The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Darlington for the first race of the playoffs. Here, we’ll analyze the Cook Out Southern 500 odds and drivers that have performed well at this track in the past.
Who are the Favorites?
Three drivers on the Cook Out Southern 500 odds board enter at +700. The first of whom is Chase Elliott. Elliott currently sits atop the NASCAR Cup Series points standings and is the favorite to win the Cup Series Championship. Compared to other tracks, Darlington hasn’t been Elliott’s cup of tea. He finished fifth in the spring race earlier this year and seventh in the spring race in 2021.
He’s never won at Darlington however, and in 11 races, he’s finished in the top five three times and in the top 10 five times. Compared to the drivers he’s tied within the Cook Out Southern 500 odds, there might be better value on one of them in terms of outright odds.
Despite the rough season, Hamlin enters at +700. He finished 21st back in May but managed to get out front and lead 42 laps. Hamlin has had four wins in 20 races at Darlington throughout his career. What jumps off the page is his overall consistency at the track. He’s been the runner-up at Darlington three times and has 11 top-five finishes.
If Hamlin is going to make a run in his 16th all-time playoff appearance, a win at Darlington would do wonders. Hamlin has 11 playoff wins, which is second among active drivers who made the playoffs, only behind Kevin Harvick’s 16.
The last driver entering at +700 is Kyle Larson. At Darlington, he’s placed second three times and third twice. In nine Darlington starts, he’s finished in the top 10 of seven of those and in the top five in five of them. Probably one of the more astounding statistics is that Larson has led exactly 100 laps less than Hamlin. Considering Hamlin is the leader among active drivers in wins at Darlington and Larson has never managed to pull off a win at Darlington is saying something. Not sure what, but it’s saying something.
Larson and Hamlin were supposed to run in the Xfinity Series race to get some extra track time, but Hamlin forfeited the opportunity after citing issues in his neck and back after a crash at Daytona in the regular-season finale. Christopher Bell will run in Hamlin’s place in the Xfinity Series.
Also in Contention
Ross Chastain is next on the Cook Out Southern 500 odds board, right behind the favorites at +750. Chastain suffered some bad luck last time out in the spring. He placed second after Stage 1 and took Stage 2 before an accident ended his day prematurely. He finished third in this race last season, but that’s his best finish by far at Darlington, only cracking the top 15 one other time in six races.
Tyler Reddick enters close behind at +800. In six races at Darlington as a member of the Cup Series, Reddick has two top-10 finishes, including a second-place finish in the spring. While in the Xfinity Series, he’s finished in the top 10 in three of his five starts including a second and third-place finish.
Martin Truex Jr. comes in at +900. Truex won at Darlington in the spring of 2021 and placed fourth in this race last season. In 20 races at Darlington, Truex has 10 top-10 finishes, four top-five finishes, and two wins. He just missed out on the playoffs, but we could very well NASCAR schedule 2022 to see Truex make his way to the front on Sunday. If so, that would help wonders for the Joe Gibbs Racing team.
At +1000, Joey Logano comes in after winning this race in the spring. He was dominant last time out, as he qualified first and led 107 laps. In 17 starts, Logano has finished in the top 10 nine times and in the top five times. Logano will be looking for a repeat performance in an attempt to pick up his 11th career playoff win.
Where’s the Value?
A favorite in this second, Kevin Harvick might be the driver that offers the most value this weekend. Harvick was on a 65-race winless streak before winning two in a row at Michigan and Richmond. Harvick’s resume at Darlington has been superb. In his last seven races at Darlington, he’s placed in the top 10 in all seven and in the top five six times with two wins.
Harvick finished fourth in the spring race and fifth in this race last season. Since May of 2013, Harvick has only finished outside of the top five in two of the 13 races. At +1400, there there’s value for a track we know Harvick will run well on barring anything crazy.
You can get Harvick at +350 for a top-three finish, +175 for a top-five finish, and -150 for a top-10 finish. You can also get him in a driver matchup against Reddick at +105.Follow us on Twitter[/button