As the calendar turned a page from April to May, NASCAR announced that they would be returning to action on Sunday, May 17th, live from Darlington Raceway. However, the unpausing of the 2020 season has resulted in some significant changes to NASCAR’s schedule.
These changes include NASCAR’s Cup Series holding four races in an 11-day period with two at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and two at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. The events breakdown as follows:
May 17th at Darlington Raceway
May 20th at Darlington Raceway
May 24th at Charlotte Motor Speedway
May 27th at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Prior to NASCAR shutting down the on-track events, the sport was able to hold their first four races of the year. However, they did lose the next eight races due to the shutdown.
With that said, NASCAR officials are still trying to figure out how best to make up the lost races as the sport moves forward with their season. NASCAR President Steve Phelps recently commented on the issues that they’re facing as they try to create a racing schedule for the rest of the year:
“So we have some idea. But we’re trying to figure out what that looks like because if you have two additional Darlingtons and one additional Charlotte Motor Speedway [race], they have to come from some race track. So is that coming from a race track with two events that will now have one? Those are the things we’re trying to work through right now.”
Despite racing twice at Darlington in the same week, NASCAR will keep its annual tradition of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend. That race also marks the beginning of the NASCAR Playoffs, which officials aim to keep intact and unchanged.
The May 24th race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the sport’s annual Memorial Day Weekend event known as the Coca Cola 600. This race has been scheduled all along. And, of the four events over the 11-day span, this race will be the only one with qualifying.
Which NASCAR Drivers Benefit The Most From The Next Four Races?
With four races being held at two individual tracks, it certainly benefits certain drivers over others.
For example, Alex Bowman currently sits 4th in the driver standings with one race win this season, but he’s never won at Darlington or Charlotte in the Cup series. In fact, his average finish at Darlington is 23.5 and 25.1 at Charlotte.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the following drivers who have had success at these two tracks throughout their careers and could really use the immediate return to racing as a way to move up in the standings and clinch spots in the Playoffs:
After four races, Kyle Busch enters Darlington sitting 12th in the standings. Yet, according to most NASCAR betting sites, Busch is the odds on favorite to win the May 17th race with a line of +600.
For his career, Busch has an average finish of 11.1 at Darlington which is the 5th best average among active drivers with more than three races. Additionally, Busch has one win, four Top 5s, 10 Top 10s, and zero DNFs in 15 races at this track.
Last year, Busch finished 3rd at Darlington after starting 33rd. With no qualifying for the May 17th Darlington race, Busch will start near the middle of the field. He’s only had three races where he’s finished outside of the Top 11 and the last one came 11 years ago.
With Busch’s 66% Top 10 rate at Darlington and three straight Top 7 finishes, it’s easy to see why the reigning 2019 NASCAR Cup Champion is a serious contender at Darlington Raceway.
Busch’s numbers dip slightly at Charlotte where he has an average finish of 14.6, which is 6th best among active drivers. Yet, Busch has had a good amount of success at this track in recent years. Over the last five races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch has four Top 6s, three Top 3s and one victory.
Busch won the 2018 Coca Cola 600 race in dominating fashion as he led for 377 laps. He’s led laps in five straight Charlotte Motor Speedway races and 15 of his last 20 appearances at this track.
With four races at these two tracks, I believe Kyle Busch is going to come away with at least one win. As long as he doesn’t get caught up in a crash at Charlotte, which he has 6 DNFs at this track, Busch could come away with four Top 10s as well.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin is also a favorite at Darlington as he’s listed at +700 odds. However, unlike his teammate Busch, Hamlin actually has a win on the season as he won the Daytona 500 for the second straight year.
Hamlin has pretty much locked in a spot in the Playoffs, but could really cement himself as a legitimate threat for the championship if he can remain in the Top 5 in the standings for the rest of the year. Currently, he sits 11th overall.
Yet, Hamlin actually has better numbers than Kyle Busch at Darlington and could do some serious damage on the rest of the field if he comes away with at least one win at this track over the next few races.
In 14 appearances, Hamlin has two wins, seven Top 5s, 11 Top 10s, and zero DNFs. He has the third most Top 5s and Top 10s at this track among active drivers. Yet, his percentages are higher than other favorites with Hamlin at a 50% clip for Top5s and 78.6% for Top 10s.
Last year, Hamlin has some issues with his car and finished 29th. However, he won this race in 2017 and had finished in the Top 10 in all but three races at Darlington.
Although Hamlin hasn’t won at Charlotte in 27 tries, he has the 2nd best average finish among active drivers at 12.3 just behind Jimmie Johnson’s 12.2 average finish.
Hamlin has nine Top 5s, 17 Top 10s, 2 DNFs, and has led laps in five straight races at CMS. Denny finished 17th last year which snapped a streak of three straight Top 5 finishes.
Since 2010, Hamlin has finished in the Top 10 for 14 of the 17 races at this track. He has the 3rd most Top 10s among active drivers, but has done it in less races than the other drivers he trails behind.
Despite having two cracks at the checkered flag in Charlotte, I don’t feel confident in Hamlin winning one of these races. But, I do see him finishing well within the Top 15 for both events and most likely in the Top 10 for both races.
These next four races will also see Hamlin charge up the standings.
Kevin Harvick enters this stretch of races sitting first in the standings with four Top 10s in four races. Despite this early season success, Harvick only sits one point ahead of Joey Logano who has two wins already. Additionally, Harvick would love to get a win in one of the next four races.
For Darlington, Harvick is listed third with +800 odds. That’s a fair number considering his average finish of 14.3 isn’t as good as the rest of the drivers listed in this article.
