NASCAR: Top 5 threats to Bubba Wallace at Daytona

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Bubba Wallace occupies the provisional playoff spot that 16 other NASCAR Cup Series drivers are trying to secure for themselves at Daytona International Speedway.

With just one race remaining on the 26-race 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule, there is just one playoff spot that hasn’t been solidified.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace occupies that 16th and final spot heading into Saturday night’s 160-lap Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Daytona International Speedway as he seeks his first career playoff berth.

But two drivers have a chance to pass the driver of the No. 23 Toyota on points, and those two drivers, along with 14 others, have a chance to control their own destiny and take it away from him by earning their first win of the season at the high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

And we all know that Daytona generally produces a wild card race, which lends itself to the possibility of upset winners. The fact that it now hosts the regular season finale makes it even more of a chaotic and unpredictable event.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving fans a guaranteed $200 when they sign up and place a single $5 bet, lists Wallace as one of the favorites to win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at +1800, but he is not the overall favorite.

While he currently sits in the final playoff spot on points, he too could end up in a must-win situation, depending on which (if any) drivers below him in the point standings find themselves in a position to swipe that 16th spot as the laps wind down on Saturday night.

Here are the drivers below Wallace in the standings with the best chance to win Saturday night’s race, according to the odds.

Bubba Wallace NASCAR threats at Daytona: No. 5 (tie) – Daniel Suarez, Ty Gibbs

It is fitting that Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez and Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Ty Gibbs, the two drivers who still have a chance to take the 16th playoff spot away from Wallace on points, are listed in a fifth place tie.

Neither one has been particularly strong in superspeedway races, but both drive for teams that have been strong and both know that their best bet to overtake Wallace is to win, rather than worrying about points.

Bubba Wallace NASCAR threats at Daytona: No. 4 – Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola has a chance to flip the script on his disappointing season with a win at the track where he secured his first career victory in 2014. Two of his three wins have come in superspeedway races, and he is always a threat in them, even if he hasn’t won one since 2018.

Bubba Wallace NASCAR threats at Daytona: No. 3 – Austin Cindric

Speaking of disappointing seasons, Austin Cindric’s sophomore slump sees him entering the regular season finale needing to win at the same venue where he won last year to secure his playoff spot, but at the opposite end of the regular season schedule. Not since 2017 has a Team Penske driver missed the playoffs. Will the streak continue?

Bubba Wallace NASCAR threats at Daytona: No. 2 – Alex Bowman

After a strong start to the season, Alex Bowman found himself behind the eight ball. He missed three races with a fractured vertebra he suffered in a sprint car crash and has struggled mightily since returning.

But closing out the regular season at a track where he is always fast should give him the best chance to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth time in six years at Hendrick Motorsports.

Bubba Wallace NASCAR threats at Daytona: No. 1 – Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott is the overall favorite to win Saturday night’s race at +1100 to keep his playoff streak alive. Like Bowman, he has never failed to qualify for the playoffs or the round of 12 at Hendrick Motorsports, and he hasn’t even missed the round of 8 since his rookie 2016 season — or the Championship 4 since 2019.

After weeks and weeks of answering the same question about needing to win his way into the playoffs, will his seven missed starts earlier this year — six due to injury and one due to suspension — indeed prove costly? Elliott does have three career superspeedway wins, including two in the Next Gen era, but he has never won at the Daytona oval.

Odds and availability are always subject to change, so lock in your $200 today before it’s too late!

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The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 26 at Daytona International Speedway. It is set to be broadcast live on NBC starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!