NASCAR bettors are well aware that the Southern 500 is held at one of the great racetracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, and Jeff Gordon, one of the great stock car racers of all-time, has won seven times at Darlington.
He's one of the top contenders for this event, which will be held at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on Saturday night on FOX (7:30 PM ET starting time). Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion, and Kyle Busch, who holds the race record at this track, are the co-favorites in NASCAR betting at +550.
Showtime Southern 500
Saturday, May 7 -- 7:30 PM ET
Odds to win Showtime Southern 500
- Brian Vickers +4000
- Carl Edwards +750
- Clint Bowyer +1500
- Dale Earnhardt Jr +1500
- Denny Hamlin +700
- Greg Biffle +2000
- Jamie McMurray +3000
- Jeff Burton +3000
- Jeff Gordon +750
- Jimmie Johnson +550
- Joey Logano +3000
- Juan Pablo Montoya +3000
- Kasey Kahne +3000
- Kevin Harvick +1000
- Kurt Busch +1500
- Kyle Busch +550
- Mark Martin +2000
- Martin Truex Jr +4000
- Matt Kenseth +2000
- Ryan Newman +3000
- Tony Stewart +1000
- Field (Any Other Driver) +8000
Did You Know? Darlington Raceway was the first venue where NASCAR had a 500-mile race. It was also the first place where NASCAR raced on asphalt. It’s 1.366 miles, with 23-25 degree banking in the corners. Kyle Busch (+550 in NASCAR betting this week), who won the race there in 2008, holds the record for the fastest race on this track, clocking 140.35 mph.
Jeff Gordon is seeking his second victory of the season this weekend. And there may not be any better place to do it than Darlington, where he has won a total of seven times. Gordon has an average finish of 11th there, and even though he has won on just one of his last ten trips there, the results in his last seven races at Darlington almost mandate that he in consideration for the top two spots.
Going backwards, Gordon (+750 in NASCAR betting this week) has come 4th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 3rd at this venue. He has the highest Driver Rating at Darlington of any of these starters (117.6). This is the kind of race where he really has an opportunity to make an impact. And another Darlington win would truly come in handy for him, since he is 16th in the Sprint Cup points standings. His efforts have just been too uneven to keep himself up there in the top ten. Yes, he finished third at the Aaron's 499, starting from the pole a couple of races ago, but that was coming off a tough 23rd-place finish in the Samsung Mobile 500. Last week he left the Richmond Crown Royal race after getting into an accident on the 300th lap.
Based on last year's performance Jamie McMurray, who is +3000 in NASCAR betting, would seem to deserve some attention here. In 2010 he won the pole (setting the qualifying record at the track) and finished second. And we know that he did well in all of the so-called "major" races. Again, though, he has not driven in a consistent enough fashion to be a challenger for one of the Chase spots. In fact, there has been only one top ten for McMurray, and that was after he won the pole at the Goody's Fast Relief 500.
Denny Hamlin has run five times at Darlington, chalking up four top ten’s, and he won the Southern 500 last year. And maybe he is a candidate for a repeat, if the runner-up finish in Richmond was any indication of positive change in 2011 form. Hamlin (a +700 NASCAR betting prop this Saturday) is not a serious contender for the Chase right now, and that is the last thing anybody expected after almost winning the Sprint Cup (ultimately finishing second) last year.
Greg Biffle is someone who cannot be ignored here either. Biffle won at Darlington in 2005 and 2006, and among the drivers who will be starting the race on Saturday, he's got the second-best Driver Rating (113.8), right behind Gordon. Not only that, but he is second in Average Running Position (9.7) and Average Green Flag Speed. Biffle has not had an exceptional season; he is inching closer to contention in the Cup standings (currently 14th), but he's got just three finishes in the top ten. He might be a bargain price here at +2000 in the NASCAR betting lines.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Martin Truex, part of Michael Waltrip's racing team, has fired four members of his pit crew in an attempt to pump some life into his efforts. Truex finished in 27th place, despite the fact that he was up near the leaders for much of the day and actually led twelve laps of the race at Richmond.
Truex seemed to imply that the car nor the driver were at fault. "The last five weeks have been very tough on this team," he said. "We've run well and have very little to show for it." Truex has not finished higher than sixth yet this year, but his Driver Rating is seventh-best in this field, and he really likes this track, which probably explains the sense of urgency in making the personnel change.
He'll be starting at +4000 in the NASCAR betting odds this week.