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NASCAR at Darlington: Vegas odds, fantasy advice, prediction, sleepers, drivers to watch

Betting favorites and fantasy sleepers for Sunday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson

The rich southern history of NASCAR will be renewed this weekend with throwback paint schemes, special memorabilia and nostalgia as the circuit heads to historic Darlington Raceway for the famed Southern 500, a career-defining race to win each season. 

But for those on the outside looking in on the playoff grid, Sunday's race (NBCSN, 6 p.m. ET) at the track termed "Too Tough to Tame" is all about moving up the standings with only two races before NASCAR's version of the playoffs begin. 

Bubble drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones are all searching for an elusive win this season but only Kenseth (2013) has won at Darlington in the past.

Could McMurray, Bowyer, or Jones become the 12th straight different winner at Darlington Sunday? It could happen but we are predicting Joe Gibbs Racing stays hot and Kenseth picks up the win Sunday. 

With "The Lady in Black" ready to paint a Darlington stripe on anyone who gets too close to her wall, drivers will have to be at their best as the track changes when the hot South Carolina sun begins to set at the 1.366-mile asphalt track. One of the most unique tracks in NASCAR features 25 degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2, and 23 degrees in Turns 3 and 4 as the track narrows by 17 feet as the car rounds the egg-shaped oval.

There's no other track like Darlington making it tough to handicap but the track is very abrasive like similar tracks in length at Atlanta and Chicagoland. It's worth pointing out Kyle Larson, Jones, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman participated in a Goodyear tire test in July at Darlington. What they learned could give the drivers an advantage to beat race-favorites Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. 

What are the Las Vegas odds for the Southern 500 at Darlington?

Here are the race odds according to Westgate Sportsbook:

Kyle Busch 7/2
Martin Truex Jr. 7/2
Kyle Larson 9/2
Denny Hamlin 7/1
Kevin Harvick 8/1
Matt Kenseth 10/1
Brad Keselowski 15/1
Erik Jones 15/1
Chase Elliott 15/1
Jimmie Johnson 20/1
Ryan Blaney 25/1
Joey Logano 25/1
Jamie McMurray 50/1
Clint Bowyer 50/1
Ryan Newman 60/1
Kurt Busch 60/1
Daniel Suarez 80/1
Kasey Kahne 100/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 100/1
Austin Dillon 100/1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 100/1
Trevor Bayne 200/1
Paul Menard 500/1
Chris Buescher 500/1
Ty Dillon 500/1
AJ Allmendinger 1000/1
Michael McDowell 1000/1
Aric Almirola 1000/1
Danica Patrick 1000/1
All others 300/1

Who are the sleepers to win the Southern 500 at Darlington?

Longshots Kurt Busch and Daniel Suarez have been some of the hottest drivers in NASCAR. Over the past six races, both have one top-five finish and an average finish better than 13th. Carl Edwards won at Darlington in 2015 in the No. 19 car now driven by Suarez. That year, Kurt Busch finished sixth, adding to his series-best 131 fastest laps run at the track. 

Toyota has been on a roll of late, thanks in part to Erik Jones, who has led 279 laps (260 at Bristol) over the last six races with the sixth-best driver rating over that stretch. Jones has never raced at Darlington in the Cup Series but he did finish sixth in the Xfinity Series race there last season. 

Which drivers are best for fantasy NASCAR at Darlington?

Denny Hamlin has the best average finish at Darlington over the past 10 races at the South Carolina track (5.9). He also leads the Cup Series in average running position (8.31), driver rating (107.9), and laps in the top 15 (88.1 percent).

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch have been the best drivers this season and we expect it to continue to Sunday. They are the co-favorites but Busch has the slight advantage at Darlington with a slightly better driver rating the past six races and at Darlington. 

Darlington's abrasive track is similar to Atlanta, where Kevin Harvick won two stages earlier this season. Harvick owns a 3.2 average finish at the past four Darlington races, leading the most laps during that span. 

Looking to save salary in cash games? Draft Ryan Newman, who is tied for the most top-10 finishes at Darlington (12, Jimmie Johnson) among active drivers. Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell are also worthy of tournament lineups. 

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