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NASCAR betting: Kyle Larson is the favorite for the Darlington playoff opener

Kyle Larson has never won at Darlington but opens as the favorite for Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, USA).

The race is the first race of the 2022 Cup Series playoffs and Larson is going for back-to-back Cup Series titles. While he hasn’t won at Darlington, there’s a pretty good reason he’s the favorite. Larson has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in just nine starts. His average finish of 8.9 is second among all active Cup Series drivers.

Denny Hamlin is the No. 2 favorite at +700 and is the only driver with a better finish than Larson. Hamlin has four wins and 11 top fives and 15 top 10s in 20 starts at Darlington and his average finish is 7.8.

Hamlin was set to drive in Saturday’s Xfinity race but is skipping the race because of soreness from the big wreck that happened as rain hit at Daytona on Sunday. Christopher Bell will race in his place on Saturday.

The Cup Series playoffs feature a 16-driver field competing over four rounds and 10 races. Four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs after the first three races and a playoff driver can ensure advancement to the second round with a win in one of the first-round races.

Here’s what you need to know to bet Sunday’s race. All odds are from BetMGM.

The favorites

  • Kyle Larson (+600)

  • Denny Hamlin (+700)

  • Chase Elliott (+800)

  • Joey Logano (+800)

  • Ross Chastain (+800)

  • Tyler Reddick (+800)

Elliott has three top fives and five top 10s in 11 starts but a few wrecks have put his average finish at 17.4. Logano got his first Darlington win earlier this season and has nine top 10s in 17 starts. Chastain was third in this race a season ago and Reddick was second to Logano in the spring. He’s finished in the top 20 in five of his six Darlington starts.

DAYTONA, FL - AUGUST 28: Kyle Larson (#5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) during the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona on August 28, 2022 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson is the favorite to win the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Good mid-tier value

  • Martin Truex Jr. (+1000)

  • Christopher Bell (+1800)

Truex is at +1000 despite missing out on the playoffs thanks to 15 different winners through the first 26 races of the season. Truex’s average finish at Darlington is 11.5 and he has two wins in 20 starts. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him reel off a couple wins in the playoffs. Bell has just one top-10 finish in six Darlington starts but that came this spring when he finished sixth.

Don't bet this driver

  • Ryan Blaney (+1400)

Blaney has finished inside the top 10 just once in 11 Darlington starts. While he’s made it to the end of every Darlington race, he’s also got an average finish of 19.1.

Looking for a long shot?

  • Chris Buescher (+10000)

It’ll be a massive shock if anyone other than a playoff driver or Truex wins on Sunday. But you can do worse than a gamble on Buescher. He has two top-10 finishes in 10 starts and has finished inside the top 17 in over half of his starts.