Saturday, September 3, 2016

Final Darlington Raceway Driver Ratings: 2016 Southern 500

Jimmie Johnson was fastest during Saturday's first practice session at darlington.
Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
Bojangles Southern 500
Darlington Raceway
Sunday, September 4, 2016 - 3:18 pm PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS                    CHARLOTTE*        QUALIFIED**        PRACTICE 1        PRACTICE 2
 1. Denny Hamlin 7/1                 4th                  7th                    2nd                9th 
2010 winner and his 6.5 average best among active drivers; third in 2015 using same package.
 2. Jimmie Johnson 12/1           3rd                   9th                     1st               3rd
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2012; 9.1 average finish in 17 career starts. 
 3. Brad Keselowski 7/1             5th                  2nd                     6th               1st
Career-best runner last season, 12.6 average. Tied for series-best 11 top-fives this season.
 4. Kurt Busch 15/1                   6th                   4th                    19th              2nd
Career-best runner-up in 2003 in what is one of most fantatsic finishes in NASCAR history.
 5. Carl Edwards 7/1                18th                  3rd                   22nd               7th
2015 winner using same downforce package used this week; 11.6 average in 12 career starts. 
 6. Kevin Harvick 6/1                 2nd                  1st                   11th              19th
2014 winner, fifth in 2013 and 2015. Using runner-up chassis from May's Charlotte race.
 7. Matt Kenseth 8/1                  7th                 10th                   18th              28th
2013 winner, finally, after 19 starts; 16.2 average finish with 183 laps led in 22 career starts. 
 8. Martin Truex Jr. 8/1              1st                   8th                     8th              15th
Career-best fifth-place in 2012. Dominated at Charlotte in last 1.5-mile race using this package.
 9. Joey Logano 7/1                   9th                  5th                    15th             22nd
Career-best fourth-place last season which boosted his average finish to 20.3 in seven starts.
10. Kyle Busch 7/1                    33rd                 6th                   16th              29th
2008 winner with 6.8 average in his last six starts. Top performer using 2016 downforce package.
* Results from the last race (May 29) on a 1.5-mile track using the standard 2016 downforce package. Darlington has a unique 1.366-mile high banked layout, but the set-up requirements are similar.

** Starting lineup set by driver points.

Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow on Twitter @MicahRoberts7

After a series of simulated race runs in the Saturday's final 80-minute practice session at Darlington Raceway, Denny Hamlin felt his car was so perfectly set-up for Sunday's Bojangles Southern 500 that he parked it for the final 30-minutes. Between that type of confidence, current form and his stellar past history on the 1.366-mile egged shape oval, he's the driver to beat.

All he's done at Darlington is average a Sprint Cup Series-best a 6.5 finish over his 10 starts, including a 2010 win. He's also captured four Xfinity Series wins and averaged a 2.9 finish. It's been his best statistical track in both series during his career. And they call Darlington "The Track Too Tough to Tame."

Equally impressive right now for his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team is his current form right that has seen him finish in the top-10 over the last six races, including a Watkins Glen win last month for his first road course win. Seven straight would be a career-best and allow his team to head into the Chase in two weeks beaming with confidence. It would also be a nice bargaining chip for Hamlin who still isn't signed for 2017.

All four of the Gibbs drivers have won a race at Darlington, including two of the past three years which also bodes well for Hamlin by association. Carl Edwards won last season with Hamlin finishing third and the downforce package used then on a trial basis is the one that has been used in 18 of the 24 races this season, 10 of which have been won by a Gibbs set-up. It will also be used Sunday and 10 of the final 11 races this season.

Yes, there's a lot to like about Hamlin this week at 7-to-1 odds, and maybe even beyond when the playoffs start. He's 12-to-1 to win the Sprint Cup Championship.

Rest More Here........LV Review-Journal

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