Kevin Harvick dominated the action at Darlington on Sunday, leading 159 laps en route to victory in the first of two races run at the track this week. We do it all over again for 500 kilometers, or 228 laps, on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1) in the Toyota 500.
Sunday’s finishing order determined the starting lineup for Wednesday’s race, so we already know how drivers will be lining up.
With an inverted top 20, and some drivers encountering problems in Sunday’s race, the strategy for the second Darlington race will shift a bit. I’ll go over the strategy changes, as well as my DFS picks for the Toyota 500.
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NASCAR at Darlington DraftKings Picks
The first major factor to note is that Ryan Preece and Ty Dillon will line up on the front row for the start of the race. Neither of these drivers are in top equipment, so don’t expect either driver to lead many laps.
Both Preece and Ty Dillon are great 100% fade candidates. Instead, we can look to the second row for the likely early dominator.
That second row consists of Joey Logano starting third and Clint Bowyer next to him in fourth. Both drivers were in the top 12 in average green flag speed on Sunday, with Bowyer placing ninth and Logano 12th.
You can have modest exposure to both drivers, but I prefer Bowyer. He was faster on Sunday and also starts on the outside of the second row, which is usually the preferred line on restarts. Bowyer is also $2100 cheaper.
However, don’t expect Bowyer or Logano to lead for too long, depending on the sportsbook, six to eight other drivers are favored ahead of Logano, and even more over Bowyer.
That means, if neither driver leads more than, say, 20% of the race (about 45 laps), they likely won’t be worth playing unless they finish in the top five. It’s possible we could see a wider spread of race leaders over a shorter number of laps (228) than Sunday (293). That could turn this race into a place-differential festival.
So what drivers outside of Logano and Bowyer should we turn to for the combination of place differential, finishing position, laps led and fastest laps?
Darlington DFS Dominators
Brad Keselowski rolls off eighth and has a great shot at leading early. Among drivers starting in the top six rows, Bowyer was the only driver who came within one mile per hour of Keselowski’s average green flag speed on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman were the two fastest on Sunday, and both should be considered possible mid-to-late race dominators despite starting back in 20th and 19th, respectively, thanks to the top-20 inversion.
Denny Hamlin is also in the mid-race dominator conversation, posting the third-fastest average green flag speed behind Harvick and Bowyer. He’ll roll off 16th.
Darlington DFS Upside Picks
NASCAR is one of the more unique DFS sports when it comes to floor and upside. There is a strong correlation between both because of the place differential factor. If a driver starts at the back, he has no place to go but up, meaning he has an automatic built in floor. If he advances far forward, he also has upside.
That makes these drivers prime targets, not only for cash games, but tournaments as well. The caveat — they often come with huge ownership. These three drivers are the obvious chalk on Wednesday:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7900)
Stenhouse wrecked coming out of turn 2 of the first lap. That relegated him to a 40th-place finish, meaning he’ll start dead last on Wednesday. Stenhouse will certainly be faster than at least 10 drivers starting in front of him, and more likely faster than 15-20 drivers total.
If he finishes around where his speed projects, even a conservative estimate of 24th would net him 35 DraftKings points. If he finishes higher than that, he’ll be quite usable in tournaments as well.
However, Stenhouse is not a slam dunk. Ricky is known for getting into wrecks, and if he doesn’t push past 20th place, he’d be borderline for getting into the winning lineup at his price tag.
Jimmie Johnson ($9100)
Like Stenhouse, Johnson made a mistake and crashed. In Johnson’s case, it was on the last lap of Stage 1 as he was trying to lap a slower car. He too will start near the tail end of the field on Wednesday, in 37th.
Johnson led laps on pure speed, and there’s no reason to think the Hendrick cars will lose much ground with such little turnaround time between races. Johnson will likely have top-12 speed, which would be enough to justify using him in well over half of your lineups.
William Byron ($8900)
Johnson’s teammate, Byron, also crashed out, but this was due to a tire issue rather than a boneheaded move. The youngest of the four Hendrick drivers will start 34th with plenty of potential to move forward as well.
