The NASCAR Cup Series will take the green flag on the 2022 playoffs when the teams compete at Darlington Raceway. The field of 16 drivers is set and now it is time to see who can tame “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” Austin Dillon raced his way into the playoffs at 30-1 odds last week. Will we have another long-shot in Victory Lane at Darlington? The chances are not as good as they were at Daytona, but anything can happen with the Gen-7 car. It should be fun to watch. The Cook Out Southern 500 can be seen Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network.
The trend in the Cup Series playoffs has been for the drivers who are not racing for the championship to give the drivers who are racing for the championship plenty of room on the track. We seldom saw non-playoff drivers in Victory Lane. That could change this year. The teams are still trying to figure out how to get speed out of the Gen-7 car. They will not learn much for next year if they “take it easy” in the final 10 races. The playing field has been leveled with this new car and I expect the non-playoff drivers will compete hard in the playoffs. I usually do not bet non-playoff cars in NASCAR, but this year is different. I will take some chances with some drivers who are eliminated.
DRAFTKINGS ODDS FOR DARLINGTON
* The odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook. The odds could change between the time of this article and the time you place your bet.
** The first number is the amount of money based on the second number (the amount of the wager). So if you bet $1 on Kyle Larson, you will win $6.
Here are my best bets for the Cook Out Southern 500…
KYLE LARSON (6-1): My plan before DraftKings released their odds for the race was to fade Larson and bet his teammate (Chase Elliott). I thought Elliott would have much longer odds than Larson. That is not the case. Their odds are about the same so I will bet on the better driver at Darlington. Larson has never won at Darlington but he does have four top-three finishes in his last five races. He is the best at this track so I will take the 6-1 odds.
TYLER REDDICK (7-1): I was hoping to get better than 7-1 odds with Reddick but I have to have the No. 8 car in my betting portfolio this week. He will be the first driver up against the wall and he will be passing a lot of cars. Reddick finished second at Darlington in May. Can he improve by one spot Sunday night? If he can limit the number of “Darlington Stripe” on the car, he will be one of the drivers to beat this week.
JOEY LOGANO (9-1): No driver has won back-to-back races at Darlington since Greg Biffle did it in 2005. That is what Logano will be trying to do Sunday night. He led 107 laps on his way to Victory Lane. So can Logano be the first driver to win back-to-back races at Darlington in the last 18 years. I will bet it can happen. Jimmie Johnson (2004), Jeff Burton (1999), Jeff Gordon (1996) and Dale Earnhardt Sr. (1990) all did it. It is tough to compare Logano to those drivers, but it does show it can be done.
***KEVIN HARVICK (30-1):*** Get the Hell out of here!!!! The books are going to give me Harvick at 20-1 odds??? I am all over this bet. Harvick has been an absolute stud at Darlington. He has finished 4th, 5th, 6th, 1st, 3rd, 1st, 4th, 4th, 9th, 2nd, 5th, 1st and 1st at Darlington since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. That is an average finishing position of 3.5 over the last decade. Harvick has won the last two races on oval tracks in the Cup Series (not including Daytona). I will bet he can win again this week.
LONG SHOT SPECIAL ERIK JONES (60-1): Jones should NEVER be 60-1 odds at Darlington. This is by far his best track. Jones won the Southern 500 in 2019. He finished 4th, 5th, 8th, 1st and 8th in his five races at Darlington in the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. So can he win at Darlington with a smaller team? Jones finished 5th at Darlington while driving for Furniture Row Racing and the Gen-7 car has leveled the playing field. He ran up front at Darlington in May. I will take a chance with Jones at 60-1 odds.
Good luck this week!
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