But, the one area that gives Harvick fans and bettors hope is that the #4 car has put together a solid streak over the last seven years. Since 2013, Harvick has finished in the Top 9 in all seven races. That includes six Top 5s and a victory in 2014. He also has just one DNF which came in 2002.
I like Harvick’s chances to continue this streak of Top 10 finishes as I can see him keeping himself at the top of the standings with two strong results at Darlington Raceway.
However, Harvick’s best chance at winning in this four race stretch is at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he has three career victories in 36 appearances. The three victories tie him for the second most wins among all active drivers. His 17 Top 10s place him 3rd behind Johnson and Busch among active drivers.
I see Harvick coming away with four Top 10s over the next four races and possibly even taking a checkered flag in Charlotte. However, I do like some of the other favorites to have more success than Harvick over this stretch.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. is the one betting favorite that could benefit the most from this return to action as he currently sits the lowest in the standings at 15th overall. In fact, his 2020 season has been forgettable up to this point with zero Top 5s, Top 10s, and Stage Wins.
From a statistical standpoint, Truex can only go up in the results and the standings. Fortunately, Darlington and Charlotte are two tracks where Truex has had decent success at in the past.
Truex Jr. enters the May 17th race with +850 odds, which is the 4th highest among the listed drivers. For his career, Truex sits 6th among active drivers with an 11.6 average finish. In his 14 starts at Darlington, Truex has one win, two Top 5s, six Top 10s, and zero DNFs.
Truex has finished in the Top 15 for five straight races at this track and won in 2016. The #19 car has also led in three of the last four Darlington races.
I don’t see Truex winning one of the two Darlington races, but I do see the former NASCAR Cup Champion coming away with at least one Top 10, if not two.
Truex’s best shot at winning a race over this 11-day stretch is at the Charlotte Motor Speedway where he has three victories in his 27 career starts, which is tied for second best among active drivers with Harvick and behind Johnson.
What gives me confidence in Truex at this track is his run over the last eight races at CMS. During that span, he has eight Top 13s, seven Top 5s, six Top 3s, and three victories. Truex has won two of the last three Charlotte Races, three of the last six, and has led laps in five of the last eight CMS races.
I think Truex will pick up his first win of the season in one of the two CMS races and will probably benefit the most of any driver over this revised schedule.
If Truex has the potential to be the biggest winner in this four race stretch then Brad Keselowski offers the best betting value among the favorites for these next four races.
Currently, Keselowski sits 10th in the standings with one Top 5, two Top 10s and 1 Stage Win on the season. Yet, he’s heading to tracks where he’s collected checkered flags at and has some solid numbers over his career.
Keselowski is listed at +1000 odds for Darlington, yet should be higher considering only Denny Hamlin on this list has a higher average finish than Keselowski who comes in 4th among active drivers at 10.7.
In 14 starts, Keselowski has one win, four Top 5s, and six Top 10s with no DNFs. He’s scored five straight top 15 finishes and four Top 10s during that stretch. Keselowski won this race in 2018 and finished 5th last year. So, he’s had a nice run over the last two seasons and that should continue on May 17th.
I see Keselowski coming away with at least two Top 10s and possibly a checkered flag at Darlington Raceway.
Like Kyle Busch, Keselowski’s numbers dip slightly at Charlotte but he does have the same average finish as the #18 car at 14.6. Keselowski won this race in 2013, but hasn’t been a real contender for a checkered flag since then.
Last year, he ended up 19th overall and has finished 15th or worse in three of the last four CMS races. Brad also has two DNFs at this track. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano has a better shot at this track than the #2 car does.
Nevertheless, Keselowski has the potential for at least two Top 15 finishes and possibly a Top 10 if he can stay out of trouble. He’s led laps in the last two CMS races.
Like Truex, I also expect Keselowski to take a big step up in the standings with a solid run at Darlington and Charlotte.
Heading into the 2020 season, we all knew that this would be the last full time run for the seven time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. So far, JJ hasn’t disappointed as he currently sits 5th in the standings with one Top 5 and two Top 10s in the first four races.
7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson mulls future in a red-flagged farewell season.
Now, NASCAR will head to two tracks where Johnson has historically dominated at.
For Darlington, Johnson is listed at +2500 odds to capture his 4th checkered flag at this track. In 21 career starts, JJ has three wins, nine Top 5s, 12 Top 10s, a 12.1 average finish and 2 DNFs.
Johnson leads all active drivers in wins, Top 5s, is tied for second in Top 10s, and has the 7th best average finish.
Unfortunately, the last five Darlington races have been rough for Johnson who’s best result was 12th in 2017. Last year he finished 16th and had a DNF in 2018 due to an oil pump.
It will be hard for Johnson to outrace other drivers on this list at Darlington, but the all-time great could still crack the Top 10 at least once considering how well his season has gone so far.
If you are looking for Johnson to really contend for a checkered flag than you will have to wait until Charlotte where Johnson has owned the track.
In 35 starts, Johnson has eight wins, 16 Top 5s, 22 Top 10s, a 12.2 average finish and 5 DNFS. He leads all active drivers in wins, Top 5s, Top 10s, laps led, average start and average finish. Additionally, JJ has also had success at CMS in recent years.
Over the last six Charlotte races, Johnson has six Top 17s, five Top 10s, three Top 5s and a victory that came in 2016. Last year, Johnson finished 8th which was slightly down from his 2018 finish of 5th overall.
I like Johnson’s chances at Charlotte in terms of offering betting value. If his recent run at the track holds true then we could be seeing Johnson capture his first checkered flag in the last couple of years.
Most NASCAR fans, including myself, would love to see a feel-good story of Johnson getting a win and heading to the Playoffs in his last year as a full time Cup driver. Hopefully a return to some of his most successful tracks in the next few weeks can spark a throwback performance that takes a checkered flag.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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