On Sunday, September 6th, NASCAR will return to Darlington Raceway for the first event of the 2020 Playoffs – the Cook Out Southern 500. Due to the modified season, the Cup Series will make its 3rd trip to Darlington this year. Sunday’s event is the 27th overall race of the season.
Heading into the Playoffs, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have set themselves apart from the rest of the field. Combined, the two have won 13 of the 26 regular season races and both of the Darlington events this year.
So, it should come as no surprise that NASCAR betting sites have the dynamic duo listed as the co-favorites for this weekend’s race. Rounding out the Top 5 are Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch.
Darlington Raceway is one of the sport’s oldest tracks and is often referred to by one of its fantastic nicknames: “The Track Too Tough to Tame” or “The Lady in Black.” The track is shape like an elongated egg with a 1.33 mile lap distance.
This weekend’s Cook Out Southern 500 breaks down as follows:
Total Miles: 500
Total Laps: 367 laps
Stage 1: First 100 laps
Stage 2: Second 100 laps
Final Stage: Remaining 167 laps
The Cook Out Southern 500 is set to begin at 6PM ET and will air live on NBCSN.
At the Darlington doubleheader this season, Harvick won the first race and finished 3rd in the second race. He had the best average finish among all drivers and didn’t slow down from there as he would go on to lead the field in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season.
At Darlington, Harvick leads all active drivers in Top 5s (10), Top 10s (14), poles (2) and laps led (19). Although these numbers are very impressive, his averages aren’t as high as some other drivers. Yet, what he’s done over the last seven years at this track has been nothing short of amazing.
Over the last nine Darlington races, Harvick has eight Top 5s, nine Top 10s, and two wins. He’s also led laps in six of those races.
This weekend, Harvick is going to be tough to beat. I expect him to finish in the Top 10, Top 5 and Top 3 while contending for the checkered flag.
Denny Hamlin (+300)
Top 3 (-118)
Top 5 (-215)
Top 10 (-715)
The only driver who has contended with Harvick all season long, and who actually has a chance to beat the #4 car this weekend, is Denny Hamlin.
In the Darlington doubleheader this year, Hamlin finished 5th and 1st. His 3.0 average finish was second to Harvick’s 2.0 average finish.
When comparing his career numbers to Harvick, Hamlin is better all the way around. Hamlin has more wins than Harvick at 3 to 2. But, he also has a better Top 5 percentage, Top 10 percentage, and a better average finish than Harvick.
In fact, Hamlin is third among active drivers with a 7.2 average finish and is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most wins of the field with three.
In 16 career races at this track, Hamlin has never crashed out. Furthermore, he only has three finishes outside of the Top 10, which is mind blowing.
The only driver that can edge out Harvick this weekend is Hamlin. I expect the #11 car to finish inside the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3 and be there on the final lap fighting for the checkered flag.
Martin Truex Jr (+750)
Top 3 (+215)
Top 5 (+120)
Top 10 (-295)
Truex enters the Playoffs on a high with eight straight Top 4 finishes on the season. He’s turned his year around over the last two months and is poised to make some noise in the Playoffs.
Darlington is a track where Truex has had modest success at with one win, a 50% Top 10 finishing rate, and an 11.1 average finish which is 5th best among active drivers.
Over the last seven races at Darlington Raceway, Truex has one win, one Top 5, five Top 10s, and seven Top 15s. He’s also led in four of the seven races.
I expect the 2017 NASCAR Cup champion to get off to a fast start in the Playoffs this year by having a strong finish at Darlington on Sunday. The #19 car finished 6th and 10th in the Darlington doubleheader, but I believe he can be a Top 5 car this weekend with a Top 3 ceiling.
Brad Keselowski (+1000)
Top 3 (+300)
Top 5 (+155)
Top 10 (-225)
Keselowski enters the Playoffs sitting 3rd in the standings with three straight Top 10 finishes on the season. He’s also poised to make some noise in the Playoffs right out of the gate as the #2 car has had a good amount of success over the last five years at this track.
Like Harvick, Keselowski’s career numbers aren’t as impressive as Hamlin’s, but Brad does have a strong run going since 2015.
In the last seven Darlington races, Keselowski has one win, four Top 5s, five Top 10s, and seven Top 15s. He’s also led laps in all of those races.
Keselowski finished 13th and 4th this year at Darlington and boasts of a 10.4 average finish for his career which is 4th best among active drivers.
I believe Keselowski is a Top 10 driver on Sunday with a ceiling of Top 5. I don’t see the #2 car winning or finishing in the Top 3 for the Cook Out Southern 500.
Kyle Busch (+1000)
Top 3 (+300)
Top 5 (+155)
Top 10 (-225)
Is there another Playoff driver more desperate for a win than Kyle Busch? You could point to his brother Kurt and Matt DiBenedetto since they’re lower in the standings, but it’s only by a few points. Furthermore, the reigning Cup champion hasn’t won at all this year.
