Southern 500 Picks
This week, NASCAR heads back to its roots when it pays a visit to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500.
Darlington was NASCAR's first superspeedway track, but that is all it has in common with other tracks of its ilk. With it's unique egg-shaped layout, Darlington is one of stock car racing's most challenging tracks and is known as "The Track Too Tough To Tame" or "The Lady In Black", thanks to the black stripe that usually winds up on all the cars by the end of the race.
This week’s betting strategy will be a little like last week with normal bets on our top two plays, and smaller bets on three drivers who we think have a very good chance of beating our top two choices.
Jeff Gordon 7/1
Jeff Gordon has had a love/hate relationship with Darlington over the years, but ever since they switched to the COT car he has once again become a force by finishing no worse than third in his last five races. With his seven wins, Gordon leads all active drivers and has finished inside of the top 10 an astonishing 13 times in his last 18 races with a average finish of 11.1. The price seems a little short on Gordon this week but we still see lots of value in him for Saturday.
Denny Hamlin 12/1
What does Denny Hamlin have to do to win a race this year? Once again he led the most laps and had the more dominant car, only to lose the race thanks to a mistake by his team on his last pit stop. Hamlin has shown a real fondness for Darlington, with two wins in the Nationwide series, but he has yet to win in a cup car here. With just a few races under his belt, he leads all drivers with an average finish of 6.3 and has never finished outside of the top 10. Hamlin will also have a distinct advantage over the other drivers since he participated in a tire test in March along with Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler. While it was just a tire test, it was a chance to get some track time that no other teams had since testing is no longer allowed.
A Few to Watch:
These three drivers are worth a small bet to win the race and should be considered in any matchup unless they are going against the top two choices.
Greg Biffle 10/1
Biffle has run into some hard times lately but Darlington could be just the track to bust him out of his slump. One thing that stands out to us is the way Biffle has always had strong runs at Darlington, which shows in the way he has finished no worse than 15th in eight starts. The only thing keeping Biffle from being one of our top bets this week are his odds, which seem a little low considering his recent struggles.
Mark Martin 15/1
Mark Martin has come alive the last few weeks and though it has been a long time since he won at Darlington, his consistent finishes here could see him in victory lane for the second time this year.
Jeff Burton 25/1
Burton has always done well here, which shows in his average finish of 10.4 with two victories. Like last week, we look for another strong run from him but as always, he seems to come up a bit short.
Most books came out with odds for this year’s Indianapolis 500 and recommend playing them now since we don't want to lose any value if they qualify well or look good once practice starts next week.
Tony Kanaan 12/1
Dan Wheldon 14/1
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Posted: 5/6/09 9:21PM ET