NASCAR Cook Out Southern 500 preview and value picks

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

September 4th, 2020

The NASCAR playoffs begin on Sunday, Sept. 6 with the first Round of 16 race at Darlington – it’s the steeped-in-tradition Cook Out Southern 500 (6:00 p.m., NBCSN). Many cars will be sporting "throwback" paint schemes, so bettors should be on the lookout for those as they follow their drivers.

Not surprisingly, both Kevin Harvick (+250) and Denny Hamlin (+275) sport very low odds for Sunday’s race at "The Lady in Black." Harvick (seven wins in 2020) won at Darlington on May 17, NASCAR’s first race following the season suspension due to COVID-19, and Hamlin (six wins in 2020) took the checkered flag here three days later.

Nascar Cup Series - Cook Out Southern 500 2020 - Winner

Sun, September 6 2020, 10:00 PM

Kevin Harvick


Denny Hamlin


Martin Truex Jr.


Kyle Busch


Chase Elliott


Brad Keselowski


Joey Logano


Aric Almirola


Erik Jones


Ryan Blaney


We’ll go looking for some value as we give out our top three plays for the Cook Out Southern 500.

Kyle Busch (+800)

After some misfortune in the pits in May 17’s race at "The Track Too Tough To Tame," Kyle Busch rebounded with a strong second-place finish here on May 20, despite causing a wreck. Discounting May 17’s result, Busch has an average finishing position of sixth in 11 races at Darlington dating back to 2010. He’s second only to Harvick in laps led among active drivers on this egg-shaped oval (716 to Harvick’s 750).

However, thanks in part to wrecking at Daytona last week, Busch will have to overcome some early traffic as he starts in 15th.

Chase Elliott (+900)

Sunday night’s pole sitter looks like the best value bet of the evening.

After finishing fourth at Darlington on May 17 (and he may have been best, but a failed pit strategy left him with too much to do late), Chase Elliott looked live again on May 20 until Kyle Busch inadvertently spun him out. Before that 38th-place result, Elliott had an average finishing position of 9.8 in his previous five races at "The Lady in Black."

The No. 9 Chevrolet driver enters the Cook Out Southern 500 with six Top 10 finishes over his last seven races.

Brad Keselowski (+1000)

It took Keselowski a few years to get good at Darlington, but now he’s a force to be reckoned with whenever the Cup Series drivers head to this historic course.

Since 2015, Keselowski has a win and an average finishing position of seventh (seven races) at "The Track Too Tough To Tame" with 376 laps led. The No. 2 Ford seems to be in the hunt in just about every race – his 19 Top 10 finishes over 26 events trail only Harvick (21).