The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to the “Lady in Black” Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sunday. One of the crown jewels of NASCAR, the Southern 500 is the final race before the playoffs start next weekend in Indianapolis. There isn’t a lot of drama headed into this weekend’s race, and you, the player, should concern yourself with those on the playoff bubble. Darlington is a driver’s racetrack. Only a handful of active drivers have won on the track—Jimmie Johnson (three wins), Denny Hamlin (two), Kevin Harvick (one), Kyle Busch (one), Martin Truex Jr. (one) and Brad Keselowski (one). Last year’s winner was Keselowski.
Just for fun, many drivers will be sporting throwback paint schemes this weekend, which is always a nice touch. Let’s find a winner for Sunday’s race.
|Martin Truex Jr.||+600|
Kyle Larson is a vulnerable favorite
I wanted to pick Kyle Larson for this race. In his last two races at Darlington, Larson led 55.59% of the laps. In his career at the track, Larson has four top 10 finishes in five races, with two in the top five. He has never finished worse than 14th in the five races and has a best finish of third. Larson will run well Sunday, but I can’t play him at +450, because he doesn’t deserve to be the favorite. I can’t take that price on a driver who I believe will choke it away. Can he be clutch when the money is on the line?
Denny Hamlin at +600 is a must play
Why is Hamlin not the favorite? What more does he have to do? In the last six Cup Series races, no driver has been better. He has six top-five finishes, with two wins in six races, and an average finish of 2.33. But what about at Darlington? Well, Hamlin won the 2017 Southern 500 and has won two races in 13 starts. In those 13 starts, he has finished in the top 10 11 times and in the top five on seven occasions. He’s the hottest driver in the sport right now. His car is really strong, he enjoys the track and he has a load of confidence. He should be the favorite.
Kevin Harvick at +550 is acceptable
If you play both Hamlin and Harvick, you will cash a ticket on one of them. Harvick and his team are getting hot at the right time. If his car didn’t break a gear two weeks ago at Bristol, Harvick may have found himself in victory lane. In the last six Cup Series races, Harvick has two wins and four top 10 finishes. Harvick only has one win in 22 starts at Darlington, but he has had success at the track since he moved over to Stewart-Haas Racing. He hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 since he moved to the No. 4 car. You aren’t not getting great odds on him, but his team has been trending upward, and I have a feeling it will be looking to make a statement before the playoffs start. He’s a must use in matchups and a win bet.