NASCAR at Darlington DraftKings Picks: DFS Strategy for Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 (Sept. 6)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Denny Hamlin.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs kick off with a return trip to Darlington Raceway. This race is the third Darlington race of the year, allowing DFS players plenty of opportunity to dig into recent track history. In addition, I’ll use results from Homestead this year as a major comparison.
Homestead is the most similar track to Darlington in shape, banking, surface, and size. In addition, the same tire compounds were used at Homestead. That gives us multiple races to use when evaluating driver performance.
The race is scheduled for 367 laps, which means the all-important dominator will come into play. Here are my top dominator and value picks for today’s race.
NASCAR at Darlington DraftKings Dominator DFS Picks
There are four clear-cut top dominator candidates, and they correspond to the four betting favorites for today’s race. Because 367 laps are scheduled, there will almost certainly be at least two — if not three — dominators. I’d happily use combinations of two and three drivers from these four as my dominator core and supplement with some other drivers who have outside dominator potential. The top four are:
- Denny Hamlin – Hamlin starts second but might be favored slightly over Elliott to lead the early laps, thanks to his stronger 2020 performance.
- Chase Elliott – Today’s pole-sitter has had a strong showing at Darlington in 2020, as well as at other tracks running some or all of this combination.
- Kevin Harvick – Harvick has a first, third, and fourth at Darlington over the past two years when aerodynamic rules included higher downforce. He only has one Darlington finish worse than fifth since 2013.
- Martin Truex Jr. – The Cup Series’ hottest driver has eight straight top-four finishes.
From a DFS perspective, I like going overweight on Truex since he will likely be the lowest owned of the quartet. However, I can’t argue against any of the four plays. Additionally, I believe these drivers have the next best shot of dominating:
- Brad Keselowski
- Alex Bowman
- Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch comes with the additional benefit of place differential, thanks to a 15th-place starting position. A top-five will net him at least 49 DraftKings points, so even just a handful of dominator points will put him on the verge of the winning lineup.
Bowman is a big risk with his fourth-place starting position and relative lack of dominance throughout the season. However, these high tire wear tracks are his best, and he’s shined using some or all of this tire combination in 2020. It makes sense to have about 15% exposure to him in a multi-entry portfolio.
Keselowski has been strong across a range of tracks, and the strategic element always comes into play for him. He has a reduced price tag as well if you want to pair him with two of the more expensive drivers.
However, with so many top-tier drivers in play, we’ll need to dive deep elsewhere. Thankfully, there are plenty of value plays for today’s slate.
NASCAR at Darlington DraftKings Value DFS Picks
Jimmie Johnson ($8400) – The seven-time Series champion will not win an eighth title, but don’t count him out of today’s race. Johnson crashed from the lead in the first Darlington race of the year, then rallied from a 37th-place starting position to finish eighth at the second Darlington race.
He’ll start a bit higher at 22nd this time around, but that’s still deep enough that his place differential potential is enough to warrant using him in at least 25% of lineups.
Tyler Reddick ($7000) – Reddick is the top place differential play on the slate and maybe the top play overall. Darlington is one of his best tracks, and he pulled out a fourth-place finish at Homestead earlier this year as well. The 24th-place starting spot — plus a reduced price tag — means he’s going to be very highly-owned. I’d have at least 50% exposure to Reddick.
Ryan Preece ($5900) – Preece’s awful luck continued at Daytona. His eighth DNF of the year leaves him mired back in the 35th starting position at a cheap price tag. However, Darlington was a strong track from him in 2020. He finished 20th in the opener and followed it up with a strong performance in the second Darlington leg until his engine expired. A top-24 finish nets him at least 31 DraftKings points. That should be considered his floor when he has a clean race.
Each of the three drivers above should be pretty chalky, and in a 500-mile race, it’s prudent to have some pivots off the chalk. There are a lot of good options for today’s race, but I particularly like Kurt Busch ($9000), Christopher Bell ($6900), and Chris Buescher ($5700). These three drivers bring the right combination of upside and reduced ownership compared to their similarly-priced counterparts.
Drivers such as Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Bubba Wallace, and Ty Dillon are also in play. I’d have exposure to each in a multi-entry setting. However, I believe these drivers have a more capped upside relative to each’s price tag than the three pivot drivers I listed as my preference.