Darlington Raceway. It’s one of the most historic, most difficult and most prestigious tracks on the circuit. Try to find a diehard NASCAR fan who doesn’t like racing at this 1.366-mile oval and I guarantee you one thing – there aren’t many. There’s something about this track no matter where it sits on the schedule, whether it’s run in day or night, that gets fans excited when it comes up on the Sprint Cup calendar.
For avid gamblers who follow the sport it’s an opportunity to not only to watch one of the sport’s best races, but make a few bucks in the process. For the second straight week if you’ve followed my “Solid Bets” you may have made a few bucks, but my race winner predictions have been slightly off. This weekend I’ve heard a lot of talk about Greg Biffle, but in my opinion we’re headed for a Hendrick showdown that if you can pick correctly could lead to you making a pretty penny from the Lady in Black.
All odds are taken from BetUS.com as of Thursday afternoon. Note that these odds tend to change throughout the year and what you see in this column may or may not be the odds you see at the time of your bet.
In 29 starts at Darlington Jeff Gordon averages nearly an 11th-place finish with seven wins. His last non-top five was the spring race in 2004 – a race he crashed out in and teammate Jimmie Johnson won. Johnson went on to win both races that season – his only two wins at the track – and has only one non-top 10 since. In fact, Johnson has only finished outside of the top 10 twice in his career at Darlington and has bested Gordon with an average finish of 6.9. Both drivers are currently available at 6/1 which isn’t too bad for two guys who should be in contention come Saturday night.
Hendrick teammate Mark Martin (12/1) has had a down year, winning just twice in 43 starts and has no momentum to speak of this weekend, but he has two things going for him – in his one race in the No. 5 car at Darlington he has one win, and his odds are better than Gordon and Johnson. Last season’s win was in a race dominated by the aforementioned Biffle, but Martin did lead 46 laps in the event.
Biffle (20/1) has led at least 90 laps each of the past two years and leads a list of Roush Fenway drivers that all have at least a solid shot to win this weekend.
All of the Childress cars have better than normal odds this weekend…watch practice speeds to see if they’re worth a play.
Play the Odds
Speaking of those Roush Fenway drivers, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are also 20/1. As of now I’d prefer Biffle, but watch those practice speeds this week and determine whether either of these two drivers are a better play for your money. I don’t trust David Ragan, even at 80/1.
Another driver to closely consider is the highly motivated Denny Hamlin (8/1). I’d rather take one of those Hendrick cars at similar odds, but if Hamlin lights up the practice sheets I would quickly change my mind. He has yet to win at Darlington, but he’s red hot right now and has only finished outside of the top 10 once at the Lady in Black.
Longshots Worthy of a Flier
Juan Pablo Montoya hasn’t done much at Darlington with a best finish of 20th the past two years, but I’m getting a sense he’s hitting that stride he had much of last season and I see in oval win in his near future. I’m not sure if that comes this weekend, but at 25/1 why not take a shot on him?
Surprisingly, Kyle Busch. In five career starts at Darlington he has two top 10s and one win, but three finishes out of the top 20 and two out of the top 30. His one win 2008 aside he has led just three laps total. He may have a shot this weekend because he is, well, Kyle Busch, but I don’t like him at 6/1 at all.
It’s been a down year for Alan Gustafson and Mark Martin. You can’t keep them down for long and this is a perfect weekend to rebound and get back to victory lane.