NASCAR: 5 drivers most likely to win Darlington playoff opener

Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are scheduled to get underway at Darlington Raceway this Sunday. Who will conquer the Lady in Black?

After 26 regular season races, the NASCAR Cup Series are scheduled to begin this Sunday afternoon with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

While much of the focus will be on the 16 playoff drivers (or 17, depending on how you look at it) in this 367-lap race around the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped Darlington, South Carolina oval, this race is one of the crown jewel races on the schedule, so don’t sleep on some of the drivers who have already been eliminated either.

After all, Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones is the reigning winner of the race and a two-time Southern 500 winner overall, and he hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2020.

But among NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers, who are the favorites to open up the postseason with a victory to lock themselves into the round of 12?

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $200 for placing a $5 bet, lists Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson as co-favorites to win Sunday’s race.

It is not surprising to see Truex and Larson listed up top, considering the fact that they had arguably the two fastest cars in the May race at the track before they found themselves out of contention.

There could be some value in Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain at +950, given the fact that he undoubtedly had a top three car as well before his incident with Larson.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is the most recent winner at Darlington, as he earned the victory at the track after the aforementioned three drivers faltered. But is he capable of beating all three of them in a straight fight?

As for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, he doesn’t need much of an explanation. He is a three-time Southern 500 winner and a four-time winner at Darlington overall. He should once again be a factor.

Odds and availability subject to change. Lock in your $200 today!

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The Cook Out Southern 500 is set to be shown live on USA Network from Darlington Raceway starting at 6:00 p.m. ET this coming Sunday, September 3. If you have not yet had a chance to begin a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!