Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington (Cup Series) Predictions, Odds & Picks

Cook Out Southern 500

  • The NASCAR Cup Playoff begins. Can a sleeper advance with a victory?
  • The Southern 500 is the rubber match between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
  • Which Team Penske driver will mount a challenge at the Track Too Tough to Tame?
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Cook Out Southern 500 Odds

The odds for the Cook Out Southern 500 are provided by BetMGM.

Kevin Harvick+325
Denny Hamlin+350
Martin Truex Jr.+800
Chase Elliott+900
Kyle Busch+1000
Brad Keselowski+1100
Joey Logano+1200
Erik Jones+1800
Ryan Blaney+2000
Kurt Busch+2200
Alex Bowman+2500
Aric Almirola+2800
Jimmie Johnson+2800
William Byron+4000
Matt DiBenedetto+5000
Tyler Reddick+5000
Austin Dillon+6500
Clint Bowyer+6500
Christopher Bell+8000
Cole Custer+8000
Matt Kenseth+8000
Ryan Newman+15000
Chris Buescher+20000
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.+20000


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Cook Out Southern 500 Predictions and Picks

The abrasive asphalt at Darlington will be hotter and slicker than it was when NASCAR reopened in May, and Denny Hamlin will have an advantage, having driven in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday. That extra seat time should be enough to give Hamlin the edge on Sunday.

Our Pick: Denny Hamlin (+350).

How to Watch the Cook Out Southern 500 Race

Event Information
WhatCook Out Southern 500 NASCAR Cup Series race
WhereDarlington Raceway
WhenSunday, September 6, 6 p.m. EST
How to WatchNBCSN

The 10-event NASCAR Cup Series Playoff begins with the first race in the Round of 16, the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington. The round continues with the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond and concludes with the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol. After the Sept. 19 Bristol race, the four drivers with the least number of championship points will be eliminated.

A victory in any of the three Round of 16 races, however, earns automatic advancement to the Round of 12, where the process repeats at three different tracks. But first things first. The Southern 500 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewels, with cars adorned with paint schemes that harken to bygone eras of the sport.

Sunday’s race will be contested at 367 laps (500.3 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 115 and 230 laps. Erik Jones is the defending winner of the Southern 500. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin split the two Darlington races in May after a 10-week hiatus for the coronavirus pandemic.

Can a Sleeper Driver Steal a Win at Darlington and Advance in Playoff?

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin may be the obvious choices to fight for the victory in Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500, but Darlington also can produce some unlikely winners. Remember 2011, when Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards on old tires to win the race?

Last year, Erik Jones prevailed, collecting the second win of his career. So it’s possible for a relative long shot in the Playoff to claim victory and earn automatic advancement to the Round of 12. The obvious choice is defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who has suffered through a miserable regular season, failing to pick up a win in the first 26 races.

Can Busch pull off a Playoff run comparable to that of Tony Stewart in 2011? After a winless regular season, Stewart came to life in the Playoffs, winning five of the last 10 races and claiming his third title on a tiebreaker. Busch is equally dangerous every time he suits up, and he’s acutely aware of his own stats—and that Harvick, with seven wins this season, has tied him for ninth on the all-time victory list with 56.

Kevin Harvick vs. Denny Hamlin: Who Has the Edge at Darlington?

When NASCAR returned to racing after a 10-week break because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin asserted themselves immediately. Harvick won the first race after the hiatus on May 17 at Darlington. Three days later, Hamlin answered in the next Cup race at the Lady in Black.

Those two races were a portent of what was to come. Harvick finished the 26-race regular season with seven victories, and Hamlin collected six. At Darlington, Pocono, and Dover, where the Cup Series staged consecutive races at the same track, Harvick and Hamlin split the races each time.

So which of the two has the edge at Darlington? Because Hamlin entered the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington on Saturday and will have 147 laps on the track before Sunday’s green flag, we lean toward the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Hamlin also starts on the outside of the front row on Sunday. Harvick starts eighth, and that’s a slight edge for Hamlin, too, though Harvick won from sixth and Hamlin from 16th in May.

Which Team Penske Driver Will Take the Lead During the Playoff?

Collectively, team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have combined for six victories this season. All three of Keselowski’s have come after the NASCAR’s reopening. Both of Logano’s wins occurred during the four-race stretch before the pandemic halted the action for 10 weeks.

Blaney’s got his lone victory of the season at Talladega Superspeedway, where he has now won two straight events. It’s likely that one of the three drivers will qualify for the Championship 4 race at Phoenix, but which one?

Blaney has never won more than one race per season. To advance to the final race, the driver of the No. 12 Ford would have to break that trend. Logano hasn’t adapted to NASCAR’s current format of no practice and no qualifying, as well as Keselowski, has. That’s why we like Keselowski to make the final four and compete for the title at Phoenix.

Bet on Denny Hamlin (+350)!

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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]