Southern 500 Betting Advice & Picks
In last week's preview for Daytona, I made the statement that William Byron may be the most underrated superspeedway talent in the Cup Series and further advised bettors to jump on his 30 to 1 odds in our free picks for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Hopefully, bettors heeded my advice because Byron scored his 1st Cup Series win in thrilling fashion last Saturday night at Daytona to close out NASCAR's regular season. This week the playoffs will kick off with a throw-back weekend at Darlington Raceway. In recent years the Cup Series visits Darlington just once each year, but a pair of races were run at Darlington back in May in the first racing action following the COVID-19 hiatus. Therefore, we have some performance trends to look back on the May races that will prepare us for another prime betting opportunity this Sunday in the Southern 500!
In the two Darlington races earlier this year, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin captured the victories, which should not be too surprising considering both drivers' dominance this season. Both drivers have combined for 13 wins this season and will be heavy favorites again this Sunday on the heels of their success in May. While both drivers are deserving favorites, betting odds for Hamlin and Harvick are extremely conservative. In fact, opening futures (win) odds are pretty conservative for most of the top drivers this week. The good news is that most of the value is in H2H match-ups this week. There are several drivers that know how to get around Darlington's 1.25-mile layout and can be used to exploit value in betting match-ups. I have several sharp betting targets on my radar this week and will be ready to unleash a couple of big match-ups closer to race time.
One of the drivers that I really like this week in the form of betting match-ups is the No. 20 of Erik Jones. Jones won this race in 2019 and has posted a lucrative 5.4 average finishing position through 5 career starts. Jones finished 8th and 5th in the two races back in May. I would also point out that all of the JGR cars were better in the 2nd race, which seems to indicate they found speed with setup changes from in the three days between both races. If that happens again, Jones should be one of the best drivers on the board for H2H match-ups due to his struggles in recent weeks. On the other side of the coin, Clint Bowyer is a driver that I would target to fade in betting match-ups. Bowyer has been flat-out bad at Darlington throughout his career with a 21st place average finish and has never recorded a top 5 finish in 16 career starts. If we can find match-ups against Bowyer with decent opposition, we can fade the #14 with confidence.
Before I conclude this week's preview, I still want to mention a driver I believe should challenge for the victory this Sunday that has value at 11 to 1 odds via Bet365. The betting option that appears to be getting overlooked is the #18 of Kyle Busch. If you have followed the Cup Series this year, you know Kyle Busch is having an awful year and is currently in the longest winless streak of his career. With that said, most of Busch's misfortune has been in the circumstances of mechanical failures, blown tires, and other types of misfortune. Just last week at Daytona, Busch was leading the race and was taken out by Tyler Reddick in one of the ugliest slide job attempts in recent memory. However, you gauge Busch's season, the speed from the #18 has been solid for the most part. At Darlington, the driver makes a huge difference in overall lap speed because it is such a tough track on drivers and tires (fall off speed). This is a perfect setup for Busch to get back on track at the start of the playoffs, and we are finally starting to get decent betting value on Busch's betting odds. Lastly, don't overlook Erik Jones either at 33 to 1 odds. Darlington happens to be one of Jones' best tracks, and he won this race last year!
Southern 500 Picks
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