Kyle Larson is again the pre-race favorite.
Larson is favored at BetMGM ahead of Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. for the Cup Series’ first trip to Darlington in 2022 (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1). Truex won this race a year ago when he beat Larson to the finish line in a late battle. Truex led 248 of 293 laps a year ago and led the final 105 laps as the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars combined to lead all but 23 laps.
Hamlin won the Labor Day weekend race ahead of Larson later in the season. That race was a little more even; Larson led 156 of 367 laps while Hamlin led 146 including the entire last 36-lap run.
Larson is the natural Darlington favorite because of those second-place finishes and his overall stats at the track despite not scoring a win at the unique egg-shaped oval yet. Larson has five top-five finishes and seven top 10s in eight Darlington starts and has an average finish of 5.5. Larson’s worst Darlington finish is a 14th in 2017.
Hamlin is the only other driver who has an average finish inside the top 10 at Darlington and he’s done it in a ton more starts than Larson. Hamlin has an average finish of 7.1 in 19 starts with four wins, 11 top fives and 15 top 10s. He’s finished outside the top 20 at Darlington just once in his career.
Hamlin will be racing this weekend without crew chief Chris Gabehart and two other crew members for a pit stop mistake during Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover. But that shouldn’t be much of an issue and why he’s still the No. 2 favorite for Sunday’s race.
The race is also the annual throwback weekend for NASCAR, so you’ll see a lot of different paint schemes on track. It’ll take a second to figure out who is who. And in a disappointing development, teams are going to be running throwback paint schemes with the numbers pushed forward to the front wheel instead of in the traditional spot under the door. That number placement will make many throwbacks less than authentic.
Here’s what you need to know to bet Sunday’s race. All odds are via BetMGM.
Kyle Larson (+500)
Denny Hamlin (+700)
Martin Truex Jr. (+700)
Chase Elliott (+800)
Kyle Busch (+900)
Busch’s only Darlington win came in 2008. But he’s been really good since then. He finished 35th last fall but has finished outside the top 11 just three times in his 16 starts since his last win. Elliott is very hit-or-miss. He has four top-10 finishes but has also finished outside the top 30 because of crashes in two of the last four races.
Good mid-tier value
Tyler Reddick (+2000)
Christopher Bell (+2800)
Reddick finished seventh in his first Cup Series start at Darlington and has finished in the top 13 in three of his five career starts at the track. Bell doesn’t have any top 10s but has two top-15 finishes and Darlington feels like a track that the dirt track ace could excel at.
Don’t bet this driver
Ryan Blaney (+1400)
Blaney’s best finish at Darlington is an eighth-place finish in the spring race a year ago. He started on the pole in the fall and led 17 laps before finishing 22nd. That eighth was his only top-10 finish in 10 career starts at the track.
Looking for a long shot?
Erik Jones (+5000)
Jones has the third-best average finish at Darlington at 10.1, though his four top fives and six top 10s in eight starts at the track all came with Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished 18th and 32nd in his first two races with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021. Petty GMS Racing has shown speed in 2022 and Jones could easily be a contender for a seventh top 10 on Sunday.