Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

2021 Darlington betting preview, presented by BetMGM

The following article is brought to you by BetMGM.

When you are a race-car driver, you don’t come to Darlington Raceway expecting to break the place like you would a wild stallion. Instead, you approach it like a wild bull — and you just hope to be able to stay intact long enough to outlast your competitors. There are no expectations of domesticating the venue.

This Sunday, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington will push competitors to their limits, but NASCAR enthusiasts wouldn’t have it any other way.

RELATED: NASCAR Bet Center | Latest odds by BetMGM

That’s why Darlington is affectionately known as “The Track too Tough to Tame.” It was built in the late 1940s, when the cars, speeds and drivers were all quite different than today. It lacks a conventional track shape, influenced by a 1940s minnow pond that stood in the way of a more classic shape.

There’s nothing cookie-cutter about this South Carolina track.

This is what makes it so fun to place a friendly wager on which driver might come out on top of this place. There are six drivers in the field who have won here in the NASCAR Cup Series, making for an interesting field when you bet NASCAR online.

While the veterans are trending well in the NASCAR odds this week, you’ll also see some up-and-comers in the list, and we touch on that below:

THE FAVORITE

Kyle Larson (+400)

Larson tops the charts coming into Darlington, even though he has never won at the track. He has a very impressive average finish of 6.7 in his six races at the Palmetto State venue. He also has three top fives — and they’ve come in his last four races here — in 2016, 2018 and 2019. His resume screams he’s about due to win here. He’ll start in the No. 14 spot, but don’t expect him to stay there long.

The past two races at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway have been rough for Larson. He lost an engine very early at ‘Dega, and then after leading 132 laps at Kansas, he still could only manage a 19th-place finish — thanks to a rough late restart. He’s hungry, he’s got to be angry about his recent on-track bad luck, and he’s racing at a track that he seems to like this weekend. Watch out for Larson, as he’s firmly atop the NASCAR betting lines.

OTHERS: Next up, not surprisingly, is Denny Hamlin (+550), who is tied with Kevin Harvick (+750) with the most career wins at Darlington (three) among current drivers. Martin Truex, Jr. (+600) also has performed well, historically, at the raceway. Because it’s not exactly an easy track to pass on, starting position is critical — and Brad Keselowski (+950), Harvick and Kyle Busch (+800) occupy the first three spots in the lineup.

THE DARK-HORSE THREAT

Tyler Reddick (+4000)

Reddick has a couple of things going for him when it comes to this weekend. No. 1, he has secured a top-10 starting position, so — again — for a track that isn’t too friendly to passing or side panels, being near the front is key. Also, he has had a top-10 finish in three starts here, while also having two top-five finishes in three starts — with 70 laps led — in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Hey, the statistics aren’t earth shattering, but they’re interesting. Plus? He has had four top 10s in his last five starts this season.

OTHERS: Joey Logano (+1200) has finished in the top 10 in half of his 14 career starts at the track. That’s not too shabby. Though he hasn’t won there, he did take third and sixth last year at “The Lady in Black” (another foreboding Darlington nickname). He has led laps there in five different races and always started well there (eight top-10 starts in the past nine tries), maybe he’s due?

THE INTRIGUING LONG SHOT

Erik Jones (+8000)

You really may want to take a hard look at Jones this weekend. In six career races at Darlington, he has six top-10 finishes, four top fives — and he’s one of only six drivers in the field Sunday who have won there in the NASCAR Cup Series. He also has an average finish of 5.2. Now, he starts back in the pack at No. 26, but if the pit cycles work out well for him, and he can pass a few cars, this could get interesting for Jones.

OTHERS: William Byron (+2000) took fifth at Darlington last year and has been running pretty well this year — not finishing outside of the top 10 in his last nine races. He will start in the No. 5 position and is currently third in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.