The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back in full force on Sunday, September 3rd, when the field takes to the Darlington Raceway for the annual Bojangles’ Southern 500. Drivers have had an off-week break, after the previous Bristol Night Race that was won by Kyle Busch. Anyone looking ahead to the race, whether casual fans or serious bettors, will need to get familiar with the track and the winner predictions ahead of this race weekend.Here are our predictions and all you’ll need to know before the race.

Who Were the Last Three Winners in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series?

Like almost every year of NASCAR, the championship in 2017 has given us plenty of excitement, and a lot to think about in terms of predicting race wins. Although we have a clear leader at the top of the championship table, we’ve had a whole range of race winners, showing that almost any of the top drivers can win on a weekend if all the right factors come together for them.In the last three NASCAR Cup Series races we have seen three different winners. Interestingly, not a single one of these winners have started the race in pole position.At the I Love New York 355 at The Glen we saw championship leader Martin Truex Jr. finish the race in first position. He wasn’t the pole sitter, but he did lead the most laps out of any other driver in the race. Truex Jr. currently leads the series, with 951 points and 4 race wins. He has more wins than any other driver in the series at this time. And he’s more than 100 points ahead of Kyle Busch who is currently in 2nd place of the series.At the Pure Michigan 400, Kyle Larson finished in top position. Brad Keselowski had pole position and led the most laps. This was Larson’s third consecutive race win at Michigan, and his third win this year.At the most recent race, the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, it was Kyle Busch who finished in the top spot. Busch pulled off an impressive surge at the later stages of the race, after Erik Jones had led most of the final stage.

Who are the Previous Race Winners at Darlington?

Past success doesn’t always translate to results, but it can at least give us some indication of who is familiar with the track.In the past five NASCAR seasons we’ve had five different winners from four teams. Joe Gibbs Racing has been the most successful in those years, with wins in 2013 and in 2015. In ’13 it was Matt Kenseth who took the win, and Carl Edwards finished at the top spot of the podium in ’15.Jimmie Johnson won back in 2012 with Hendric Motorsports, and this veteran racer at least has an outside chance this year. Although he’s down in 11th place of the NASCAR Monster Energy series, he has three race wins this year, which puts him only one race win behind the championship leader.Stewart – Haas Racing had success in 2014 with Kevin Harvick. Winning what has been their only top sport finish at the Darlington raceway.Last year’s season saw Martin Truex Jr. in the top spot with Furniture Row Racing. Truex Jr. only finished the 2016 season in 11th, which shows that anybody can win on race day, whether they’re headed for a high finish in the series championship or not.

Who Could Win the Bojangles’ Southern 500?

The Southern 500 is the penultimate race in the NASCAR regular season. After this weekend comes the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, and then the Cup Championship Playoffs will begin. This makes the Southern 500 an important race for drivers to strengthen their playoffs position before September. While we’ve seen unexpected underdogs come in and win races this year, there are still some high favorites going into every weekend. Although there’s no ‘safe bet’ in NASCAR, there’s one driver who has been delivering results all year, and who is a clear favorite for this race.

Martin Truex Jr:

He’s leading the Monster Energy Series and he has more wins than any other racer this year. Martin Truex Jr. has been consistently fast this year, and he has been consistent with his finishes. The fact that he’s so far ahead of 2nd place in the series is testament to how good his season has been. He’s our favorite going into this race, and his past success at the track could help him out this weekend.Just look at how Truex Jr. has been performing in recent races. The last three races have seen him finish 3rd, 1st, and 2nd. That’s the kind of consistency that wins a regular season, and there’s little doubt that Truex Jr. will be able to do it this year. His continued performance also makes him a strong favorite to win the playoffs, but that’s something we’ll need to take a closer look at after the regular season has been wrapped up.

Potential Underdog to Win

Martin Truex Jr. is a winning prediction that makes sense. However, if you’re looking for a riskier pick with some higher reward, then go with Erik Jones. Jones is only 16th in the overall series standings, and he doesn’t have a race win to his name. However, looking at the last two races, it’s clear that he has picked up some late season energy. He finished in 3rd place at the 2017 Pure Michigan 400, and then went one better to finish in 2nd place at the Bristol Night race. He has finished in the top 10 for the last four races, and this upcoming race could potentially bring him his first win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.