After a week off, the last Cup series race feels like ages ago. The drivers are coming off a vacation rested and ready for the final two races of the regular season. The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway represents one of only two remaining chances for an outside driver to win and lock in a spot for the playoffs. Will an outsider claim a spot in the postseason, or will the domination of a few familiar names continue?
First, the favorites:
Martin Truex Jr.:
Truex Jr. won at Darlington last year and has been dominating this season. He has four wins and a 100 point lead over second place.
Speaking of second place, Kyle Busch has been on an absolute tear lately. His weekend sweep of Bristol was his second cup win in three weeks. He finished with the fastest lap in practice this weekend and could notch his third win in the season.
Kyle Larson is third in the points, just behind Busch but actually has one more win with three. He also placed third at Darlington last year.
Another racer that doesn’t need a win as much as those on the playoff bubble, Harvick qualified in pole position and would love to add to his single win this season going into the playoffs.
Other drivers to watch:
McMurray qualified in fifth place and is the most desperate driver in the top five. He is currently in the playoffs as the 15th driver, but is dangerously on the bubble without a single stage or race win this season. A win might be the breakthrough McMurray needs to make a run heading into the playoffs.
Junior’s struggles this season have been well documented, and he has never won at Darlington. He is quickly running out of chances to extend his final season as he can only make the playoffs with a win. His best finish at the track was a second place finish in 2014, but it is hard not to root for the legend to have something finally go right in his farewell season.