NASCAR returns to action this weekend with the Darlington Raceway 400, and I have a full betting preview, as well as some picks and parlays for this much-anticipated event.
As much fun as virtual racing has been, we can wave goodbye to such events and welcome back some real-life track racing. The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway this Sunday, and this betting preview and our picks will hopefully get you up to speed.
But, before we get into that, there are a few differences to this race that we need to go over first.
NASCAR Changes During COVID-19
The significant difference that the race at Darlington will see is the lack of any practice or qualifying rounds. This rule will be the case for every race in May, aside from the Coca-Cola 600, which will have a qualifying round. Here is how the starting grid will shape up:
- 1st through 12th positions will be randomly selected from charter teams that hold those positions in team owner points.
- 13th through 24th positions will be randomly selected from charter teams that hold those positions in team owner points.
- 25th through 36th positions will be randomly selected from charter teams that hold those positions in team owner points.
- 37th through 40th positions will be chosen from open, non-chartered teams in order of owner point.
These changes will be a strange departure from the way drivers and teams typically operate. The lack of fans will be odd as well. Drivers will be kept in their trailers until about 10 minutes before the race starts.
Now that we are caught up on the rule changes, let’s get up to speed with the odds for this return to NASCAR, before we look at our picks and parlays for the Darlington race.
Darlington 400 Betting Odds
Kyle Busch +650
Chase Elliott +650
Kevin Harvick +700
Denny Hamlin +750
Martin Truex Jr +770
Joey Logano +850
Brad Keselowski +950
Alex Bowman +1250
Erik Jones +1375
William Byron +2150
Matt Kenseth +2500
Jimmie Johnson +2500
Kurt Busch +2500
Ryan Blaney +2500
Matt DiBenedetto +4500
Aric Almirola +6000
Clint Bowyer +6600
Tyler Reddick +7500
Ryan Newman +10000
Chris Buescher +10000
Christopher Bell +10000
Cole Custer +10000
Austin Dillon +12500
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +20000
Daniel Suarez +25000
Ty Dillon +50000
John Hunter Nemechek +70000
Ryan Preece +75000
Darrell Wallace Jr +75000
Michael McDowell +100000
Timmy Hill +250000
JJ Yeley +300000
Corey LaJoie +300000
Joey Gase +500000
Quin Houff +500000
Brennan Poole +500000
Reed Sorenson +500000
Garrett Smithley +500000
NASCAR Darlington Picks & Betting Preview
Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott currency share the top spot on the odds board for Darlington as of Thursday.
Elliott got off to a hard start to 2020, taking three stage wins and ranking 3rd in points before the season was halted. The issue with him is his lack of success at Darlington and smaller tracks in general. He has only a single top-5 finish in five trips around the circuit. Despite him getting hot in March, those months off will likely have cooled his momentum, and this is not his track. I think Elliott makes for a proper fade at +450.
Busch, despite his current standings in the Cup Series, is +450 to leave South Carolina a winner. He’s also not won here in over a decade. But despite that, he has finished strong at “The Lady In Black” and posting an average-finish position of 11.1 there. He’s finished seventh or better in eight of the last ten trips to Darlington.
Those AFP numbers are good, but Jimmy Johnson (+2500) leads all active racers with three victories and a 12.1 AFP in 21 trips to the starting line. This does make Johnson a tempting long-shot considering his continued success at this raceway.
The pole winner, Kevin Harvick, is +700 based on owner points. He has yet to win a race this year but is also the only driver to finish in the top-10 in every race so far in 2020. He’s even finished top-5 in six of the previous seven runnings of the Darlington 400.
Another exciting choice that is not getting a lot of attention is Martin Truex Jr (+770). He was victorious in this race in 2016 and, despite struggles this season has run well here. The Joe Gibbs team also has Denny Hamlin, who won Daytona but has seen little success since.
NASCAR betting is tricky, with many preferring to focus on group matchups as opposed to picking a straight-up winner. If you find matchups with Busch or Hamlin, I would recommend backing them. They are both old heads and won’t be fazed by the time off, new rules, and lack of fans. They will drive smart and finish strong. Harvick as well would be a great matchup bet considering his success at these intermediate circuits. He’s also at the pole position and will have the luxury of an early lead.
Guys to avoid would be highlighted by Matt Kenseth, and I recommend a bet against him. He will be moving into the Chip Ganassi Racing #42 car and will be his first time behind the wheel of a Chevy. The new rules will not make things easier for the returning driver after racing part-time in 2018 and not at all in 2019. Kenseth is a sweet story but would make for a bad bet this weekend.
So, that wraps up our NASCAR betting preview, picks and parlays for the Darlington 400. Good luck!