 of the last 15 races and in the top 10 in 13 of the last 15.

Denny Hamlin (7-1): You know Hamlin wants a win heading into the playoffs and to also pass Larson for the top spot. He’s the favorite tonight for a reason — he’s finished in the top five in six of the last seven Daytona races.

Joey Logano (12-1): Logano has just one top 10 finish in his last six races and his last three finishes have been 22nd, 34th, and 33rd. “Left Turn’’ has a feeling this is his week and his odds (better than Larson’s) suggest something might be up with him this week.

William Byron (12-1): Byron won this race a year ago and is looking to be the first repeat winner since Tony Stewart did so in 2005-06. Besides his win here last year he also finished second in 2019.

Also Mentioned: Chase Elliott (12-1); Ryan Blaney (12-1).

Longshot Plays: Martin Truex Jr. (20-1); Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (33-1).

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