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Bojangles Southern 500 Predictions

Race: Bojanglesí Southern 500 Picks to Win - Betting Odds
Date: Sunday September 4, 2016
Track: Darlington Raceway
Time: 6 pm ET
TV: NBC

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

Kyle Larson came home strong to win his first Sprint Cup series race this weekend at Michigan! Itís been a long time coming for him, and a most deserving win for sure. He beat out rookie, Chase Elliott, who passed Brad Keselowski with 8 to go. Keselowski ended up third. For Larson, this was a very emotional win. His close friend, Bryan Clauson, tragically passed away in early August in a midget car accident. Larson drove open wheeled cars and was very close to Clauson, which was evident in his victory when he yelled ďparked it!Ē, reminiscent of Clausonís victory celebrations. In addition, this closed the books on the 99-race winless streak for Chip Ganassi. The teams last victory came with Jamie McMurray in 2013. Larson ended that 99-race streak on his 99th start.

Michigan showed just how little mistakes can cost the race on pit road or on the track. Elliott was clearly disappointed after spinning his tires on the last restart. His pit crew did their job and put him back in a position again to win; however, Elliott failed to deliver. This isnít the first time for him, either. Unfortunately, he will have some more learning to do on restarts, although maybe itís just the number 24 car thatís doomed to have bad restarts regardless of drivers. We always noticed that Jeff Gordon struggled as well. When not on the track, the pit crews played a vital role in ensuring the drivers were in the position they needed come restart time. We saw plenty of drivers lose positions on pit road due to mistakes with the jack man, loose lug nuts, uncontrolled tires, etc. Michigan is not the place where a driver wants to lose time on pit road. Being the fastest track on the circuit has its downsides. The pit road speed is an absolute snailís pace to race speed. Guys lose laps very quickly and they are not easy to make up here.

There were a lot of lessons learned on pit road at Michigan. The teams will hopefully carry those lessons on to Darlington this weekend as we head to the second to last race of the regular Sprint Cup season. ďThe Lady in BlackĒ or ďThe Track too Tough to TameĒ as it is affectionately known does not play well with rookies. This all centers around a minnow pond that the owners refused to remove. This resulted in an egg-shaped track, and two drastically different ends for crews to manage. This creates difficulty in setting up a car to handle extremely variable conditions across the track. This asphalt oval is unique in its length at 1.366 miles. The banking is different at all 4 different points as well. The first and second turns are 25 degrees, while the third and fourth turns are 23 degrees. The frontstretch is three degrees, and the backstretch is a minimal 2 degrees. The Darlington stripe is the characteristic that most drivers tend to pickup before leaving the track. This is the track too tough to tame because drivers are constantly racing the track. You will hear that saying throughout the weekend. This is a place where the drivers have to pay attention each and every lap. If they donít, theyíre likely to scoot right into the outside wall, giving them that acclaimed stripe. Handling is extremely important here. Drivers will be challenged to tell their crew chiefs throughout the race just exactly what they need in order to find that fine line between too loose and too tight. You will notice the importance of the crew chiefs this weekend on a much higher level. Their calls will be critical in creating a manageable car that can leave the track without a stripe.

Maybe one of the most interesting qualities of Darlington is its almost intermediate size with a short track mentality. This track is, after all, home to one of the closest finishes in NASCAR finishes. If youíll remember back to 2003, Ricky Craven beat out Kurt Busch for the win after basically connecting their cars through most of the last lap. Maybe the craziest thing is thinking about Kurt Busch being in NASCAR for over 13 yearsÖI know thatís nothing to some of these other veterans, but itís crazy how long ago 2003 really is and also the enormous changes that NASCAR has seen since those races. Regardless, that race goes to show that this is a place where drivers need to be somewhat aggressive and defensive. Although the contact is not the same as it used to be, drivers will still likely push off one another at some point in the race. This means experience is key. An interesting note is that Jeff Gordon will be subbing for Jr. again this weekend and leads the field in terms of most wins among active drivers. Heís won here 7 times. I donít think that this will be his weekend simply because that team hasnít quite figured each other out yet, but look for him to be competitive. Overall, this track has the makings of a win from either Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick. Iím leaning on Harvick this weekend, though, simply from the pure fact that Johnson has struggled quite a bit through the summer months. Harvick has led the most laps here recently and has a win from 2 years ago. Heís looking to add to that this weekend. Letís take a look at your potential winners this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Ryan Newman
Dark Horse Prediction: Jeff Gordon. Bet your pick using your credit card and get a limited time "100% Bonus" at one of the web's biggest and best online sportsbooks: Bovada Sportsbook.

Again, itís almost cheating to even have Gordon as a dark horse option, but, hey, if heís there, heís the easy pick. Obviously with his credentials to this track, heís the most solid choice from that list. Sorry, Danica. Jeffís got you beat here. On another note, Newman has been consistent here and has a lot riding on this last 2 races. Heís sitting behind Jamie McMurray and really needs a win to solidify his position in the Chase. If he doesnít get a win, he needs to make darn well sure that he has a strong finish or he can kiss that Chase hope goodbye.

Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kurt Busch
5. Joey Logano
6. Kyle Busch
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Chase Elliott
12. Austin Dillon
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Ryan Newman
15. Kyle Larson
16. Kasey Kahne

These guys are going to be racing their hearts out this weekend as we close in on the end of the regular season. What I think is awesome is having Darlington followed by Richmond this at the end of the season. These tracks breed competition. With Darlington having its reputation and Richmond being a short track, well you can only imagine how dicey things can get. Stay tuned this weekend as we head to Darlington Raceway for an amazing Sunday NIGHT of racing!

Bojangles' Southern 500 Odds to Win for Each Driver (You can bet these odds using your credit card at MyBookie)

Kevin Harvick 6/1
Joey Logano 7/1
Kyle Busch 7/1
Brad Keselowski 8/1
Carl Edwards 8/1
Denny Hamlin 8/1
Martin Truex Jr. 8/1
Matt Kenseth 8/1
Jimmie Johnson 9/1
Chase Elliott 12/1
Kyle Larson 12/1
Kurt Busch 15/1
Jeff Gordon 20/1
Field (Any Other Driver) 20/1
Tony Stewart 30/1
Austin Dillon 60/1
Kasey Kahne 60/1
Ryan Blaney 60/1
Ryan Newman

Free Picks

Virginia Vroom's Picks - Most people think Danica Patrick is auto racing's most popular female. We have something to say about that! She can flat out pick'em!

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