Bojangles Southern 500 Picks & Analysis
Race: Bojangles Southern 500
Date: Sunday, September 1, 2019
Track: Darlington Raceway
Time: 6 pm ET
What Did We Learn From Last Week?
Denny Hamlin takes the win at Bristol after an exciting race, albeit a rather odd race. Hamlin made a late lap pass to solidify his win over second-place Matt DiBenedetto. It was not without work for Hamlin, though. Hamlin had trouble early on after having contact with Jimmie Johnson and then later encountering a loose wheel, causing him to go a lap down. That didn’t stop Hamlin. He was persistent in getting through the traffic little by little, leading him back to the front of the pack. Hamlin gave much of the credit to his spotter and crew chief, as he should, for helping him navigate through traffic. That was a very difficult contention for many drivers throughout the night, but Hamlin managed to do it rather seamlessly.
DiBenedetto, on the other hand, was bitten by traffic. In fact, Ryan Newman is essentially the lap car that caused him the win. Newman was fighting hard and didn’t want to be lapped for fear of losing his spot in the top 16, so he didn’t give an inch to DiBenedetto. It was just enough to cause DiBenedetto to lose momentum and get his car too tight to hold off Hamlin in the closing laps. It was very clearly an emotional night for both Hamlin and DiBenedetto.
On the one hand, Hamlin clearly raced hard and won fairly. On the other, he knew that he just ruined the night for DiBenedetto, who is losing his ride after this year. Unfortunately, his team is making room for Christopher Bell to move up the ranks and is releasing him. Hopefully, DiBenedetto finds somewhere to land. In my opinion, the showcase of his talent is being cut short by lack of opportunity. Overall, it was nice to see how gracious DiBenedetto was and how much you could tell it affected Hamlin. Denny took the time to embrace DiBenedetto and provide him with some kind words and words of advice. That was one of the nicer gestures that I’ve seen come from Denny.
Where Are We Headed This Weekend?
With only two races left in the regular season, I doubt that anyone is going to let a win slide. This weekend, we are headed to another short-ish track. This track is one of the best that NASCAR brought back to the circuit. I’m forever trying to figure out why they removed it in the first place, especially since there are 2 Pocono races. Can we please get rid of one of those instead? But I digress. I really enjoy the Darlington race. In fact, I’m pretty sure all of the true blue NASCAR fans do. It’s one of the oldest tracks around and has a ton of history. All of the greats have raced here. This place is an asphalt 1.366-mile oval with 25-degree banking in turns 1 and 2, 23-degree banking in turns 3 and 4, and just a minimal 2 and 3 degrees of banking on the backstretch and front stretch, respectively. The Lady in Black or the track too tough to tame as Darlington is affectionately known lends itself to tire destruction. This place used to eat tires alive. It seems that it’s eased off some, but you can bet that there will be many teams and drivers with their fair share of tire troubles on Sunday. There will also be a lot of adjustments made throughout the day due to the configuration of the track. Although it’s classified as an oval, the track is really more of an egg shape. Teams are continually changing their setups throughout the race, especially after the drivers earn their Darlington stripe because that is definitely a thing. These guys will sling into the outside wall just because of the way this track is built. It’s inevitable, and it cannot be avoided. It will mess up some cars. As Darrell Waltrip liked to remind us, The Lady in Black really “ain’t no lady”.
Odds and Potential Winners
That said, it takes an aggressive type of driver to succeed here. It also takes an experienced crew chief and crew to set up the car correctly and to make the correct adjustments throughout the race. Although there are many who would like to see Jimmie Johnson continue his success at Darlington, it is very doubtful that he will come away unscathed. Johnson, although the leader of active drivers with three wins at Darlington, probably has pretty slim chances of actually winning this weekend. The team has struggled all year long and is virtually all but out of the playoffs. I think that they have a lot of regrouping to do in the offseason if they expect to be any more competitive in the 2020 season. This weekend, I am going to pick the defending winner of his race, who has been having a good run of good luck recently. Denny Hamlin has been on the top of his game and being that he’s won here twice and has three runner up finishes, I believe that he will tie Johnson for the active driver with most wins this weekend. He will have some competition in the form of the Busch brothers and likely Kevin Harvick as well, but they will be hard-pressed to beat Hamlin to the checkers. Let’s check out your potential winners heading into this weekend:
Top Pick: Denny Hamlin (6-1). For those looking for a bit more conservative bet, you can wager on Hamlin in a head to head matchup vs. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick at -120 odds. So instead of Hamlin having to win the race to cash your ticket, he just has to beat his opponent. You can find these wagers at MyBookie.
Middle of the Road: Kyle Larson (5-1)
Dark Horse: Erik Jones (15-1)
Jones has only run two races at this track, but he’s done very well, in my opinion. Quite frankly, his 15-1 odds and his finishes reflect that He finished fifth and eighth in his only two starts. That speaks volumes of his ability to get around this place. I think that he will have a solid finish this weekend in just his third start. Kyle Larson is going to be my mid pick. At 5-1 odds, he’s sitting prettier than everyone other than Kyle Busch. Typical. Even though he hasn’t had a win here yet, he’s managed four top-five finishes, and 1 top ten finish in just 5 starts here. Larson should be competitive if he can stay out of trouble and drive a smart race. They will be chasing Denny Hamlin to the checkers, though, and will have a tough time getting past him. Even though he’s not the favorite, his 6-1 odds still play into a winning favor. It will also be a trying race as only two races are remaining before the playoffs. It should be an eventful race as there are many drivers still trying to clinch a win or their spot in the top sixteen. Let’s take a look at where the points stand after the Bristol race:
- Kyle Busch (7-2)
- Joey Logano (6-1)
- Denny Hamlin (6-1)
- Martin Truex Jr. (6-1)
- Kevin Harvick (6-1)
- Brad Keselowski (6-1)
- Chase Elliott (14-1)
- Kurt Busch (20-1)
- Ryan Blaney (30-1)
- Alex Bowman (40-1)
- Kyle Larson (5-1)
- William Byron (60-1)
- Aric Almirola (60-1)
- Erik Jones (15-1)
- Ryan Newman (100-1)
- Daniel Suarez (60-1) Bet these odds and more at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted online bookies: Intertops! They’re currently offering a special 50% NFL Kickoff bonus that you can use for NASCAR bets!
There are several drivers outside of the top 16 looking to knock Suarez out of the transfer position. Ryan Newman is in danger as well. Names like Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson are pretty big names to be sitting on the outside. I think we are going to see some very aggressive driving this weekend at Darlington as several guys are trying to battle their way in either on points or with a win. This race is going to be very telling. It’s honestly a race that the drivers need to take very seriously. The last race prior to the Chase starting is Indy. That is a tough one. They are definitely going to have to keep that in mind this weekend. Darlington and Indy are not the two most favorable tracks to close out the season. There is a lot of gambling that comes with them on top of a lot of unpredictable turnouts. The drivers have a lot to think about heading into Sunday’s race. Stay tuned for an awesome afternoon of racing at Darlington!