After a week off, the final one in a long season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is back in action this weekend with the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on September 4, 1950 and a win here carries a great deal of prestigious. However, with only two races left to go before the Chase field is decided several drivers are looking for that all important win that could secure their place in the championship hunt. Here are the odds, current as of Wednesday, for your fantasy racing leagues and for those who want to bet on the historic Southern 500. Driver ratings, the system NASCAR uses to show which drivers rise to the top, and that combines several factors, is for the last ten races at Darlington.
Kevin Harvick (4-1) hasn’t won since March. He has however come in second eight times since and has been competitive each and every week. He is the odds makers favorite, as well as ours, to win this week, especially considering that Harvick is the defending winner of this race dominating last year by leading 238 of the 374 laps. He also has four top five and seven top 10 finishes along with one pole. This could be the weekend Harvick gets back to victory lane despite his driver rating, 93.1, being 10th in the field.
Kyle Busch (5-1) has been on a tear lately and could lock himself in the Chase this weekend with a good finish. But he has shown in the last few weeks that all he wants is wins, something he accomplished here in 2008. Besides his win, Busch has two top fives and six top 10s and a fourth best driver rating of 106.1.
Joey Logano (7-1) won the last race at Bristol and showed himself to be a legitimate contender for the championship. He has never won at Darlington though and finished 35th here last year due to mechanical issues. He only has two top 10 finishes and a Driver Rating of 77.9, among the lowest in the field.
Matt Kenseth (7-1) did win here in 2013 and has been hot lately. In addition to his win he has three top fives, ten top 10s and one pole. His driver rating, 93.2, is ninth best and he could be near the front at the end of the night.
Denny Hamlin (8-1) is this week’s dark horse. He won here in 2010 and has four top fives and seven top 10s. His Driver Rating, 107.1, is second best and given the way he has run in the last few races, he could be the surprise Sunday night.
Others to watch: Jeff Gordon (20-1) leads all active drivers with seven wins at Darlington. He also leads all active drivers with 19 top fives and 23 top 10 finishes. Finally he has the highest Driver Rating in the field, 112.7. However, his last win was in 2007 but he was seventh last year. In his final race at Darlington, Gordon has the stats and the motivation to win but with several sub-par runs leading up to Sunday night, Gordon has a big hill to climb if he wants to win. Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson (10-1) has three wins here the last coming in 2012 along with nine top fives and 12 top 10s. He was third here last year and has the third highest Driver Rating, 106.8, among the top 10. Like Gordon, Johnson could surprise, but has been struggling lately.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Southern 500 is back in its traditional Labor Day spot this year. The theme is all about throwback, and reliving the past at this historic racetrack. Don’t be surprised if the winner is one of the older drivers like Gordon, Johnson or Kenseth. The green flag will fall just after 7:00 p.m. ET Sunday night with live coverage on NBC.