We know that Daytona International Speedway is made for surprises and we got one last weekend when William Byron finished the regular season with a win and left no doubt about his Cup Championship Playoffs worthiness. We’ll see how he and the other 15 drivers start the Round of 16 with this week’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC.

This is the first of 10 races that will decide a champion. After each set of three, the field will lose four drivers until we get to the championship, which is now at ISM Raceway, formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway, in Avondale, Arizona.

Only 16 drivers are eligible for the Championship, but all of these are still full-field races, so guys not in the playoffs will be racing for dollars.

Let’s break it all down for you, including the Cup Championship Playoffs odds, for the Cook Out Southern 500 with the help of MyBookie Sportsbook:



Kevin Harvick has been the best and most consistent driver all season long and he is the +200 favorite. This is also a great year for the final to be at ISM Raceway because Harvick is the best active driver at that track. Denny Hamlin has also been extremely fast and consistent this season and he checks in at +300.

It is important to understand the format here. Harvick is starting the Round of 16 with 2,057 points Hamlin has 2,047. The bonus points accumulated during the course of the regular season are applied at the start of each round. The 16 playoff drivers had their points totals reset to 2,000 and then the bonus points were added.

With a big head start, guys like Harvick and Hamlin are basically locks to make it into at least the next round and likely the next two rounds. The same applies for guys like Brad Keselowski, who accumulated 29 bonus points and Joey Logano and Chase Elliott, who accumulated 22 and 20 bonus points, respectively.

Every playoff driver except for Matt DiBenedetto accumulated at least one bonus point.

Drivers that win a race during a round automatically advance.

Now, with those odds listed and the particulars out of the way, let’s look at this week’s Cook Out Southern 500:

Kevin Harvick +275
Denny Hamlin +300
Martin Truex Jr +650
Brad Keselowski +1000
Chase Elliott +1000
Kyle Busch +1200
Ryan Blaney +1600
Joey Logano +1600
Kurt Busch +1800
Erik Jones +2000
Aric Almirola +2500
Alex Bowman +2500
Jimmie Johnson +3300
Tyler Reddick +3300
Clint Bowyer +4000
William Byron +4000
Matt DiBenedetto +5000
Cole Custer +8000
Christopher Bell +8000
Matt Kenseth +10000
Austin Dillon +10000
Ryan Newman +15000
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +25000
Chris Buescher +30000
Bubba Wallace +40000
John Hunter Nemechek +50000
Ty Dillon +75000
Brennan Poole +100000
Michael McDowell +100000
Daniel Suarez +100000
Ryan Preece +200000
Corey Lajoie +300000
Josh Bilicki +300000
JJ Yeley +300000
Timmy Hill +400000
Reed Sorenson +400000
Quin Houff +400000
Joey Gase +400000
James Davison +400000

This is a recurring theme for the season, but Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are the two best active drivers at Darlington. Harvick leads all active drivers with 10 top-five finishes. Hamlin has nine. Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson at the winningest drivers at Darlington with three apiece, but, as we know, most of Johnson’s good numbers came a long time ago.

Hamlin has his nine top-five finishes in just 16 races. Brad Keselowski has five in his 13 starts at this track. A guy that has run surprisingly well here is Erik Jones. Jones only has five starts, but he has a win and three top-five finishes. When you consider that somebody like Martin Truex Jr. only has two top-five finishes in 16 races, that magnifies just how impressive the runs at Darlington have been for Jones. Chase Elliott has two top-five finishes in six races.

The only active drivers with wins here are Johnson, Hamlin, Harvick, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Truex Jr. Truex has actually accumulated 83 points over his last three Darlington starts, so he didn’t have much success early in his career in the Palmetto State, but he seems to have found the right racing line recently. Only Harvick and Hamlin have more points over the last three races. Surprise, surprise, right?

If we extend to the last four races, that brings Jones into second place in points accumulated, but that win certainly heps in that department.

The fact of the matter is that Harvick has 55 more points than any other driver over the last 10 Darlington races. Like seeming every other race this season, it is his to lose. Hamlin is one point better than Busch, who is then followed by Truex over the last 10. Harvick seems like the best hope for somebody other than a Toyota to win. You also may want to look at a Toyota as the winning manufacturer prop or something like that.

This probably ends up being a chalky race. If it doesn’t, then you have to respect what Jones has done here and consider him. Alex Bowman has quietly run well here, but he hasn’t had much success recently. Clint Bowyer is another guy that seems to be sneaky competitive in races like this.


Harvick and Hamlin. Lather, rinse repeat. I’d be surprised if anybody outside of those two wins Sunday’s race. If you want to get frisky with Jones or somebody like that, you can. Everybody wants to hit the big long shots, but the fact of the matter is that this season’s two most reliable drivers happen to be the two best drivers in the field here.

That said, 40/1 on Clint Bowyer is a ridiculous price for a very good driver. I think he’s worth a look at that price point and in matchups.

Coverage of the Cook Out Southern 500 will be on Sunday afternoon at 6:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports.