The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Betting Preview, Odds and Picks

By in NASCAR on
7 Minute Read
Real 400 Heroes Darlington NASCAR

On Sunday, May 17th, NASCAR returns to action after nearly two months off as they take to the tracks at Darlington Raceway for The Real Heroes 400. This will be the first of three Darlington races in the revised NASCAR schedule.

The second Darlington race will take place on Wednesday, May 20th, with the third being the traditional Southern 500 on Labor Day Weekend.

With this return, all eyes will be on how the drivers perform after a lengthy hiatus. Without any qualifying, drivers were randomly drawn to receive starting positions. Brad Keselowski received the pole position with Alex Bowman starting alongside him.

NASCAR betting sites have pegged Kyle Busch as the odds on favorite to win this race with Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski right behind him.

Race Profile

  • Total Miles: 400 miles
  • Total Laps: 293 laps
  • Stage 1: First 90 laps
  • Stage 2: Second 95 laps
  • Final Stage: Final 108 laps

The Real Heroes 400 is set to begin at 3:30 PM ET and will air live on FOX.

What to Watch for at Darlington

With all of the excitement over NASCAR returning to racing this weekend, the following storylines are worth keeping an eye on at Darlington:

  • How will Matt Kenseth do in his return from retirement?
  • Will the sport’s best drivers lead the field in the end?
  • Can Erik Jones continue his success at Darlington?
  • Will Brad Keselowski win from the pole?
  • Can a JGR driver take the checkered flag?
  • How will the race look with no fans in the stands?

Quick History Lesson for The Real Heroes 400

This race has had many different names over the years from Rebel 300 all the way to Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 and everything in between. It was first held in 1952 and then became an annual spring fixture from 1957 onward.

The race started out as a 300 mile contest and went all the way up to 500 miles in 1973. However, in 1994, it was dropped back down to 400 miles with the fall Darlington Race (Southern 500) remaining at 500 miles.

In 2005, NASCAR dropped the spring Darlington race from its annual schedule as they went to just one race per season at this track. With the revised 2020 season, NASCAR has dusted the mothballs off of this race with the hopes of a successful day at the office on May 17th.

The only active driver to have won this race is Jimmie Johnson who took the checkered flag in 2004, which was the final spring Darlington race until now.

In addition to Johnson, there are a handful of active drivers who competed in the spring Darlington race before it was axed like Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

NASCAR The Real Heroes 400 Betting Odds

The following betting odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

  • Kyle Busch (+600)
  • Denny Hamlin (+700)
  • Kevin Harvick (+700)
  • Martin Truex Jr (+750)
  • Chase Elliott (+800)
  • Joey Logano (+1000)
  • Alex Bowman (+1200)
  • Brad Keselowski (+1200)
  • Erik Jones (+1600)
  • Kurt Busch (+1800)
  • Jimmie Johnson (+2500)
  • Ryan Blaney (+2500)
  • William Byron (+2800)
  • Matt Kenseth (+3300)
  • Aric Almirola (+5000)
  • Matt DiBenedetto (+5000)
  • Clint Bowyer (+6600)
  • Chris Buescher (+8000)
  • Tyler Reddick (+8000)
  • Austin Dillon (+10000)
  • Christopher Bell (+10000)
  • Cole Custer (+10000)
  • Ryan Newman (+10000)
  • Daniel Suarez (+20000)
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr (+20000)

Betting Favorites for Darlington

According to most NASCAR betting sites, the following drivers are considered the odds on favorites to win The Real Heroes 400:

Driver Wins Top 5 Top 10 Avg Start Avg Finish DNF
Kyle Busch 1 4 10 14.5 11.1 0
Denny Hamlin 2 7 11 8.8 7.8 0
Kevin Harvick 1 8 12 14.4 14.3 1
Martin Truex Jr. 1 2 6 16.4 11.6 0
Chase Elliot 0 1 2 14.4 27.2 1

Kyle Busch (+600)

Like last year, Kyle Busch is a weekly betting favorite for online betting sites. So, it makes perfect sense that oddsmakers would go with Busch as this weekend’s odds on favorite due to the uncertainties over how the drivers will perform with no qualifying and two months off.

