|Last race for Jeff Gordon at Darlington where he's won seven times.|
Kevin Harvick won Darlington last season and comes in as the second choice to win at 6-to-1 odds, and he would probably be favored if it weren't for Busch’s dominance in Kentucky. Darlington's 1.366-mile layout with four unique high-banked turns is nothing like Kentucky Speedway’s 1.5-mile layout, but it's the aero package influencing the bookmakers’ numbers.
In Kentucky, Joe Gibbs Racing had all four of its cars finish in the top five, as Kyle Busch led 163 of the 267 laps. Harvick finished eighth, though it was one of the few races in which he failed to lead a lap this season. Although he has 17 top-five finishes in 24 races this season, Harvick has failed to win a race since March (Phoenix, CampingWorld.com 500). JGR, meanwhile, has taken the checkered flag in five of the past seven races, the momentum starting with the debut of the new aero package in Kentucky.
The package suggests JGR cars will be fast again on Sunday, but Darlington – a special track with so much NASCAR history – must be handicapped. There isn't any other track like it, and comparisons are hard to make. They call this the track "too tough to tame," and the Lady in Black will paint a Darlington stripe on anyone who gets too close to her wall. The best of the best have all gotten their Darlington stripes, but some are less susceptible – and those are the drivers you'll want to key on Sunday night, in addition to referencing what happened at Kentucky.
Let's take a look at the top candidates to win and their opening odds at the Westgate.
Denny Hamlin (8/1): Just like most of the field, this will be his first ever Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend, but he should compete for the win. While his only win of the season came at Martinsville, the 'Lady' has been super kind to Hamlin over his career. In nine starts, he's averaged a 6.9 finish with a win in 2010. When factoring in his Kentucky performance, where he finished third and led 13 laps, he looks like a very attractive wager this week in both odds to win and driver matchups. Also attractive is his retro No. 11 paint scheme that pays respect to South Carolina native Cale Yarborough, who won the Southern 500 five times.
Read More Here...complete list of Southern 500 odds