Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN) race and betting preview

WHO WILL WIN SOUTHERN 500

Favorites to bet

Kevin Harvick

He won NASCAR’s first race back during the pandemic at Darlington on May 17. Harvick, was third in the second race. He has eight consecutive top 10 finishes on the track including seven of them being inside of the top five. He led 63 total laps here in 16 starts at Darlington with RCR. He’s already led 687 in nine starts with SHR. He’s won half of the last six races run and has 11 top five finishes in his last 13 starts overall. The only non top fives were at Daytona.

Denny Hamlin

He won the second Darlington race back in May. Hamlin, has six top 10 finishes in his last seven “Lady in Black” starts including five of them being in the top five. He’s a three time Darlington winner and also has three runner-ups there too. On the season, Hamlin has 11 top two’s overall and five in the last eight races run.

Kyle Busch

How fitting would it be if Busch ends his 26 race winless streak in the first playoff race? I mean, he won the last playoff race in Homestead last November. He was runner-up in the second May race at Darlington and has two top three finishes in his last three Darlington starts. Furthermore, he has six top seven finishes in his last nine starts on the track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame.”

Chase Elliott

He’s starting to surge again. Elliott, has six top 10 finishes in his last seven races on the season including a win on the Daytona road course. He also was fourth in the first race at Darlington on May 17 and if not for being wrecked by Kyle Busch on May 20, he likely would have won.

Brad Keselowski

A good outlier here. Keselowski, has 18 top 11 finishes in his last 20 races run, three of which being wins. The Team Penske driver finished fourth in the night race this past May and has three top five finishes in his last four Darlington starts overall.

ncs_dar1_line_051720
Darlington action this past May as the 1st major sporting event back during the pandemic

Longs shot to bet

Alex Bowman

Worth a risk. He has one top five finish since his runner-up here on May 17. But, Bowman did finish second in May.

Clint Bowyer

Worth a look. He finished sixth at Darlington back on May 17 then swept both stages in the second race before having issues. Watch out for him on Sunday night.

Aric Almirola

Worth a risk here. Playoff drivers tend to win playoff races and this is a playoff contender. Almirola, was 12th and seventh respectively at Darlington back in May.

Kurt Busch

He hasn’t won a race in over a year, but Busch does have four top seven finishes in his last five Darlington starts to go along with five in the last seven overall.

Erik Jones

Why not? He won this race last year and was eighth and fifth respectively back in May. Also, Jones was fifth and eighth respectively in his first two Darlington starts as well.

Southern 500 Preview

The start of the 2020 NASCAR postseason is here. For the first time ever, the Southern 500 will host a playoff race for the NASCAR Cup Series. This was already one of the Crown Jewels, but now that it not only has a postseason date, but kicks off the 10 race playoff, that makes winning on Sunday even bigger.

Still, I look for one of the heavy hitters to land in victory lane on Sunday night on the 1.33-mile South Carolina race track. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have won exactly half (13) of the 26 races run in the regular season. They’ve won 12 of the 22 races during the pandemic. They’ve won half of the races run at Darlington since 2014 including sweeping the May races in the resumption of the 2020 season.

Harvick, won NASCAR’s first race back during the pandemic on this very track on May 17. He was third in the second race. Harvick, also has eight consecutive top 10 finishes on the track including seven of them being inside of the top five. He led 63 total laps here in 16 starts at Darlington with RCR. He’s already led 687 in nine starts with SHR. He’s won half of the last six races run and has 11 top five finishes in his last 13 starts overall. The only non top fives were at Daytona.

For Hamlin, he won the second Darlington race back on May 20. He has six top 10 finishes in his last seven “Lady in Black” starts including five of them being in the top five. He’s a three time Darlington winner and also has three runner-ups there too. On the season, Hamlin has 11 top two’s overall and five in the last eight races run.

With the stakes being higher this weekend, why pick against them?

Chase Elliott may be the top one to have a say though. He’s starting to surge again. Elliott, has six top 10 finishes in his last seven races on the season including a win on the Daytona road course. He was also fourth in the first race at Darlington on May 17 and if not for being wrecked by Kyle Busch on May 20, he likely would have won.

Brad Keselowski may be a good outlier here. Keselowski, has 18 top 11 finishes in his last 20 races run, three of which being wins. The Team Penske driver finished fourth in the night race this past May and has three top five finishes in his last four Darlington starts overall.

These are my top four. Kyle Busch can be there in fifth as how fitting would it be if the defending series champion ends his 26 race winless drought in the first playoff race? I mean, he won the last playoff race last year. Why not this one?

Busch, has three top five finishes in his last six starts on the season and has two top three results in his last three starts on the Lady in Black.

Martin Truex Jr. (0 top 5’s in his last 5 Darlington starts), Clint Bowyer (best finish of 6th), Aric Almirola (best finish of 7th), Alex Bowman (2 top 5’s during the 22 race pandemic), Kurt Busch (0 wins since July of 2019), Ryan Blaney (0 top 10’s in 7 Darlington starts) and Joey Logano (1 top 5 last 5 Darlington starts) are risky plays this week.

It’s race 1 of the playoffs. Buckle up.

BETTING DARLINGTON Raceway

Darlington isn’t a track that necessarily rewards track position. It’s a comers and goers track. Three of the last four winners have come from outside of the top 10 in terms of starting spots. The last seven have come from outside of the top five.

But, this year’s Southern 500 may be different since we’ve had two races run here before the annual Labor Day show. That’s the first time in 16 years that we’ve had multiple races run on the 1.33-mile South Carolina oval. So, these drivers have data to look back on from May.

That’s why I’d stick to the favorites this weekend and maybe sprinkle in a few sleepers but don’t go overboard. There’s a reason Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are good at Darlington and have been good on the season in general.

No one other than Harvick has won for Stewart-Haas Racing at Darlington. Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer are sleepers, but Bowyer also has never had a top five there either. Neither has Almirola. Their best career Darlington finishes did come in May, but do you think they can beat Harvick and Hamlin head-to-head?

Erik Jones isn’t even in the playoffs and most postseason races aren’t won by non playoff drivers. Kurt Busch hasn’t won in well over a year. Kyle Busch hasn’t won this season at all.

That’s why this race will likely be won by one of the heavy favorites.

STAT TO WATCH

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 13 of the 26 races run this season including 12 of the 22 during the pandemic. They swept both Darlington races this past May and have won four of the last eight on the Lady in Black too.

THEY SAID IT

“It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now,” Kyle Busch said of why Darlington is so tough. “We’re looking forward to the challenge with our M&M’S Throwback Camry this weekend. You’ve really got to be able to get as close as you can to the wall in order to carry your momentum through the corners because you’ve got to make the straightaways as long as you can. The track is very narrow on entries and exits, so you’re always trying to round the place as much as you can. It’s very one-groovish. You can’t really run side-by-side there. Any time you get alongside somebody, you basically have to let them go. It’s a very big give-and-take type of track. It’s a lot harder to pass now, with the fresh asphalt, than it used to be. It’s really aero-sensitive now, to where it used to be more about mechanical grip and getting your car to handle well and handle over the bumps well and keep the tires on it. Now you’re restricted off the car in front of you and are trying to find some air, basically.”

 

 

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