We now have three NASCAR drivers in the Monster Energy Cup Series with 4 wins apiece, and they all belong to Team Joe Gibbs.
The Virginia boy Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag two weeks ago at the night race in the border town of Bristol.
It took a late pass to do it but Denny showed his experience over Matt Dibenedetto.
I gotta say, the man knows how to celebrate.
He has heart too, even getting choked up talking about it. There’s no secret Matt needed the win much more than him but as he says here, you have to give it 110% for your team.
After a week off, the NASCAR Monster Energy Series convoys into Darlington, South Carolina for another late evening under the lights.
We are officially just two races away from the playoffs, so the bubble watch is in full view and will likely affect our betting choices.
NASCAR has 16 spots available with several drivers hovering around that mark with just a few points separating one from the others. Let’s briefly identify each bubble driver’s chances and theorize their likely strategy going into this Sunday’s race in Darlington.
- There have been 24 races and the current driver ranked 16th in the standings has nearly 600 points.
- That comes out to these mid-tier finishers acquiring about 25 points per weekly start.
- It should be noted that if you win, you’re in!
#20 Chris Buescher
- He will need just that. Buescher is sitting at 506 and it would take not one but two perfect storms in 2 weeks to get him there.
- Chris has just three starts here but has an average finish 10 cars ahead of his average starting position. Going from 25th to 15th just won’t be enough, though.
#19 Paul Menard
- Currently 71 points under the cut line, it’s likely going to take a win for Paul as well.
- The former brickyard 400 winner has the experience and craft to do it, so we can’t completely count him out.
- Although, it probably won’t happen this week as he has failed to snag a top ten finish in 12 years of racing at Darlington.
#18 Jimmie Johnson
- The seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion is just 26 points outside of the playoffs. He doesn’t necessarily need a win but it sure would calm the old man’s nerves.
- He was running great last week until Bristol did what Bristol does as the track got the best of a less experienced driver and he was smacked around because of it.
- There are only a combined 9 wins for active drivers at Darlington and the #48 car owns 3 of them. Nine top 5s in 20 races as well…
#17 Clint Bowyer
- From one old man to the next, Clint Bowyer is just 2 points out of it!
- I’m not sure if we should bet on him as he will probably be playing things safe this week with atrocious track history.
- One top ten finish in 13 starts.
#16 Daniel Suarez
- With two veterans approaching his bumper, I expect the young man from Monterrey, Mexico to heavy on the Sunoco button.
- He has yet to figure out Darlington Raceway, though, with just two starts and an average finish of 34th.
#15 Ryan Newman
- The vet from South Bend is 14 above the cut line as of today and has quite the stellar track history.
- 13 top tens, 7 of which are top-fives in 20 races.
- I expect a calculated fairly conservative approach from the #6 Ford.
#14 Erik Jones
- In my opinion, this guy is a future star in the Monster Energy Cup Series.
- He would like to have been a bit higher in the standings at this point.
- He has more top-five finishes (8) on the season than seven drivers ahead of him in the standings.
- 2 starts here. 8th and 5th place finishes.
- 8 top fives and zero wins are almost bad juju heading into the playoffs so he could very well be gunning it to get that macaque off his back before the postseason begins.
We Are Throwing It Back
It’s Throwback Weekend in Darlington!
All the way back to the 90s…
Okay, I’m feeling old now.
Let’s start with 1990 and “The Intimidator”
Drivers and teams will coat their rides with paint schemes honoring those that laid the rubber before them.
Am I the only one who has the urge to eat at a brown McDonalds, burn my rear end on a sun-drenched aluminum slide, and ease my pain with fresh Winston?
Okay. I guess I put one too many ‘member berries in my smoothie this morning.
Let’s get to our picks!
Denny Hamlin: +600
Why not, right?
The #11 FedEx Toyota is arguably driving better in the past couple of months than he has in his entire career.
6 straight top-fives is not to be ignored.
While some drivers as high in the standings as he is with a playoff spot locked up may put ‘er on cruise for the next couple of weeks, I don’t see it or recommend such a strategy for Hamlin.
As a bettor, you know how to ride a hot streak; hopefully not into the dirt but just long enough.
There’s not many invisible forces stronger on this earth than ol’ mo, and Denny and Team Joe Gibbs would be fools to let off the gas pedal this late in the season.
What about track history?
Well, Darlington Raceway is statistically Hamlin’s favorite nationwide with an average finishing position of 6.2.
13 starts, 11 top tens, 7 top fives, and 2 victories.
He has the opportunity to win his fifth race of the year and leads all of his colleagues in victories this season.
I’m with Hamlin.
Erik Jones: +1200
Along with Hamlin and Kyle Larson, Eri Jones is one of only three active drivers with an average finishing position (6.5) in the top ten.
He only has a couple of races here but I feel like I’m giving you guys these same stats for Erik on nearly every track.
His team is clearly dominating the circuit in 2019.
With the addition of Martin Truex Jr and the resurgence of Hamlin, the team has a dozen wins having taken half of the checkered flags all year.
This has vastly overshadowed a breakout year for the young driver from Michigan.
I mentioned above some of the incredible numbers he has been able to put up but even more eye-opening is that he is yet to get a win.
It almost happened last week.
Before Hamlin passed Dibenedetto, the latter boogited his way ahead of Jones late in the race.
The stage is set for Erik to secure his first victory of the season and make it an even baker’s dozen for Team Joe Gibbs in 2019.
Kyle Busch: +500
Sticking with Gibbs, again!
Call me a frontrunner if you will but the dominance of the former multiple-time Super Bowl-winning coach is undeniable.
I’m a Redskins fan. What can I say?
Kyle Busch already has more wins (4) than I’m expecting from my football team this season, so I have to get my joy from somewhere.
In the case of this pick, it’s not favoritism whatsoever.
The Las Vegas is way down on the list of my favorite drivers but he has had a great year even though he hasn’t had a win since Memorial Day.
Usually, the NASCAR betting sites have his odds are (+275) to (+350) so even though there are drivers like Truex Jr at (+600), I love the value we are getting here with the #18.
In 6 fewer races, Kyle has led more laps here than Jimmie Johnson and is first overall on the list with nearly 600.
Yes, it’s been three months since his last victory but no driver has more than him on the season, and 20 top tens in 24 starts are helmet and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Throwing it back!
I just get all up in my feels when I think about the 90s.
I was 8 years old, the age of self-actualization, in 1990 and graduated high school in the year 2000.
To me, it was the last great decade for music, easily the last one for movies, and I’m not one of those guys who peaked in high school.
I’m still working my way up, so…
The 90s were definitely the last great decade for NASCAR.
After the “Man In Black” hit the wall in turn four at Daytona, it was all downhill from there.
Jeff Gordon, a squeaky clean and whiny-voiced man from Indiana who drove a rainbow-colored car, dominated NASCAR until Jimmie Johnson from clean across the country in California won seven titles.
Popularity has declined over the years as the interest in the NFL grew. Along with that, the increase in ticket and concession prices pushed out the lower to middle-class citizens who loved this sport so much.
That’s why a throwback weekend in the heart of the South means as much as it does.
It’s still preseason in the NFL. Nobody cares.
Tune in to the race. You get the sun, golden hour, and some bumping under the lights!