The first start of the year since the hiatus ended and Darlington was lukewarm. Having racing was enough to overlook that though. I think a little rust is to be expected but with the racing coming heels overhead, drivers will start to gain that competitive edge back despite the odd atmosphere.

The most interesting thing to see will be if drivers are able to recuperate after a rough day on Sunday to be able to drive into contention or if the running order will look familiar. It’s makes coming up with predictions fairly easy though.

I’ll give three drivers names, and each will be classified differently. A Favorite, who is a big name driver who is my favorite to win. A Dark Horse, a driver who would be considered an underdog but has just as much chance as anyone to win. Lastly, a Longshot, a driver who nobody would ever guess would even be contending. Guys who are generally running in the twenties each week.

Favorite: Kevin Harvick

It’s hard not to pick the guy that won this same race three days prior. I wanted to try and be a little more original with this pick but until we see how teams handle the turn around I’m skeptical about picking a new driver against the guy who dominated the first race.

I think Harvick will be able to communicate to his team any adjustments that are still needed and keep that same race-winning speed. Hopefully, they don’t get conservative with such a strong showing though.

Dark Horse: Matt Kenseth

He was my longshot on Sunday but a tenth place finish after being out of the game for so long has me moving him up to a dark horse candidate. I think that he proved he can still drive at his age, and Darlington still seems to be a strong track for him.

His experience could be key in helping his team make the adjustments to get his car to the next level.

Long Shot: Tyler Reddick

It’s hard to think of a rookie in victory lane at Darlington, but Reddick had a great showing for his first time in a Cup car at the track. It was incredibly impressive like most of his rookie campaign has been. The RCR cars seemed to be running well with even Austin Dillon bringing home a respectable 11th place finish.

Reddick’s success at Darlington makes sense when you look back at the previous two years in the Xfinity Series. A 3rd and 2nd place finish back-to-back. There’s a chance that he finds his way up front, although I think the experience may hinder him. Veterans will be more equipped to handle this odd scheduling.

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