Byron was actually the beneficiary of Johnson’s crash, taking the Stage 1 win after avoiding his spinning teammate. It was quite the feat for Byron to win the first stage after starting 19th on Sunday. He’ll be a factor again midweek, and like Johnson should be in a significant number of your lineups.
Darlington DFS Pivot Plays
Tyler Reddick ($7700)
Reddick is the prime pivot off of Stenhouse, and could also be used in conjunction with Stenhouse in some lineups. Reddick had the sixth-fastest average green flag speed on Sunday, despite having to work through the fieldthanks to a pit road penalty.
Reddick will roll off 14th, but there’s reason to believe he finishes inside the top eight again, which would more than pay off at $7700, especially if he adds in a few fastest laps.
Kurt Busch ($8700)
Busch had one of the top cars in NASCAR’s return to racing. Harvick, Bowman and Hamlin were all clearly faster, but Busch was neck and neck with Keselowski for fourth on the speed charts. Harvick and Bowman both start near Busch, but Busch is $1300 cheaper than Bowman and $2900 cheaper than Harvick.
That means Busch doesn’t need the dominating performance like Harvick will need, and has more finishing position and place differential value than Bowman should the two finish close together.
Erik Jones ($8500)
Jones is also in Stenhouse pivot territory for Wednesday. He’s a little more pricey than Reddick, wasn’t quite as fast on Sunday and starts one spot further forward in 13th, so I don’t like him as much. But he does have race-winning upside, so you’ll want to use him in some of your lineups.
Jones won the Southern 500 at Darlington last year, which was a night race. This will also be a night race, barring any weather shenanigans.
Potential Darlington DFS Traps
Chris Buescher ($8100)
I should start off by saying Buescher is absolutely usable in your lineups. Any driver on a upper mid-tier team starting 32nd is usable and should be in a good percentage of your lineups. In fact, if you do use him, Buescher is a pivot off of Stenhouse. It would be hard to use both together since they each have limited upside.
Buescher was complete junk in the first Darlington race, but his teammate Ryan Newman was solid, running in the top 10 at times. I expect his Roush Fenway Racing team to come with a new car with some changes looking for more speed. Sunday aside, Buescher does have a solid track record at Darlington. So there is hope for him to post a good result.
However, he seemed so far behind on Sunday, I fear his upside may be capped, which hurts even more at his price tag. So don’t go crazy here. Stenhouse, Reddick, Busch and Jones are much better plays all within $600 of Buescher.
Kyle Busch ($12,000)
I’ll start by saying this could blow up in my face. Busch is arguably the best driver in NASCAR and he’s been very good at Darlington. However, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have seemed a touch off at times this year, and the younger Busch brother was not among the fastest drivers on Sunday.
He does have race winning upside, but you really want well over 5x value from your top tier drivers. Busch would hit that mark (60 points) with a fifth-place finish, but that’s a bare minimum. We’d also want him to grab a significant number of dominator points to push well above 5x value.
It’s certainly possible he dominates or pulls off a top-three finish. And you should definitely have some exposure to him if you multi-enter. But I’d rather find better value in a one-off lineup.
Darlington DFS Value Pick
Corey LaJoie ($5500)
If you need a bargain play, Corey LaJoie is the top option. He’ll start 31st, but displayed the 29th-fastest speed on Sunday. With some potential attrition, that could push him into a top-25 finish. It’s not amazing, but it’s enough value that if you pair him with some high-priced drivers that dominate, it could get the job done.
Darlington DFS Fades
Aside from Preece and Ty Dillon, other top fades are:
- Ryan Blaney (5th starting position, $8300): Blaney has struggled at Darlington in his career and was only 21st in average green flag speed in the first race.
- Ryan Newman (6th, $6400): He ran in the top 10 at times, but was only 15th on the average speed charts.
- Matt DiBenedetto (7th, $7000): The Wood Brothers Racing driver is more expensive and ran slower (18th-place average green flag speed) than Newman.
- Daniel Suarez (25th, $6100): He managed a finish of 25th thanks to problems from other drivers. He was 30th in average green flag speed.