Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Erik Jones
- The famed Bojangles Southern 500 starts at 6 p.m. ET and is the second-to-last NASCAR race of the regular season.
- Darlington Raceway is a steep track with an asphalt surface, which will change in temperature and impact racing as the sun sets.
- Erik Jones has a top-10 starting position and an undervalued chance of winning the race at +2250 odds.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has one of its crown jewel races Sunday: The Bojangles Southern 500. Darlington Raceway is an egg-shaped, highly banked 1.366-mile oval where tire and car management are key. Because the optimal racing line is in close proximity to the wall, cars will frequently tag the wall in what’s known as the “Darlington Stripe,” and hits that are too hard can cause a higher incident rate than we see at most tracks.
Because the race starts in the early evening and moves into night, the asphalt track will undergo heavy changes. Some cars that start the race fast may end up struggling as the sun sets, and vice versa. As a result, my machine learning model de-emphasizes practice times that were put down in the heat of the day and instead relies on a heavy dose of track history. The top factors in my model include:
- Quality pass percentage at past Darlington races.
- Driver rating, finishing position and fastest laps over the past 15 races.
- Year-to-date laps led and fastest laps for top-tier drivers to determine race-leading potential.
I also use the RotoViz Driver Sim Scores to gauge race-winning upside.
As always, make sure you shop around for the best lines.