On Sunday NASCAR became the first major league sport in the US to return from COVID-19 global pandemic shutdown with a regularly run event. NASCAR returned to action with the running of the Cup Series Real Heroes 400 Sunday at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. The event – which was run without fans in attendance in a condensed format under strictly overseen new NASCAR guidelines and restrictions – went off without a hitch, so now we look ahead to Wednesday night and the Toyota 500.
What Happened at NASCAR Darlington
Kevin Harvick ended up driving away from the field late to score victory by just over two seconds over second place Alex Bowman.
NASCAR’s typical three-day schedule for a Cup Series event was reduced down to a one-day window for completion. The shortened schedule meant no practice sessions or qualifying for the event, though that plan seemed to have no ill effects on the final product.
With NASCAR looking to salvage as much of its original 36-race schedule for the Cup Series, the sanctioning body will waste no time getting the Cup Series back in action once again at Darlington for the Wednesday night Toyota 500.
The series will run again Wednesday without practice or qualifying. The starting order for the Toyota 500 will be set using results from Sunday. The top-20 finishers from Sunday will be inverted, putting 20th place finisher Ryan Preece on the pole and sending Harvick back to a 20th starting spot. Starting positions 21-40 will be set by where driver’s finished in those spots on Sunday.
Toyota 500 Odds & Betting
Even starting deep in the field on Wednesday Harvick (5-1) will carry the favorite’s tag going into the Toyota 500.
Darlington is a track that Harvick struggled to find his way around for much of his Cup career, but in the last seven years the Bakersfield, Calif. driver has found the perfect spell to subdue the place termed “The Track Too Tough To Tame”.
With Sunday’s victory, Harvick has now recorded top-five finishes in seven of the last eight Cup Series events at Darlington, with his worst finish during that span being a ninth place. Sunday’s win was his second career Cup Series victory at the track. He got his first win there in 2008.
Before Sunday, Bowman (8-1) had never finished better than 18th at Darlington in four series starts dating back to 2014. But Bowman showed a sudden knack for getting around the tricky 1.3-mile layout and led 41 of 293 laps Sunday. With no practice before Wednesday, Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports team will be able to rely on a strong notebook of data built from Sunday’s solid showing.
Mechanical woes made for a long day Sunday at Darlington for Kyle Busch (9-1) who came from the back of the field toward the front twice before settling for a 26th place finish. Busch’s average finish of 11.1 in 15 Cup Series starts at Darlington ranks him near the top of that statistical category among active drivers.
In the last 15 Cup Series events at Darlington dating back to 2006, Harvick and Denny Hamlin (9-1) are the only repeat winners at the track. Hamlin has wins at Darlington in 2010 and 2017. His average finish of 7.6 over 15 Cup starts at Darlington is unapproachable by any of his competition.
Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (21-1) was having a strong run Sunday early before getting involved in a wreck while leading. Johnson is the only driver in the field with more than two victories at Darlington. He had a pair of wins in 2004 – back when Darlington still ran two events annually –and also won at the track in 2012.
In the long shot territory an interesting pick for Wednesday could be Preece (200-1) starting from the pole. The second-year Cup driver is still looking for his first series victory. If he can stay with the leaders Wednesday he very well could be in position to get that first win.
So, that’s it for our look ahead to the Toyota 500 race. Good luck with your online betting, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!