The postseason for all three NASCAR series begins this weekend at Darlington. The Xfinity Series gets its playoffs started on Saturday and the Truck Series is the prequel to the Cup Series race on Sunday night.
Sunday night’s Southern 500 is the second race at Darlington this season. This is the first year since 2004 that two races were originally scheduled for the 1.366-mile track — there were three Cup Series races at Darlington in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson were the drivers to beat in the first race at Darlington this season. Truex beat Larson to the checkered flag after leading 248 of the race’s 293 laps. It was Truex’s third win of the season. He still has three wins this season.
Sunday, Sept. 4
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Larson had just one win at that time. He now has five. That second-place finish at Darlington was the first of five consecutive finishes inside the top two for Larson. That streak included three consecutive wins.
That success after Darlington is why Larson is the favorite heading into Sunday night. He’s at +275 to win the race and at a crazy +225 to win the Cup Series title. Truex Jr. is the second favorite for the race at +500.
Kyle Larson (+275)
Martin Truex Jr. (+500)
Kyle Busch (+650)
Denny Hamlin (+700)
Chase Elliott (+800)
Larson has never won at Darlington and he’s also never finished worse than 14th. He has six top-10 finishes in seven starts. Truex is also incredibly solid at Darlington. He has two wins and nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts. His average finish is 11.2.
Busch last won at Darlington in 2008 but he’s been rock-solid at the track. He’s finished in the top 11 in all but two races since and was third to Truex and Larson in May. Hamlin was fifth in May and has an average finish of 7.4 at the track. He’s the guy we’d bet on this weekend. Elliott’s best Darlington finish is fourth.
Good mid-tier value
Alex Bowman (+1800)
Ryan Blaney (+1800)
Neither driver has the best track record at Darlington. But Bowman has finished in the top 20 in each of the last five races at the track and was second in one of the 2020 races. Blaney’s won the last two races and his eighth-place finish earlier this year was his best at Darlington.
Don't bet this driver
Matt DiBenedetto (+6600)
DiBenedetto has two top-10 finishes in nine Darlington starts. But let’s be real — he’s a lame-duck driver looking for his first career win. It’s not going to happen this year.
Looking for a long shot?
Ross Chastain (+15000)
Chastain was 15th at Darlington in the spring in his first start at the track in decent equipment. Chastain has had good runs at Cup Series tracks featuring the lower downforce rules, and we feel better about his chances at a win than we do DiBenedetto’s.