NASCAR Betting Guide: Cook Out Southern 500

Denny Hamlin is a three-time winner in Darlington and has been knocking on the door of a win all year long. Can he finally get the job done in the Cook Out Southern 500?

This week in Darlington, we'll finally find out how much the summer months actually mattered.

Hendrick Motorsports littered victory lane from June through August. Across the past 14 points-paying races, Hendrick drivers won 8 times, flexing muscle at every track type.

Although the kinds of tracks differed, they all had one similarity: none of them are tracks the Cup Series will run during the playoffs. The last time the Cup Series was on a playoff track was all the way back in May when they ran Darlington, the same race where they will begin the playoffs this week.

So, our question is how much stock we put into the past few months. Do we assume that Hendrick's hot hand will translate, or could we see a resurgence for Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, and possibly even Stewart-Haas Racing?

Luckily for us, there are ways to navigate around both outcomes based on the odds this week at NASCAR odds. I'm personally inclined to bet on things evening out, but we can still get some value in the Hendrick stable, as well.

Let's run through the best bets for Sunday's Cook Out Southern 500.

Denny Hamlin to Win (+800)

My win simulations see a tier of three drivers at the top: Kyle Larson (+310 outright), Martin Truex Jr. (+550), and Denny Hamlin. Larson and Truex have implied odds of and 24.4% and 15.4%, respectively, and I can't quite get there. Hamlin at 11.1% is a different story.

My simulations have Hamlin winning 12.5% of the time, a nice edge for someone at such a short number. It's a hefty amount higher than his teammate, Kyle Busch (+650), making a head-to-head bet of Hamlin over Busch at -102 super attractive.

The sims are high on Hamlin for two reasons. First, his form is great, specifically on those aforementioned playoff tracks. In four playoff tracks using this 750-horsepower package, Hamlin has had a top-four average running position each time. If you include the Bristol dirt race and look at all eight ovals using this package, Hamlin's 525 laps led rank third behind just Truex and Larson. Even with no wins, he's constantly in contention.

Second, Hamlin has great history in Darlington. He's a three-time winner here, one of which came last year. He has had a top-nine average running position in 13 of the past 14 races, a streak that spans back to 2010.

If we're hand-ranking drivers, you're going to put Larson and Truex above Hamlin. They've shown the ability to finish the job in this package this year while Hamlin hasn't. But +800 is a great number for someone who has been close so many times.

Joey Logano to Win (+1800)

If the Cup Series is at a 750-horsepower oval, my win simulations will show value on Joey Logano. It is law. This week is no different.

Logano enters the weekend ranked fifth in projected average running position, largely thanks to what he has done at 750 tracks with playoff representation. In those four races, his average running positions have been second, eighth, third, and sixth. He led 143 laps and nearly won Phoenix, and he was on the podium in Richmond after leading 49 laps.

Darlington wasn't as stellar as Logano finished 13th. His average running position was sixth, though, and he finished third in this race last year. Logano has a runner-up to his name here back in 2018, so he can contend for wins.

If you're skeptical Logano has the upside to win, you can snag his podium market at +500. I buy into what the sims are saying, though, so I'll dive into the outright at +1800.

Alex Bowman to Podium (+650)

Similar to Logano, you could justify going with either the outright (+2100) or the podium on Alex Bowman. It's just harder for me to envision Bowman knocking off both Larson and Truex, pushing me to settle for the podium.

The counterargument to this is obvious: Bowman has already beaten them in this package this year. Twice. He won in both Richmond and Dover, and Richmond is one of the tracks with playoff representation. This allows us to get exposure to Hendrick without ignoring a potential playoff up-tick for other teams.

Richmond is also key because it's a track with heavy tire falloff. Bowman has historically done well on those tracks, winning in Fontana last year and finishing second in last year's first Darlington race.

Bowman's implied podium odds are just 13.3%. That's a great number relative to his 4.5% implied win odds. I'm more than happy to take on the increased flexibility and bet him to podium.

Christopher Bell to Win Group Three (+230)

I want a way to get financial exposure to Christopher Bell this week. Bell ranks sixth among all drivers in aggregate average running position at tracks with playoff representation, and he has excelled in the 750-horsepower package.

The best route for betting Bell seems to be in this group.

My simulations are big into Bell, who has an average projected finish of 10.7. That towers above the other drivers in this group.

Group ThreeProj. FinishOdds to Win Group
Christopher Bell10.7+230
Tyler Reddick14.4+230
Matt DiBenedetto15.2+300
Austin Dillon15.5+270

It's possible they're overestimating Bell, but his record backs it up. His average finish in the non-dirt oval races to run this rules package is 9.4, including a pair of top-5 finishes and 5 top-10s across 7 races.

Bell's a sneaky threat to win a race this round with all three races being on 750-horsepower tracks. My sims don't show much value in his +3500 outright, but asking him to beat just these three drivers seems like a much more reasonable feat.