2021 Cookout Southern 500 Betting Preview & Picks
Last week, Ryan Blaney emerged from a wild race at Daytona International Speedway to capture his 2nd straight victory. Blaney's two victories at Michigan and Daytona in the last two weeks have him tied with Martin Truex Jr for 2nd in the playoff standings. Speaking of playoffs, last week's notorious Coke Zero Sugar 400 concluded NASCAR's regular season, and the Cup Series will move straight into another marquee event on Sunday with the running of the historic Southern 500 as the Chase for the Cup officially begins.
This week's Cookout Southern 500 will mark the 2nd race of the season at Darlington Raceway. Back in May, Martin Truex Jr delivered one of the most dominant performances of the season by leading 248 of 293 laps en route to a victory in the Goodyear 400. The victory back in May marked Truex's 2nd career victory at Darlington and 3rd of the season utilizing the 750hp rules package. Truex has failed to visit victory lane since, and many would expect the #19 team to be a prominent contender when the series returns this week. Obviously, things are not guaranteed to unfold as they did in the spring race, but Truex's performance with the 750hp rules package this season combined with tire management style will be critical components towards running upfront again.
From a historical standpoint, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with three victories at Darlington Raceway. Due to the COVID-19 schedule adjustments last year, the Cup Series held three races at Darlington, which were all won by Kevin Harvick (2) and Denny Hamlin (1). The dynamic duo combined to win 16 races last year but in perhaps the biggest shocker of the season; neither driver has earned a victory in 2021. Hamlin definitely has the better opportunity for this week's Southern 500 due to performance trends, and I would probably label Hamlin one of the best drivers at Darlington in recent memory. With that being said, there has been minimal betting value for Hamlin in recent weeks for a driver that is still winless on the season.
It would be unreasonable to rule out the chances of Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex this week among the big 3 in terms of favorites. Personally, I believe Larson has the best performance trends going into Darlington to steal the show and was runner-up to Truex back in the fall. Like many of the other favorites, there is minimal value in backing Larson this week as the overall favorite. In terms of outright betting value, I believe Kurt Busch and William Byron are among the best dark horses on the board. The elder Busch has never won at Darlington but has been really close in recent years. At 30-1 odds, Busch has a legitimate upside that cannot be overlooked.
Meanwhile, Byron is one of my favorite drivers in all betting formats. The young Charlotte, NC native has posted back-to-back finishes at Darlington Raceway, which is impressive with just six career starts under his belt at The Lady in Black. Byron is listed at 12-1 odds at most major online books, which holds some value for a driver that has produced 9 Top 5 finishes on the season. I believe Byron provides excellent dark horse value and should be heavily targeted in H2H formats against other 2nd-tier options.
Be sure to follow me at NASCARWagers.com for all official previews and race picks for this weekend's races at Darlington Raceway which includes Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Cup Series!