NASCAR Cup Series: Can Denny Hamlin make it two in a row at the Goodyear 400?

Hamlin, Larson look to fight for victory once again in Darlington

Denny Hamlin earned his first win of 2023 Sunday, but the story coming out of Kansas is the post-race confrontation between Cup Series Championship leader Ross Chastain and rookie Noah Gragson. The two made contact during the race, and Gragson hit the outside wall. In response, Gragson found Chastain after the race and shoved him. Chastain responded with a punch to Gragson’s face.

Before the fight, Hamlin secured the win thrillingly over Kyle Larson. Hamlin hit Larson on the final lap, and Larson hit the outside wall. That allowed Hamlin to drive past and take the checkered flag.

Despite the contact during the race, Chastain finished fifth to remain atop the Cup Series standings. Hamlin’s win moves him to fourth behind Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Martin Truex Jr. The bounce-back second place for Larson has him up to eighth.

This week the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Darlington for the Goodyear 400. It’s Throwback Weekend, and many drivers are racing with different paint schemes to honor prior drivers or team successes. Here’s how the NASCAR odds for a win break down for Sunday’s race.

Kansas’ top two are favored yet again

Last week came down to the final lap for Larson and Hamlin to decide who would take the victory. Oddsmakers like that to happen again.

Larson leads the odds for victory at +450. That’d be a first for the 2021 champion. Though he boasts the second-best average finish at Darlington among active drivers, he’s never won. Ten races in Darlington have led to five top-five finishes. With his performance in Kansas nearly yielding a win, his luck could be turning for the better.

The only driver with a better average career finish than Larson at Darlington? Last week’s winner was Hamlin. He’s +550 for victory at a track that he’s won four times, the most of any active driver.

Hamlin last scored consecutive victories in 2012. A win this week would be a surprise, given the decade since his previous back-to-back victories. But the NASCAR schedule perfectly aligns with a pair of his best tracks.

Truex Jr. is next at +700. He followed his win at Dover with an eighth-place finish in Kansas. Those performances have pushed him up to third in the Cup Series standings. Historically, he’s raced well in Darlington but not at Hamlin’s level. Twenty-one races have seen two wins and 10 top-10 finishes. His last win in Darlington came in this event in 2021. He’ll likely be near the top of the field again.

Tyler Reddick (+800), William Byron, and Kyle Busch (+900) are in the top group. Reddick’s one of the better racers in Darlington, with limited experience. Seven races there have seen him finish in the top five twice.

Busch has 22 races in Darlington on his record, with one win and six top-five finishes. His form dropped slightly in the last two weeks — 21st in Dover and 35th last week — but he’s more than capable of bouncing back this Sunday.

Byron’s raced well lately (top seven in the last three races) but has yet to perform that well in Darlington. He’s averaging an 18th-place finish over nine career races there.

Longer shots with a good chance on Sunday

Chastain is the championship leader but has yet to get a win this season. At +1000, he’s relatively close to the top guys in odds. After last week’s run-in with Gragson, he’ll look to make this weekend newsworthy for better reasons.

He has had a challenging form in Darlington, with just one top-five finish in seven NASCAR races. But this would be more about his recent good results and momentum in the first half of the season.

Brad Keselowski’s taken a win and nine top-10 finishes in 18 races in Darlington. That makes it one of his best tracks on the calendar. At +3000, he’s a long shot for a win but could offer a good payout if he manages his first win there since 2018.

He’s a very long shot at +5000, but Erik Jones is one of the best drivers on the grid in Darlington. Only Hamlin and Larson have better average finishes there. Two of his three career wins have come at Darlington, including the NASCAR Cup Series last race in September.

Predictions for the Goodyear 400

After Hamlin chased Larson down for the victory over the final stage last week, a repeat performance would be exciting. Both of those drivers have a history of success in Darlington. This week, Larson gets the better of Hamlin and becomes the first driver on the grid to get three wins in 2023.

If you’re looking for a better payout, Chastain’s good form lately has him in a good position for victory. Given his track record there, Jones is a low-risk, massive reward option with a solid chance.

The last time the NASCAR Cup Series had a repeat winner at the Goodyear 400 was 1998, when Dale Jarrett took the win for Robert Yates Racing. Avoiding Joey Logano (+1200) would be a good choice, given that spell.

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