NASCAR Betting Guide: Cook Out Southern 500

Joey Logano won in Darlington back in the spring. Can he complete the season sweep in the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs?

This week's Cook Out Southern 500 in Darlington marks the start of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The stakes have gone up, and it's noteworthy for us as bettors.

If a playoff driver wins this week, they automatically advance to the next round. We saw some bumper tag at the ends of races during the regular season, including here in Darlington.

During the postseason, we can expect even more of it.

Typically, this has led to playoff drivers monopolizing the front of the field. Part of the equation is that those are just he best drivers, but also, teams are going to dump more resources into their cars in the postseason than those on the outside looking in.

That final aspect will play a role in our thought process for this week. More on that later.

But there are betting values among playoff drivers in the NASCAR odds at FanDuel Sportsbook for Sunday's race. Which drivers are undervalued, and in which markets should we bet them?

Let's dig into that now.

Joey Logano to Win (+900); Logano to Finish Top 10 (-210)

(UPDATE: Logano has since shortened to +600 to win and -350 to finish top 10. The value is long gone at those numbers.)

As we've discussed here plenty of times, my model always loves Joey Logano. It can get a bit annoying.

But that love has honestly worked out well this season, and I'm on board with it here.

Part of the reason the model loves Logano is easy to grasp: he won the freaking race here in the spring. Sure, it required a late-race bump of William Byron, but Logano had a second-place average running position for the race. He was the only driver to post a top-five mark there.

More broadly, Logano has torched tracks with massive tire falloff. In four races between Darlington, Richmond, and Fontana, Logano's average running position is 4.8. Nobody else has a mark better than 8.0.

Logano also has a win at another intermediate track in Gateway, a spot that requires a blend of good equipment and quality skills on the brakes. Darlington checks that box, too, along with the tire falloff. Logano's runs this year say he should be among the favorites, yet he has just the seventh-shortest odds.

My model puts Logano's win odds at 12.0%, up from 10.0% implied. Check first if you can get +1000 because there are some of those lingering, but even at +900, Logano's a value.

The top-10 recommendation stems in large part from Darlington's history: it's a place where the studs rise. That wasn't as true this spring when late-race chaos allowed some mid-field cars to pop, but traditionally, the top 10 is littered with quality drivers. As such, my model has Logano's top-10 odds above his implied mark of 67.7%.

Christopher Bell to Podium (+600)

(UPDATE: Bell has since shortened to +270 to podium. I have him at 21.1%, below 27.0% implied, so the value is gone here.)

On sites where you have a ton of markets, Christopher Bell is a standout for me. I've bet him outright, in a group bet, and to finish as the top Toyota.

On FanDuel specifically, the best market for Bell is to podium at +600.

There, I've got Bell's odds at 19.2%, up from 14.3% implied. I'm also showing slight value on his top-10 odds (53.5% vs. 52.4% implied), and I'm dead even with his 5.9% win odds at +1600. So you've got options. But the podium one brings the best value.

Similar to Logano, Bell is up here thanks to what he has done on tracks with heavy tire falloff. In Fontana, all Toyotas struggled. But he was top-six in both Richmond races and in Darlington, and he won at New Hampshire, which is more of a medium-falloff track.

Bell is in the playoffs, so we've got no concerns there. In general, we should buy into Bell this week. On FanDuel specifically, this is the preferred route for doing so.

Martin Truex Jr. to Finish Top 10 (-150)

(UPDATE: Truex has since shortened to -180 to finish top 10. As we'll discuss in the next section, buddy was fast on Saturday, so I'm showing value at the new number, as well.)

Here's where things get complicated. Martin Truex Jr. failed to qualify for the playoffs, which would typically make him a crossoff.

But he's in a unique situation. We haven't seen someone this good fail to qualify for the playoffs before. And my model actually views Truex as the favorite entering the week.

The enthusiasm stems from a blend of track history and form. Truex won here last spring, leading 248 of 293 laps, one of two separate times in the past four races where he led more than half the laps. He also led 28 laps here in the first trip of 2022.

On top of that, Truex nearly won the first Richmond race, and he was superb in Nashville, another intermediate track. It's why Truex was so high in the points standings; he just never got that all-important win.

My model has Truex's win odds this week at 12.3%, up from 8.3% implied at +1100. That's long enough where I, personally, am on board with betting him. But I understand if that's not enough to sell you on him, given the odd spot he's in.

That's why the top-10 market is so attractive. Truex's implied odds here are 60.0%. That's for a guy who has had a top-10 average running position in 8 of the past 11 Darlington races, including 4 of the past 5. You don't need as much juice for this one to cash; you just need a typical Truex run.

So, it depends on how you're viewing things. If you think four percentage points of value is enough to erase the playoff concerns, bet Truex outright. If not, get exposure to him via this more relaxed market.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Martin Truex Jr. to Win (+1300)

I wanted to hold off on this. But Truex forced my hand by putting up blistering speed in practice, and with his odds lengthened, I'm now in.

Truex's win odds did decrease a bit in my model, down to 12.0%. But that's still well above his implied mark of 7.1%.

Truex had the second-best five-lap average and led the field in 10-lap average. He'll start 17th, but that's not a huge impediment in such a long race. Even with no playoffs on the line, I'm willing to bet Truex's outright here.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Aric Almirola to Finish Top 10 (+850)

Aric Almirola wasn't fast on Saturday, but he also wasn't out to lunch. He qualified 22nd, was 16th in 5-lap average, and his 10-lap average seemed tainted by a slow lap. That's fine enough for us to bet him in a forgiving market.

Almirola hasn't excelled at Darlington long-term. But he has had a top-13 average running position in 5 of 6 races since the start of 2020, including a 13th-place mark earlier this year. He just missed a top-10 there in 11th.

Almirola has also been very good on the tracks with heavy tire falloff this year. His 14.5 average running position in those races ranks 12th among all drivers, and the drivers ahead of him are all +5000 or shorter to win. Almirola is +20000.

My model typically hates longshot top-10 bets at Darlington, but it's showing good value on Almirola. He's 22.4% for me versus 10.5% implied, making this a good exception to the rule.