Busch enters this race in 12th place overall as he only has two Top 5s and two Top 10s this season. Fortunately, Darlington is a track where Busch has been competitive at with one win in 15 starts. Additionally, he has four Top 5s, 10 Top 10s, an average finish of 11.1 and zero DNFs.

Busch has 10 straight Top 11 finishes and was 3rd in the Darlington race last year after leading 118 laps. In fact, he’s led laps in 11 of his 15 career races at this track.

He’s also one of only a handful of drivers that actually competed in the spring Darlington races that The Real Heroes 400 used to be.

Busch will start 4th in the field and I fully expect him to be a contender to win this race on Sunday. At the very least, I expect Busch in the Top 10 which has odds listed at -360. From there, he could certainly be a Top 3 driver, which has odds listed at +140.

Denny Hamlin (+700)     

Denny Hamlin comes into this weekend’s race sitting just one spot ahead of his teammate Kyle Busch in 11th. However, Hamlin has had more success this year than Busch as he won the Daytona 500 in February, which feels like a season ago. He starts 10th in this weekend’s race.

Hamlin also has had more success at Darlington than Busch and most of the betting favorites. In 14 career races at this track, Hamlin has two wins, seven Top 5s, 11 Top 10s, an average finish of 7.8 and zero DNFs.

Hamlin did have a rough go in the Southern 500 last year when he finished 29th. That’s the worst finish of his career. His 78.6% Top 10 finish rate is the best among active drivers and I fully expect him to snag another Top 10 this weekend. Those odds are listed at -265.

Hamlin’s odds of a Top 3 finish are +175 and he certainly has a shot at this as well. Expect the #11 car to be one of the best in the field by time it’s all said and done on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick (+700)      

Harvick sits atop the driver standings just one point over second place Joey Logano. In four races this season, he has two Top 5s and four Top 10s with one stage win. He’ll head to Darlington as one of the betting favorites and a starting position of 6th.

What makes Harvick dangerous this weekend is that he’s been red hot at Darlington over the last seven years. Over that span, he has one win, six Top 5s, and seven Top 10s. The majority of his success at this track has come during those seven races.

Harvick has an average finish of 14.3 and one DNF, which came in 2002. He competed in four spring races early in his career.

This weekend, I expect Harvick to easily cruise to another Top 10 finish. Those odds are set at -295, which is the second highest behind Kyle Busch. His Top 3 finish odds are +160, also the second best. Harvick has four Top 3 finishes in 23 tries with two of those coming in the last six races.

The last two years have seen Harvick finish 4th each time. I’m not sure if Harvick will crack the Top 3, but I expect him in the Top 5 by time it’s all said and done.

Martin Truex Jr (+750)   

Of the betting favorites, Martin Truex Jr. sits the lowest in the standings at 15th overall. His 2020 season hasn’t gone as well as the team has hoped. Currently, Truex hasn’t finished in the Top 10 of a race this year and already has two DNFs. Needless to say, this lengthy hiatus might have benefitted Truex the most.

Truex will start 15th on Sunday and has been a solid driver at Darlington over his career. Like the three drivers already mentioned, Truex has also won once at this track back in 2016. He’s also led laps in three of the last four Darlington races.

In his 14 career starts, Truex has one win, two Top 5s, six Top 10s, an average finish of 11.6 and zero DNFs. He hasn’t been as successful at this track as his two teammates Hamlin and Busch have, but he can still crack the Top 10 which his odds are set at +225.

I would avoid Truex finishing in the Top 3 (+250) as he’s only done that one time in his career and that was when he won the race.

A moral victory would be for Truex to get his first Top 10 finish of the year and flirt with the Top 5. Maybe even lead a few laps or steal a Stage Win. But, by time the race is about to finish, I wouldn’t count on Truex to be in contention to win the checkered flag.

Chase Elliott (+800)

Chase Elliott currently sits 3rd in the standings behind Logano and Harvick. He has one Top 5, two Top 10s and three stage wins in the first four races of the year. Unfortunately, he comes to a track where a Top 10 finish will most likely be his ceiling.

At Darlington, Elliott has the worst average finish (17.2) of the betting favorites and the drivers in my betting value section below. He has just one Top 5, two Top 10s, and 1 DNF in five career starts at this track. He’s also only led laps in one race here.

I would avoid Elliott altogether this weekend. His odds for a Top 3 finish are +300 and -182 for a Top 10 finish. None of these bets are appealing. There are better betting opportunities with other drivers this weekend. I like Chase Elliott, but not at Darlington Raceway.

The Best Darlington Betting Value

The following NASCAR drivers offer betting value for this Darlington race due to their current betting odds, their past success at this track, and their 2020 season so far:

Driver Wins Top 5 Top 10 Avg Start Avg Finish DNF
Brad Keselowski 1 4 6 10.9 10.7 0
Erik Jones 1 2 3 10.7 4.7 0
Jimmie Johnson 3 9 12 13.1 12.1 2

Brad Keselowski (+1200)

Keselowski enters the race on the pole and sitting 10th in the standings. He does have one Top 5, two Top 10s, and one Stage Win in the first four races. But, he also has one DNF already. Fortunately for the #2 car, Darlington Raceway is a track that he usually runs well at.

In 11 starts at this track, Keselowski has one win, four Top 5s, six Top 10s, a 10.7 average finish and zero DNFs. He’s scored five straight Top 15 finishes and won the Darlington race in 2018. Last year, he was 5th overall. Brad has also led laps in five straight races at this track.

This will be the second time that Keselowski has started on the pole. The first time he did this was in 2015 and he finished 2nd overall.

I like Keselowski more than I like Truex and Elliott this weekend. In fact, I also like him more than I like Kevin Harvick on May 17th.

Keselowski will definitely be a Top 10 driver (-225) and I believe he has a great shot at the Top 3 (+250). I can see the #2 car competing with Busch and Hamlin for a checkered flag on Sunday.

Erik Jones (+1600)

I am pleasantly surprised at the odds for Erik Jones at Darlington this weekend. Here’s a young driver who has had a great deal of success in his three races at this track.

Jones won the Southern 500 last year and has never finished worse than 8th overall. He will start 20th on Sunday, which means he has some work to do to get up to the front of the field. But, I’m not too concerned about that. His average finish of 4.7 leads all active drivers with at least three starts.

Jones will need a strong showing on Sunday because he sits 20th in the standings with just one Top 10.

I expect the 23 year old to not only crack the Top 10 this weekend, but to also be in the mix for the checkered flag on Sunday. His odds for finishing in the Top 10 are -137 and +400 for a Top 3 spot. You have to like the value for a Top 3 finish. But, it’s almost a guarantee that he will be a Top 10 car.

Jones provides the best value this weekend and I like him more than Harvick, Truex, and Elliott. He could be up there with his teammates Busch and Hamlin battling for the win on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson (+2500)

Of all active drivers, Jimmie Johnson has the most wins and the most Top 5s at this track. He’s second in Top 10s behind Ryan Newman.

Johnson currently sits 5th in the driver standings with one Top 5 and two Top 10s in the first four races. As we all know by now, Johnson is retiring from full time driving at the end of the year.

In his 21 starts, JJ has three wins, nine Top 5s, 12 Top 10s, a 12.1 average finish and 2 DNFs. However, he hasn’t finished higher than 12th since 2014, which was his last Top 5 result.

Johnson will start 8th this weekend. Last year, he started 6th and finished 16th overall. With the way he’s been running this year, and his past success at Darlington, I can see JJ cracking the Top 10 which has odds listed at -110.

However, it’s going to take some luck at the end of the race to capture the checkered flag or even a Top 3 finish (+600).

The Top Longshot to Win the Real Heroes 400

Ryan Newman (+10000) will return to the track after his scary crash in the Daytona 500. It was a breathtaking wreck that almost cost him his life.

Newman has had three months to recover from his injuries and he’s excited to get back to racing. He believes Sunday’s race will be huge for himself and NASCAR fans around the world:

“Sunday at Darlington is going to be a huge opportunity for us to reach millions of people. We are all going to work really hard to make the best of it. … I’m hoping to do every lap and then one more after that.”

Darlington is a track where Newman has had a great deal of success at. Although he hasn’t picked up a victory yet, he does have seven Top 5s and 13 Top 10s in 21 starts. He also has a solid 12.6 average finish and one DNF as the result of a blown engine in 2004.

