Top 3 from Darlington weigh in on Southern 500 runs

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The top three finishers from Saturday night’s Bojangles Southern 500, the last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race before a two-week stretch at Charlotte for the Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600, had reason to celebrate with the odds against them going into the night.

Winner Matt Kenseth took his first Southern 500 victory with interim crew chief Wally Brown. Denny Hamlin, in second, raced hard in his first full race since his injuries suffered at Auto Club Speedway at the end of March. And Jeff Gordon, who’d been off to a rough start with only two top-10 finishes from the first 10 races, finished a needed third in his 700th career start.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski