The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season continues on this weekend with the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. This track is one of the most unique on the circuit as it is 1.366 miles in length and kind of egg shaped. The two turns are very different. This makes it hard to really have any comparable tracks to analyze data with, although you can kind of throw in the “high-wear” tracks–Atlanta, Homestead, and Auto Club–as well as the intermediates as a whole, but really Darlington is quite unique. Also, NASCAR decided to run the 750 hp package this weekend, which is typically only ran at road courses and tracks 1 mile or less in length, so there’s another curveball for us.

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Pre-Race Loop Data Box Score for Darlington

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The Favorites

Denny Hamlin Smiling on Pit Road at Martinsville
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kyle Larson – Yeah… he’s that fast on intermediates this year. In case the Las Vegas and Atlanta races didn’t have you convinced, Kyle Larson went out and dominated at Kansas last week as well before that whole race went to shit. At Darlington, Larson obviously didn’t race here last season, but he has finished 3rd or better in three of his last four starts here in Chip Ganassi equipment, and you know the rule by now: if Larson was good in that car, he’s going to be great in his Hendrick car. Looking at the three races here from 2016 to 2018 when the cars had low downforce, Larson averaged 51.3 fastest laps and 151 laps led per race.

Denny Hamlin – Only two active drivers have more than one career win at Darlington Raceway, and those two are Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. We all know how much Harvick is struggling right now (well, to his 2020 standards anyway) but Hamlin’s #11 Toyota is running perfectly fine–unless, of course, he gets to the lead and then pisses down his leg. Anyway, DH has five top 5 finishes in the last eight Darlington Cup Series races and has been great in all three 750 hp races this season as well. Just like we’ve been saying since the Daytona 500, it’s only a matter of time before Hamlin finds victory lane…

Martin Truex, Jr. – Surprisingly, Martin Truex, Jr. is still searching for his first top 5 finish at Darlington while with Joe Gibbs Racing. Granted, that is only four races, and he did get a win here in 2016 with the quasi-JGR of Furniture Row Racing, but still noteworthy. Anyway, Truex has definitely been one of, if not the fastest cars with the 750 hp package this year, and the last time we raced at Darlington, he won the first two Stages and led 196 laps before that little incident with Chase Elliott happened with 15 laps to go. In case you forget, there’s video below. Anyway, Truex should be a race contender here on Sunday and has decent betting value at +750.

Underdogs

Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman racing side by side at Homestead-Miami Speedway 2021
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kurt Busch – It’s been a while since Kurt Busch has had a good finish. In fact, it’s been since Homestead back in February since he had a top 10 result. But the good news? Kurt is really good at Darlington, and in the two “high-wear” races this year, he finished 8th (Homestead) and was challenging inside the top 5 before getting wrecked at Atlanta. Looking specifically at Darlington, Kurt Busch has finished 8th or better in six of his last eight starts here. Surprisingly, he’s never won in 26 total attempts at “The Lady in Black,” but Kurt has been a great fantasy play here over the last five years or so. He’s struggling this season, there’s no doubt about that, but Darlington is one of those tracks where driver talent comes into play more than usual. Don’t be surprised if Kurt gets his season back on track this weekend.

Austin Dillon – I’ll give credit where credit is due: Austin Dillon is pretty good at this race track. He finished a career-best 2nd here last September, and in nine career starts at “The Lady in Black,” AD has finished 12th or better in six of them. The other three finishes? A 16th, a 20th, and a 22nd. In addition to his track record here, Austin Dillon is actually putting together a really good 2021 season, with five top 10s through the first eleven races and only three results outside of the top 15. I’m not sure Austin has legitimate top 5 potential here on Sunday but a top 10 is definitely attainable.

Chris Buescher – At Kansas last week, Chris Buescher had a pretty wild ending to that race, as he kind of got screwed with NASCAR’s race manipulation of the tire caution, but then somehow lucked his way into an 8th-place finish. He also had a great car at Homestead this year–led 57 laps but fell off majorly in the final stage to finish 19th–and came home 7th at Atlanta in March. Here at Darlington, Buescher has struggled a bit with his Roush-Fenway team, but before he came to RFR he had four straight finishes between 12th and 17th at “The Lady in Black.” With how this team is running this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Buescher got back to that form on Sunday.

Darlington Goodyear 400 Betting Odds

As of Wednesday morning, DraftKings Sportsbook had the following odds listed to win Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway.

  • Kyle Larson +450
  • Denny Hamlin +600
  • Kevin Harvick +700
  • Martin Truex, Jr. +750
  • Kyle Busch +800
  • Brad Keselowski +900
  • Chase Elliott +1000
  • Joey Logano +1400
  • William Byron +1600
  • Ryan Blaney +2000
  • Alex Bowman +2000
  • Christopher Bell +2500
  • Kurt Busch +3500
  • Matt DiBenedetto +4000
  • Tyler Reddick +4000
  • Austin Dillon +5000
  • Aric Almirola +8000
  • Erik Jones +8000
  • Chris Buescher +10000
  • Cole Custer +12500
  • Daniel Suarez +12500
  • Michael McDowell +15000
  • Ryan Newman +15000
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. +15000
  • Bubba Wallace +15000
  • Ross Chastain +20000
  • Chase Briscoe +25000
  • Ryan Preece +30000
  • Anthony Alfredo +75000
  • Corey LaJoie +75000
  • Justin Haley +100000
  • Quin Houff +150000
  • Cody Ware +150000
  • Josh Bilicki +150000
  • James Davison +150000
  • BJ McLeod +150000
  • JJ Yeley +150000
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.