Busch is mired in one of the worst winless streaks of his career and pretty much needs a win in the first round of the Playoffs to advance to the second round.
Another fact that places more urgency on the #18 car this weekend is that he’s crashed out in three of the last seven races on the season including last weekend in Daytona.
Typically, Busch has run well at Darlington with the 6th best average finish at 11.4 and one win in 17 starts. Since 2008, Busch has one win, five Top 5s, and 10 Top 10s in 14 races.
In the last five Southern 500s, Busch has a 3rd, 7th, 2nd, 11th and 7th. That’s a 6.0 average finish in this race.
I like Busch to be a Top 10 car and to compete for a Top 5 spot. However, due to how this season has gone for the reigning champ I just don’t see Busch finishing in the Top 3 or contending for the checkered flag.
The Best Cook Out Southern 500 Betting Value
The following NASCAR drivers offer betting value for the Cook Out Southern 500 due to their current betting odds, their past success at Darlington Raceway, and their 2020 season so far:
Chase Elliott (+1200)
Top 3 (+275)
Top 5 (+140)
Top 10 (-240)
Elliott enters the Playoffs sitting 5th in the standings with two wins on the season. He has three Top 5s in the last four races including a win at the first ever Daytona road course race.
However, Elliott has never won at Darlington. In the two races at this track in 2020, Elliott was 4th and 38th as he crashed out. These results further the trend of Elliott’s up and down career at Darlington.
With that said, I believe Elliott’s value is with a Top 5 result. I see Chase being a Top 10 car for sure and he does have two Top 5s in the last four Darlington races.
Joey Logano (+1800)
Top 3 (+400)
Top 5 (+215)
Top 10 (-155)
Logano went through a midseason slump this year, but turned things around over the final seven races of the season. Prior to crashing out at Daytona last weekend, Logano had six straight Top 9 finishes, which helped him move up to 4th in the Playoff standings.
Like Elliott, and others, Logano has never won at this track. In 13 starts, his best result was 2nd in this race back in 2018 during his run towards winning the Cup Championship that season.
I see Logano’s value being with his Top 10 odds and as he could even finish in the Top 5 if a few things break his way.
In his last seven Darlington races, Logano has four Top 6 finishes. His other three results were 14th and 18th twice. In the two Darlington races this year, Logano was 18th and 6th which is a 12.0 average finish.
Kurt Busch (+2000)
Top 3 (+600)
Top 5 (+325)
Top 10 (-112)
Like his brother, Kurt Busch has also gone winless this year and has crashed out of a few races down the stretch run of the regular season.
However, he’s had a decent amount of success at Darlington over the last five years. In the last seven races at this track, Busch has two Top 5s and five Top 10s. He finished 3rd and 15th this year which is a 9.0 average finish.
For his career, Busch has 10 Top 10s at Darlington and I believe his Top 10 odds offer great value this weekend as I can see the #1 car crack the Top 10 on Sunday.
The Top Longshot to Win the Cook Out Southern 500
Austin Dillon (+8000)
Top 3 (+2000)
Top 5 (+800)
Top 10 (+200)
Dillon is my longshot pick this weekend. He snuck into the Playoffs with a win at Texas and sits 10th in the standings. He’s had a mixed bag of success since his win at Texas as he’s alternated between Top 10s and outside the Top 20.
At Darlington, Dillon does have one Top 5 and two Top 10s in eight career starts. His 13.2 average finish is 9th best among active drivers, but 5th best among the Playoff drivers.
I like Dillon’s chances for a Top 10 result. I think there’s value there, but the longshot pick is a Top 5 result.
Darlington Duds Among the Playoff Drivers
The following Playoff drivers should be avoided at Darlington this weekend:
Ryan Blaney (+2500) – Blaney sits 7th in the Playoff standings, but has never finished in the Top 10 at Darlington. In seven starts, his best result was 13th last year in this race. He finished 16th and 21st in the Darlington double header this year.
Alex Bowman (+3300) – In eight starts, Bowman has one Top 5 and one Top 10 result at Darlington. He also has a 19.0 average finish and has only led laps in one race at this track.
William Byron (+5000) – Byron has the second worst average finish among Playoff drivers at 25.8. In four starts, his highest finish was 12th and he also has 1 DNF.
Cole Custer (+10000) – Custer has the worst average finish among Playoff drivers at 26.5. In his two starts at this track, both coming in the Darling doubleheader, Custer finished 22nd and 31st.
Aric Almirola (+2500) – Almirola finished 7th and 12th at Darlington this year, which is pretty good. Unfortunately, in 10 starts, he has just one Top 10 and a 17.6 average finish. In fact, he has more DNFs (1) than wins or Top 5s.
