Darlington Isn't That Different From Dover
Dover was programmed by all the models to have a winner from the Hendrick Chevy gang, or maybe a top Toyota.
And chalk held, with Chase Elliott getting his first oval win in forever after starting in the +900 area. Our heaviest plays to win last week were Truex (Top 5 until the last lap tangle with Chastain), Chastain and Byron. Missed on our long shots, mostly, but made money on our Top 5 picks via the customer friendly lines at BallyBet.
Clean, single shot bet on Josh Berry to win the Xfinity race hit at +1000 and we had the best Xfinity card week of the 2022 season. Neat.
This week, most of the same factors are in play. Another midsized track, higher-banked like Dover, but asymmetric and with far bigger concerns about tire wear in past seasons.
That combo, and past results at the South Carolina track scream that it's a Kyle Larson week. This is one of his best tracks and one of his best styles of track.
Kyle Larson has never won here. But, in his last three races, he finished second all three times. Remember, he missed all three Darlington events in 2020 after saying something awful to Bubba Wallace while doing iRacing.
In the last six events, two Denny Hamlin wins, two Kevin Harvick wins, one for Truex, and one for Erik Jones.......and we'll get back to him later.
Larson opened at +600, quickly got bid up to 500 or 450 at most public books. Most of the other nerds who build sexy algos on this stuff have that price of +500 as very fair for Larson.
But, frankly, Larson is not the Larson of 2021 right now. Has he really dominated any races in 2022? He was a winner very early in the year at Fontana (Ca.), which was the only race won this year by a favorite. His best race may well have been Bristol Dirt. But assuming he will go, grab a race by the throat and run away with it is not safe.
Watch him in race, play matchups, and get him at even money for a Top 5 if you live in one of the five BallyBet states That's how we'll play him.
Behind him, Hamlin & Truex both opened at +1000 at Barstool and got bid up to the +800 area. Truex has the same bonafides here as he did for Dover, great at high tire wear tracks. Hamlin has won here four times in Cup, 5 times in Xfinity and was fast last week before losing a wheel midrace after leading a bunch of laps.
Had assumed Hamlin would get marked down for getting his crew chief suspended for that lost wheel, but the team is appealing, and they likely will have all personnel this weekend. Definite value on Hamlin this week, which also may be best played via that Bally Top 5. Best price to win is still +850 at Barstool.
Elliott has been slightly below average in his career at Darlington, with only a single Xfinity win and one Top 5 here in the last six races to show for his work. He's around +800. He is getting extra track time in Xfinity on Saturday, along with Reddick.
It's really boring & vanilla, but might be a good week for just an Any Hendrick bet. Have seen +175, but there may be a better price out there. Bowman is good here, Byron is Top 5 two of his last three Darlington appearances.
Beyond that, everyone is down on the Fords. This is one of Ryan Blaney's worst career tracks and style of track. Logano hasn't been in contention to win in recent runs here, but has pretty much locked in a Top 8 or so finish over his last four races. He's as cheap as +2000 if you can use Circa.
Kyle Busch has been competitive of late, but last won here in 2008.
Hot hand appears to be with Ross Chastain, currently fast almost every week, and this is one of his best career tracks. Best price on him is +1400 at Barstool. That is a fair price based on how good he's been. He was 3rd and 15th here last year, with laps led both times, in a car that was far from dynamic. In Xfinity, his average finish was 5.0 in two runs in 2020, and he won an Xfinity pole here in 2019. Chastain is running the Friday Trucks as well; don;'t mind him there in the +700 area.
Not auto-betting Reddick this week until his price gets out closer to +3000. He's cooled off considerably and neither Childress car seems to be working the way they did a month ago.
Sent out some DARTs to win to subscribers early this week, as we normally do. Would seek out the best prices and nibble on Chris Bell (+3500 at DK), Kurt Busch (+4000 at BS), Chase Briscoe (+4000), and Erik Jones (+5000 at CZR). Caesars also opened Chris Buescher at +12500; nibble on it if it's still there, or at least understand that he's been an automatic Top 10 of late at Darlington and won a surprising pole last week at Dover.
Erik Jones has won here before, and has to be in there with the near-weekly autobet of these mid-priced guys. This is probably his best track, and he's been a threat to win for the last two months.
READ THIS........Until last year running for a lousy Petty team (before the upgrade to Petty GMS this year), Jones had an average finish of 5.2 in his prior six races at Darlington.
He's +5000 to win, and that's way too cheap. Buy the Top 5 where available, or even the Top 10 if anyone will give it to you much cheaper than +150.
Don't be afraid of these guys priced from +2000 to 6000. Remember, even after the Elliott win at +900 at Dover, the average Cup race winner this year has paid more than +2500.
Eagerly awaiting matchups in all three series. Down on Blaney & Suarez in Cup ones for now.
Xfinity has few early values on the opening baord to win. Crowded up top now with Elliott being made a +350 huge favorite in a DaleJr. team spare car. Gragson won last year and is around +500.
Our winner last week, Josh Berry definitely more expensive around +700. He was good here last year (2nd in Xfinity Spring) and ran the whole Truck race in trash equipment for seat time. He's a guy who thrives on tire management. Will look for a good price for him on a Top 5.
Reddick is dropping down from Cup to run this one, but in lesser equipment. He & Nemechek are talented, but neither is in the best car level this week. Relatively untalented Ryan Truex may be in the best car, have generally shorted him or Drew Dollar or any irregular in the various Toyota guest star cars.
In matchups or as deep threats, I love the two Childress Chevys. Sheldon Creed moved up from Trucks to Xfinity this year. He's as cheap as +3300 at MGM, but is a cheat code here. Creed won BOTH Truck races here last season, and led the most laps in the 2020 Darlington Trucks race before being wrecked and dropping to 18th. Again, manages tire wear.
Would throw a 1/10U dart or similar at his teammate Austin Hill, who has been good here in Trucks (led laps), won an Xfinity race already this season, and had an Xfinity Top 10 here in 2020. Nibble at +4000.
Finally, in Trucks, more celebs stop by. Ross Chastain will be in what we think is good equipment, and is available as cheap as +600. Nemechek is too expensive a favorite at +350. He's been overpriced all season.
Best buy is probably defending Trucks champ Ben Rhodes at +800. Expect him to be at the front and preserve a points finish regardless. Nibble to win, heavy to buy Top 5 & matchups. Same with Zane Smith. In three races here, Rhodes has a win, a second and a wreck.
Would nibble on DARTs of Hocevar at +2500, and Kraus at +5000. Prices are all over the map, but Christian Eckes at +3000 feels really cheap. Watch him in race, especially if something happens to more obvious front-runners. Most of our work here will be on matchups, focusing on Zane Smith, Eckes, Hocevar and Kraus. Short Heim, DiBenedetto, Preece & Crafton until we see some practice/qualifying.