Cook Out Southern 500 (Cup Series) Predictions, Betting Odds, Picks

Cook Out Southern 500 Cup Series

  • Is Martin Truex Jr. ready for a return to form at the Track Too Tough to Tame?
  • Kyle Larson has never won at Darlington, but don’t discount his chances on Sunday.
  • Playoff newbie Tyler Reddick comes to Round of 16 with speed and confidence.

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With the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field set last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, the 16 anointed drivers come to Darlington for Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500, the 2021 Playoff opener.

The Round of 16 features Cup races at Darlington, Richmond, and Bristol, after which the Playoff field will be cut from 16 drivers to 12. Obviously, it’s the mission of every driver to escape the bottom four rungs in the standings before the end of the first round.

Sunday’s race will be contested over 367 laps (501.3 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 115 and 230 laps. Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of this event. Martin Truex Jr. is the most recent winner at Darlington (May 2021).

Martin Truex Jr. Thinks He’s Ready for a Return to Form at Darlington

As the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff begins, it’s tempting to look past Martin Truex Jr. In his last five starts, Truex has finished better than 10th exactly once—a third at the Watkins Glen International road course.

But Truex believes those results are deceptive. As and the series comes to Darlington Raceway, it’s worth analyzing his record there.

Truex won the Southern 500 in 2016, and in May of this year he collected his second victory at the Lady in Black, leading 248 of 293 laps. In doing so, he also swept the first and second stages of the race, as he had done last September at Darlington before falling to 22nd at the finish.

The bottom line? Truex is truly adept at the challenging track.

All three of our wins this year have been on tracks that are in the Playoffs. Obviously, that helps give us confidence, and we’re ready to roll. (Martin Truex Jr.)

Truex may be second choice to win the Southern 500 on Sunday, but he’s our first pick at +575 via PointsBet Sportsbook, despite his spotty record in recent races.

Don’t Be Fooled by Kyle Larson’s Winless Record—He’s a Contender

Kyle Larson has never won a NASCAR Cup Series event at Darlington Raceway, but don’t let that deter you from backing the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

First of all, Larson has only one Darlington race under his belt in top-notch Hendrick Motorsports equipment, and in that event earlier this season, he finished second to Martin Truex Jr.

In seven starts at the Track Too Tough to Tame, six of which came with Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson has four top fives, six top 10s and an enviable average finish of 6.0. He has led 500 of a possible 2,502 laps at the track.

If Truex doesn’t win the Southern 500 on Sunday, we believe Larson will. He’s priced at +300 via PointsBet Sportsbook and definitely worth a bet if you don’t believe Truex will rebound from his recent lackluster results.

You’ll notice that we haven’t mentioned Kevin Harvick (+1100), who won two Darlington races last year, or Denny Hamlin (+700), who won once at the track last season. Both are winless this season, and we expect that trend to hold on Sunday.

Looking for a Long Shot at Darlington? Tyler Reddick Is Your Best Bet

Yes, Tyler Reddick was the last driver to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, worming his way in on points in the regular-season finale at Daytona.

And, yes, Reddick is the 15th seed among 16 drivers in the postseason, with a measly three Playoff points to first-place Kyle Larson’s 52.

So why is Reddick confident in his ability to escape the bottom four and advance to the Round of 12? In four Cup starts at Darlington, he has run seventh, 12th (most recently), 13th and 23rd. In the Xfinity Series, he has a second and a third in three starts.

“Little details will either make or break this Playoff run for us,” Reddick said. “But I like where we’ve been going. I still feel like we’re still improving, but we’re right where we need to be for the right time at the start of this.”

Reddick is using the Xfinity race on Saturday as a tune-up, as is Denny Hamlin, and we believe that experience will be significant on Sunday.

That’s why we’re recommending a small bet on Reddick across the board—to win (+4000), to finish top 3 (+1000), to finish top 5 (+500) and to finish top 10 (+150), with all bets at PointsBet Sportsbook.

Cook Out Southern 500 How to Watch

Event Information
Race Cook Out Southern 500 NASCAR Cup Series race
Location Darlington Raceway
Time Sunday, September 5, 6 p.m. ET
How to Watch NBCSN

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]