The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs officially begin this weekend with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington. In case you're unfamiliar, there will be three races in the Round of 16, three in the Round of 12, and three in the Round of 8 before the championship race. Darlington is the first before visits to Kansas and Bristol. These are the races that really matter now. Heading into Sunday's event, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr are co-favorites at +500. Others who are expected to contend consist of Denny Hamlin (+700), William Byron (+800), Ross Chastain (+850), and Kyle Busch (+1000). Continue reading for the Cook Out Southern 500 picks.
Before we get into the preview, odds, and predictions for this race, check out our how-to bet on NASCAR page.
Cook Out Southern 500 Odds
|Martin Truex Jr||+500||+500||+500|
This race takes place at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. Drivers will go around 367 times in total, with 115 laps in stages 1 and 2 before 137 in stage 3. Out of all the drivers on the Cup Series circuit, Denny Hamlin has the most victories here, winning in 2010, 2017, and 2021. Below, find the last 10 winners:
- 2022: Erik Jones
- 2021: Denny Hamlin
- 2020: Kevin Harvick
- 2019: Erik Jones
- 2018: Brad Keselowski
- 2017: Denny Hamlin
- 2016: Martin Truex Jr
- 2015: Carl Edwards
- 2014: Kevin Harvick
- 2013: Matt Kenseth
Kyle Larson (+500)
Larson had a respectable regular season, finishing sixth in the standings. He had a pair of wins to go along with 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10 placings. However, Larson doesn't come into Sunday in the best form. He was 26th at Watkins Glen and then 27th at Daytona last weekend. That being said, there's a track record of success for Larson at Darlington. He had three consecutive runner-up finishes here a couple of years ago and also finished top-five on several other occasions. While he struggled here in the last year, he's done well at Darlington. Worth a look.
Martin Truex Jr (+500)
Is there anyone thriving like Truex Jr? He finished tied on points with William Byron for first place this season and comes into the playoffs with no shortage of momentum. Truex Jr is on a heater, securing six straight top-seven finishes before landing in 24th at Daytona. He won New Hampshire, was runner-up at Michigan, and finished third at Pocono. As for Darlington, he was 24th, 31st, and 31st across his last three appearances here. Yes, that's nothing to write home about, but you can't ignore a red-hot driver like Truex Jr. And as you saw above, he won the race in 2016. The +500 odds are warranted.
Denny Hamlin (+700)
Hamlin has been thriving at Darlington in recent memory. He's only finished out of the top-10 four times in his last 13 outings on this track. He was 12th back in May. Hamlin was consistent all year long, finishing third in the Cup Series table with two wins, nine top-fives, and 12 top-10s. He's in good form right now as well, finishing top three in four of his last six. Hamlin just won Pocono then secured runner-up at Watkins Glen and Richmond. Never count Hamlin out.
William Byron (+800)
What a season for Byron. The 25-year-old has a Cup Series-best five victories, lifting the grand prize at Watkins Glen, Atlanta, Phoenix, and you guessed it, Darlington. He won here in May. That is enough reason to put some type of bet down on him, whether it be the outright winner or perhaps a specific bet. Last year, he was eighth and 13th, respectively, at Darlington. He was eight at Daytona last weekend after winning Watkins Glen. That was after a string of poor results. It seems he could be back on track. Watch out for Byron Sunday.
Ross Chastain (+850)
Chastain tends to always find himself leading at Darlington but he's crashed twice here before. He's also in rather poor shape at the moment with a mere one top-10 finish in his last nine appearances. That doesn't exactly scream success. He was 29th in May when he crashed. Chastain was in contention to win that race too before the disaster. I think he's one to fade.
Cook Out Southern 500 Picks
As always, the best option is to tackle a few different bets. Truex Jr is worth a pick for a top-10 finish given his recent performances. I also like Byron for a top-five finish because he has his confidence back after a couple of good races. Lastly, we'll go with Hendrick Motorsports as the winning team. They've taken home the trophy 11 times before at the Southern 500.