Saturday, May 11, 2013

Darlington Post-Practice Betting Notes and Final Driver Ratings

Kurt Busch on pole at Darlington
It would only seem fitting that Kurt Busch would be the pole sitter for Saturday night's Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Not only is Busch reliving 10-year anniversary memories from his classic runner-up finish to Ricky Craven from 2003, but he's also driving a car with some historical significance. Significant, at least to the people in Las Vegas.

When Regan Smith drove the No. 78 to a stunning upset win at Darlington in 2011, it was the highest payout ever for a NASCAR race in Las Vegas. A few lucky bettors who had the foresight to believe Smith had a chance in that race got paid out at 500-to-1 odds.

This week, Busch's odds are listed at only 40-to-1, but he's shown over the course of 2013 that his underfunded Denver Mattress team can compete with the elite teams on a regular basis. On Friday, he was fastest in the final practice session -- while in qualifying trim -- and then laid down the fastest lap in qualifying at 181.918 to set a new track record.

We're not quite sure if Busch can recreate some of that magic from 2003 -- still his best finish at Darlington -- or match what Smith did in 2011, but he did crack our top-10 list of drivers this week for the first time all season. His quality practices this season haven't just been in qualifying trim, either. He's transferred all of his good practices over into great race-day performances.

Of the two practice sessions run on Friday afternoon, the first session should be considered the most important when trying to identify who might be the winner Saturday night. The final session was run with lots of mock-qualifying runs where only four drivers attempted 10-consecutive laps or more. But in the early session, 18 drivers ran 10-consecutive laps.

Read More Here......Final Driver Ratings for Darlington

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