Clint Bowyer (+4000) – The veteran driver Clint Bowyer has not had any significant success at Darlington over his career. In 16 starts, he has just two Top 10s, a 21.3 average finish and 4 DNFs. Bowyer crashed out of two of the last five Darlington races and was 17th and 22nd in this year’s doubleheader.
Matt Dibenedetto (+5000) – Matt D. actually has just as many Top 10s as the rest of the drivers on this list except for Bowyer. He’s finished in the Top 9 in two of the last three races and has showed a turnaround in his career at this track. However, he still has a 21.0 average finish in seven starts.
Who Will Tame the Lady in Black on Sunday?
It really isn’t surprising that the five betting favorites are my picks to finish in the Top 5 this weekend at Darlington.
When you look at their success at this track, they’re the only five Playoff drivers who have won at Darlington. In fact, only eight active drivers have won at Darlington. In addition to the five Playoff drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones have also won at this track.
What that means is that Darlington is not an easy place to win at. More times than not, “The Lady in Black” gets the best of the field. It takes a veteran driver who knows the ins and outs of Darlington to tame it.
On this date, Denny Hamlin won the 2017 Bojangles Southern 500 @ Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. pic.twitter.com/csftTGncvg
Denny Hamlin’s three wins at Darlington is just as many as Keselowski, Busch and Truex combined. Basically, the only driver that can realistically give Hamlin a run for his money this weekend is Kevin Harvick.
With that said, I believe the winner of the Cook Out Southern 500 come to Harvick or Hamlin. For me, I have to go with Hamlin. Each driver has won at Darlington this year, but Hamlin has had more success over his career at this track than Harvick has.
Maybe we will get lucky and the two will drag race to the finish line where Hamlin wins in a photo finish.
My Top 5 Drivers
Martin Truex Jr.
Cook Out Southern 500 Prop Bets
The following NASCAR prop bets are courtesy of DraftKings:
Car Number of Race Winner
Of my Top 5 drivers, three of them have cars with even numbers: Keselowski (2), Harvick (4) and Busch (18).
Hamlin (11) and Truex (19) drive odd numbered cars and I picked Hamlin to win. The Odds option offers a nice return on investment at +115 odds. I like that value and will double down on Hamlin this weekend by taking the odds bet also.
Cook Out Southern 500 Prop Bets –Odd (+115)
Car Number of Race Winner
Over 11.5 (+130)
Under 11.5 (-177)
The Under option is favored at -177 and that’s because three of the Top 5 favorites all drive cars with numbers 11 and under: Keselowski (2), Harvick (4), Hamlin (11).
I think it’s a no-brainer to take the Under for this prop bet as the two clear cut favorites both are under 11.5 (Harvick, Hamlin).
Car Number of Race Winner –Under 11.5 (-177)
Manufacturer of Race Winner
Three of my Top 5 drivers all drive Toyota: Busch, Truex and Hamlin. Since I am picking Hamlin to win, I believe that Toyota offers a nice value play for this prop bet. Chevy has the most wins for this race with 27 and Ford has 15. Realistically, only Harvick’s Ford has the best chance at upstaging the Toyotas this weekend.
This prop bet also offers a chance to hedge our bets above. If you pick Hamlin to win then go with Ford for this one as Harvick and Hamlin are the drivers to beat on Sunday. If you picked Harvick to win the race then go with Toyota for this wager.
Manufacturer of Race Winner –Ford (+130)
Team of Race Winner
Joe Gibbs Racing (+140)
Stewart-Haas Racing (+225)
Hendrick Motor Sports (+500)
Team Penske (+500)
Chip Ganassi Racing (+2000)
Any Other Team (+2200)
Richard Childress racing (+3300)
Roush Fenway Racing (+8000)
JTG Daughtery Racing (+15000)
The three Toyota drivers from above all drive Joe Gibbs Racing cars. Furthermore, Erik Jones is also JGR driver and he won this race last year.
In fact, if you are to go all the way back to Matt Kenseth’s win in 2013, he also drove a JGR car. But, that’s not all, as Carl Edwards won this race in 2015 when he was with the same team.
Since 2000, JGR has won this event seven times including four of the last seven Southern 500 races. Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins in this race with 11, but only Chase Elliott is a real threat to win on Sunday and he’s never won at this track before.
Harvick drives for Stewart-Haas and he is a realistic threat to win this weekend. This prop bet also offers a chance to hedge our bets like the one above.
Yet, for me, with four JGR drivers having all won at this track and looking strong in recent years, I have to go with Joe Gibbs Racing for this wager.
Team of Race Winner –Joe Gibbs Racing (+140)
Cook Out Southern 500 Betting Recap
Chase Elliott (+1200)
Joey Logano (+1800)
Kurt Busch (+2000)
Austin Dillon (+8000)
Denny Hamlin (+300)
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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