Newman is certainly a longshot to win the race and even finish in the Top 3 (+2500). However, his chances of finishing in the Top 10 (+225) are very appealing to me.

In his last 11 races at this track, Newman has seven Top 10s. Last year he finished 23rd, which was his lowest result since 2008. Newman will start 21st overall and I see him cruising around the track for the first portion of Stage 1 before really ramping things up by Stage 2.

I like Newman’s chances of a Top 10 finish, but I hope he can pull off a miracle on Sunday to win the race.

The Real Heroes 400 Prop Bets: Driver Matchups

The following NASCAR prop bets require bettors to pick the winning driver out of head-to-head matchups at Darlington, Sunday May 17th. These driver matchups and betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes:

Brad Keselowski vs Chase Elliott

Driver Brad Keselowski Chase Elliot
Wins 1 0
Top 5 4 1
Top 10 6 2
Avg Start 10.9 14.4
Avg Finish 10.7 17.2
DNF 0 1
Total Races 11 5

I am really surprised at these odds. This is shocking that Elliott is a favorite over Keselowski considering that Brad has Elliott beat in every statistical category at Darlington.

If we’re just to compare Keselowski’s last five races at this track with Elliott’s five career races at Darlington Raceway, it’s even worse than the numbers above.

Keselowski has one win, three Top 5s, four Top 10s, and five Top 15s in the last five races. He’s also led laps in every one of those events. Elliott led nine laps last year compared to 19 for Keselowski.

For me, this prop bet is an easy one – take Brad Keselowski to smoke Elliott on Sunday.

Driver Matchup:Brad Keselowski (+100)

Kyle Busch vs Joey Logano 

Driver Kyle Busch Joey Logano
Wins 1 0
Top 5 4 3
Top 10 10 5
Avg Start 14.5 10.9
Avg Finish 11.1 16.5
DNF 0 1
Total Races 15 11

On the season, Joey Logano has lapped Kyle Busch twice with two wins in the first four races. He’s one point behind Harvick for the top spot in the standings and has been arguably the best driver so far.

Unfortunately for Logano, he’s heading to a track where he’s never won at before. In 11 starts, his best finish was 2nd in 2018. Last year he was 14th overall. He’s performed better over the last five Darlington races, but is still not a better driver at this track than Busch.

Kyle Busch has two Top 5s in the last three Darlington races, which is one less than Logano has for his career. Furthermore, he has, five Top 10s in the last six races at this track, which is the same amount Logano has for his career.

Although Joey Logano has performed better than Kyle Busch has so far, I believe the #18 car will outrun the #22 car on Sunday and easily win this head to head matchup.

The Real Heroes 400 Checkered Flag

It’s exciting to get back to racing and to do so at such a historic track. This Sunday will certainly be memorable especially because of the health risks throughout the world.

With that said, there are five drivers I really like for this race: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Erik Jones. Yes, three of those five drivers (Busch, Hamlin, Jones) are teammates with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Of the five, I’m eliminating Harvick because he hasn’t won here in quite some time. Also, since Jones won last year, I don’t see the youngster winning two straight. From there, I’m eliminating Kyle Busch because he hasn’t raced well in 2020 and I think he’s more of a threat on Wednesday than Sunday.

For me, this race comes down to Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. With that in mind, I am taking the #11 car of Denny Hamlin to take the checkered flag. His career numbers at this track are too good to ignore and he’s already won a race in 2020.

So, with a spot in the Playoffs pretty much locked up, Hamlin can take extra chances and go all out for another Darlington win.

My Top 3 Drivers

  • Denny Hamlin (+175)
  • Brad Keselowski (+250)
  • Kyle Busch (+140)

The Real Heroes 400 Betting Recap

Betting Value:

  • Brad Keselowski (+1200)
  • Erik Jones (+1600)
  • Jimmie Johnson (+2500)

Driver Matchups:

  • Brad Keselowski (+100) vs Chase Elliott
  • Kyle Busch (-145) over Joey Logano
Winner:Denny Hamlin (+700)
Longshot:Ryan Newman (+10000)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

View all posts by Rick Rockwell
Email the author at: [email protected]