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1st NASCAR night race is Saturday in Darlington
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 4/12/2014  at  3:52:00 AM
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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Bojangles' Southern 500

Saturday, April 12 – 6:30 p.m. ET
Darlington Raceway – Darlington, SC

For the first time this season, NASCAR takes its show to the evening hours with Saturday’s Bojangles' Southern 500 race under the lights at Darlington Raceway. Nicknamed the "Lady in Black" and "The Track Too Tough to Tame" by many NASCAR fans, this egg-shaped oval track has been around since 1950. It measures 1.366 miles with a frontstretch equidistant to the backstretch (1,229 feet or 0.23 miles) both containing a small amount (six degrees) of banking. Turns 1 and 2 are banked at 25° and 23° respectively. The defending champion of this race is Matt Kenseth, who is looking to be the first back-to-back Darlington winner since Greg Biffle in 2005 and 2006.

Odds to Win Race

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Jimmie Johnson5-to-1
Kyle Busch7-to-1
Brad Keselowski7-to-1
Matt Kenseth7-to-1
Kevin Harvick7-to-1
Jeff Gordon8-to-1
Denny Hamlin8-to-1
Joey Logano12-to-1
Kasey Kahne15-to-1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.15-to-1
Carl Edwards20-to-1
Clint Bowyer20-to-1
Tony Stewart25-to-1
Greg Biffle25-to-1
Kurt Busch25-to-1
Kyle Larson30-to-1
Brian Vickers30-to-1
Ryan Newman40-to-1
Martin Truex Jr.60-to-1
Paul Menard75-to-1
A.J. Allmendinger100-to-1
Casey Mears100-to-1
Danica Patrick100-to-1
FIELD (Any other driver)100-to-1
Marcos Ambrose100-to-1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.100-to-1
Aric Almirola100-to-1
Jamie McMurray100-to-1
Austin Dillon100-to-1
Justin Allgaier100-to-1

Drivers to Watch

Denny Hamlin (8/1) - Hamlin has been outstanding at Darlington in his career, carrying a stellar 5.4 average finish in eight starts, which is by far the best mark among active drivers (Jimmie Johnson's 8.8 is second). Not only did Hamlin win at this track in 2010, but he has banged out three runner-ups in 2007, 2012 and last year. Hamlin has also done a nice job of giving himself advantageous starting positions with a pole, 2nd and 6th in his past three races, and this is important for Saturday's race because 86% of Darlington winners have started from the top-10 spots. Hamlin is the most valuable chalk on the board this weekend, and is our pick to bring home his second career Darlington victory.

Tony Stewart (25/1) - Stewart carried 8-to-1 odds in this race two years ago, and he's getting more than three times that for the second straight Darlington start. "Smoke" began the season slowly, but is starting to get his groove back with a 9.0 average finish in his past four races and an average start of 6.0 in his past three, including last week's pole in Fort Worth. Stewart has yet to win in his 21 starts at the "Lady in Black," but he does have the 5th-best average finish (12.0) among active drivers here. Stewart has tallied 11 top-10's and four top-5's at Darlington, including a 3rd, 7th and 3rd in three of his past five starts. He's also led at this track in three of his past five starts. Throw a small wager down on Stewart as the best darkhorse on the board.

Jeff Gordon (8/1) - The other chalk pick on the board that is worthy of a wager is Gordon, the seven-time Darlington winner. In addition to those seven wins, he has 12 other top-5's at this track, giving him an average finish of 11.5 in his career at Darlington. This isn't all ancient history either, as Gordon has finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd in six of his past 10 starts at the "Lady in Black," including a third-place showing last year. And no racer has been as consistent as the 42-year-old Gordon this season. He sits atop the points standings by finishing no worse than 13th in all seven races in 2014, including leading at least four laps in three of those starts.

Carl Edwards (20/1) - An undervalued darkhorse pick this week is Edwards, who went off at 10-to-1 at Darlington last year, and carries a strong 12.5 average finish at this track, good for 7th among active drivers. Edwards has never won at this venue, but he does have top-7 finishes in six of his 10 career starts, including three in a row. The No. 99 car is also off to a fast start this season with four top-10's in the first seven races to put Edwards third in the current points standings. All of this makes him worthy of a one-unit wager on Saturday night.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (100/1) - Another driver whose odds have doubled since last year is Stenhouse Jr., who went off at 50-to-1 in the 2013 Bojangles' Southern 500. Stenhouse has been scuffling since his runner-up finish in Bristol on March 16, placing 34th, 40th and 26th last week in Texas. He doesn't have much history at Darlington, with his first career start coming last year when he started 14th and finished 18th. But for all the drivers with triple-digit odds, Stenhouse appears to be the only longshot worth consideration for Saturday.

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