2012 NASCAR Bojangles’ Southern 500
Darlington Raceway – Darlington, South Carolina
1.366 mile oval – 25/23 degree banking
Saturday, May 12, 2012, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
Defending Champion: Regan Smith
All odds courtesy of Bovada
It is somewhat appropriate that NASCAR makes it’s annual trip to Darlington on Mother’s Day weekend. The track is NASCAR’s oldest, even older than Daytona or Talladega. The track is affectionately known as The Lady in Black, but it is one of the trickiest tracks in NASCAR.
Here is a look at some of the contenders and their odds courtesy of Bovada. Also, here is the complete list of the starting grid.
Jimmie Johnson (11/2)
Johnson was edged out for the pole by Greg Biffle during qualifying yesterday. He dropped to 8th in the points after engine problems caused him to finish 35th last week at Talladega. He hasn’t won this season, but Johnson has 4 top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s this season in 10 starts. He has 2 wins in his career at Darlington, but both came in 2004. He has 4 other top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s in 13 career starts at Darlington. Johnson can win any race he enters, but since a runner up in 2009, he hasn’t finished higher than 15th in the subsequent 2 races at Darlington.
Greg Biffle (6/1)
Biffle not only won the pole for this race, but leads the point standings by a narrow margin over Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Biffle has one win at Texas this season,along with 5 other top 5’s and a top 10. He has finished third in the last 3 races this season. Biffle has not finished lower than 18th in any race this season. Biffle has 2 wins at Darlington in 2005 and 2006, along with 3 other top 10’s in 11 starts at the track.
Carl Edwards (8/1)
Edwards qualified 7th at Darlington. He is 11th in points this season with 2 top 5’s and 4 other top 10’s in ten races this season. Apart from a 39th at Bristol and a 31st last week at Talladega, Edwards hasn’t finished lower than 17th in any race. Edwards is very consistent but racks up top 10’s more than wins. He has never won at Darlington, but does have 3 top 5’s in his last 5 races here, including 2 runner-ups. Edwards has 2 other top ten’s in 8 career starts. Edwards could break through this week for his first win at the Lady in Black.
Denny Hamlin (8/1)
Hamlin qualified 8th this week. Hamlin is 4th in points this season with wins at Phoenix and Kansas. He also has two other top 5’s and another top 10. He had his worst finish of the year last week at Talladega with a 23rd place finish. Hamlin has never finished lower than 13th in six career starts at Darlington. He won this race in 2010 and has another top 5, and 3 top 10’s. Hamlin is my pick to win the race.
Kyle Busch (8/1)
The younger Busch brother qualified 5th for Darlington. He is 9th in points this season after a rocky start to the season. Busch has a win at Richmond, along with runner-ups at California and Talladega. Busch also has 2 other top 10’s. Busch won at Darlington in 2008, and also has 2 seventh place finishes in 7 career starts here. He has also had two 34th or worse finishes at the track, so the results have been mixed. He seems to be hitting his stride this season, so he should contend barring engine problems or an accident.
Kevin Harvick (10/1)
Harvick qualified 23rd this season. Harvick is 5th in points. He has top 5’s at Phoenix and California, and 3 other top 10’s this season. He has struggled recently with a 19th at Richmond, and a 25th at Talladega. Harvick has never won in 15 career starts at Darlington. He has 2 top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s at the track. He only has one top 10 in his last seven starts at Darlington. I don’t see him contending this week, given his struggles at the track recently.
Tony Stewart (11/1)
The defending Sprint Cup champion is currently 7th in points. He has wins at Las Vegas and California, along with a third place finish at Richmond. He also has a top 10 at Martinsville. Darlington is one of the few tracks that “Smoke” doesn’t have a victory. He has 3 top 5’s and 7 other top 10’s at Darlington in 19 career starts. Stewart has top 10’s in 3 of his last 5 starts at Darlington. Stewart can win any race he enters, but I don’t think he will be there at the end this week. Stewart qualified 17th this week.
Jeff Gordon (12/1)
Gordon has struggled, to say the least, through the first 10 races of the season. He is in 23rd place in the standings. He only has a top 5 at Texas and a top 10 at Phoenix this season. Outside of top 15’s at Las Vegas and Martinsville, every other start has ended with a 21st or worst finish. A trip to Darlington might just be what Gordon needs to turn his season around. In 31 career starts at Darlington, Gordon has 7 wins, 11 top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s. A 12th place finish last year broke a string of 7 straight top 5’s at the track. Gordon is definitely worth a play at this track, one of his favorites. He qualified 12th.
Kasey Kahne (12/1)
Kahne got off to a rocky start this season with no finish higher than 14th in his first 6 races. However, Kahne seemingly has righted the ship with top 10’s in his last 4 starts, and top 5’s in the last two weeks at Richmond and Talladega. Kahne qualified 3rd at Darlington. He has 3 top 5’s in 9 career starts at Darlington. He finished 4th last year at Darlington, breaking a streak of 5 straight 20th or worst finishes.
Brad Keselowski (14/1)
Keselowski is 12th in points this season. He has wins at Bristol and Talladega, a top 5 at Phoenix, and top 10’s at Martinsville and Richmond. So why is he only in 12th place in the standings? Three finishes of 32nd or worse this season have dropped him in the points. Keselowski is very young but also very talented. He needs to be more consistent. Keselowski qualified 15th. He finished third last year in this race and also has a 12th and a 7th in three career starts at the track. He certainly could win, but he is too unpredictable this season.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (14/1)
Earnhardt qualified 24th at Darlington. He is third in the points standings only 9 points behind Biffle. In ten races, Earnhardt hasn’t finished lower than 15th. He has 4 top 5’s and4 other top 10’s. He is still searching for his first win since 2008, but as well as he is running this season, it is only just a matter of time before he gets that monkey off his back. It could happen this week at Darlington. Although he has never won at the track, he has 3 top 5’s and 4 top 10’s. Earnhardt has struggled in his last 3 starts at the track with 14th, 18th, and 27th place finishes recently.
Martin Truex, Jr. (16/1)
Truex qualified 6th this week. He is also sixth in the points with 3 top 5’s and 3 other top 10’s in 10 races this season. He has had disappointing finishes at Richmond (25th) and Talladega (28th) the last two weeks. Truex has 2 top 10’s in six career starts at Darlington. He finished 6th in 2009, but has never finished lower than 19th at the track.
Matt Kenseth (16/1)
Kenseth qualified 19th this week. He is second in points only 7 behind Biffle. Kenseth has a win at Daytona, and 5 other top 5’s this season. He had a 22nd place finish at Las Vegas but every other start has been 16th or better. He has 4 top 5’s in his last 5 races, including a 3rd at Talladega last week. He has struggled a little at Darlington with only one top 5 and 6 other 10 tens in 18 career starts at the track. He finished 25th last week. I don’t see Kenseth contending this week.
Ryan Newman (20/1)
Newman qualified 4th at Darlington. He is 13th in points. Newman has a win at Martinsville, a top 5 at Vegas, and a top 10 at California. He finished 36th at Talladega last week, but every other start has finished 21st or better. Newman has never won at Darlington but does have 7 top 5’s and 2 other top 10’s in 13 career starts at the track. H has top 10’s in 7 of his last 8 Darlington starts. Newman could be a nice semi-dark horse.
Here is a complete list of the odds to win the race courtesy of Bovada.
Danica Patrick is making her second career Sprint Cup start after the Daytona 500. She took a provisional and was to start 38th. However, she scraped the wall during practice and did some damage to the side of the car. If she has to go to the back-up car, she will have to start from the back of the field. Patrick is 300/1 if you like super longshots.