Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Bojangles' Southern 500 Driver Preview
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should monitor for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Price: $14,000), Kevin Harvick ($13,400), and Martin Truex Jr. ($12,200): Each of "The Big Three" is a past winner at Darlington, and we know current form is not a concern here. So how do we rank these studs entering the weekend?
Given Kevin Harvick's recent runs and his history at Darlington, it's hard not to put him first. Harvick has had a top-four average running position in four straight Darlington races, including a win in 2014. He has led at least 200 laps twice in that span and has finished in the top 10 in each race.
Kyle Busch's Darlington win came back in 2008, and he has just one top-five finish here in his past five races. But his current form appears to be a step above Martin Truex Jr.'s with 10 top-5 finishes in his past 12 races and a top-5 average running position in 4 of his past 6.
Truex won the 2016 Southern 500 and led 76 laps last year. But he has finished 14th or worse in 3 of the past 4 races, leading no more than 25 laps at any race in that span. Truex is likely third on the totem pole before practice sessions get underway on Friday, but that could easily change if he shows improved speed in practice.
Denny Hamlin ($11,600): There may not be a driver in the entire garage more upset than Denny Hamlin that the Cup series no longer races at Darlington twice a year. He has always mopped up at this joint with 10 top-10 finishes in 12 cracks, and he should be in contention for his first win of the season.
Hamlin is the defending champion of this race after he led 124 laps en route to his second victory at Darlington last year. He was fourth in 2016 and third in 2015 and has five top-five finishes in the past six Darlington races.
Hamlin's current form has been trending up lately, too. Even with just middling finishes, Hamlin has had a top-nine average running position in three of the past four races. We can't view him as being on par with "The Big Three" prior to practices, but if Hamlin beasts out in practice, we should be willing to accept him as being a contender.
Brad Keselowski ($9,900): If you look at Brad Keselowski's recent finishes at Darlington, you're not going to walk away impressed. But he's a good example of why finishes can be a bit misleading, and it may have led to his being a tad underpriced entering the weekend.
Keselowski has just 2 top-10 finishes in his past 6 Darlington races, and only 1 of them was better than 9th. That is despite having an average running position of 8th or better in 4 straight, including the 2015 race in which he led 196 laps. He followed that up by leading 47 in 2016 before finishing 9th. Keselowski just hasn't always been there when it has mattered most.
Keselowski hasn't won this year, and he has just 1 top-10 in his past 5 races. But all of that is baked into his price. He finished a season-best second at Michigan two races ago, and he has had competitive cars. He just needs to put it all together. Keselowski deserves the benefit of the doubt if he can post good speeds in practice.
Ryan Newman ($9,300): Because this hasn't been Ryan Newman's best season, we always need to be skeptical of his history at specific tracks. But he has shown a bit more life recently with an average running position of 16th or better in the past 4 oval races, allowing us to indulge a bit and peep his solid record at Darlington.
In 19 starts at Darlington, Newman has 13 top-10 finishes and 7 top-5s. Some of those stout runs have come in recent seasons, too, as he has finished 13th or better in 5 straight races with 4 top-10s in that time. He was 7th last year and had an 11th-place average running position.
Newman's price does account for his solid runs here, so he's not some sort of screaming value. But we should absolutely view him differently than we have been recently thanks to what he has done here historically and what he has done overall the past few weeks.
Austin Dillon ($8,700): In looking at the prices for this week, you likely noticed that Austin Dillon is much spendier than usual (he was $7,400 in Bristol two weeks ago). His history at Darlington likely played a factor in that.
Dillon has run well here his entire Cup series career, logging 3 top-12 finishes in 4 starts. But that all came to a head last year when he finished 4th and had a 10th-place average running position.
Dillon has been running well recently, too, at a variety of tracks. He was 13th in Pocono, 4th in Michigan, and 13th in Bristol, posting a top-13 average running position in both of the latter two races. Dillon's a driver we can target for place-differential points if he sits 15th or lower in qualifying.
Ty Dillon ($5,900): Speaking of the Dillon family, Austin's brother, Ty, seems to have figured out Darlington, too. He has just one race here, but it was a pretty impressive one.
That start came last year in Dillon's rookie season. In that race, he started 25th, worked his way forward for a 16th-place average running position, and finished 13th. He earned the most place-differential points of any driver in the field that day.
With that said, it's not easy for drivers to climb their way forward at this track. That means we may need to count on Dillon even if he's starting 25th again (as opposed to the 30th-place range in which we usually target drivers in this pricing tier). It may feel a bit uncomfortable, but if Dillon continues to outrun his equipment at this track, it can work out, as he showed last year.
Kurt Busch ($11,200): Kurt Busch has been knocking on the door of victory lane for a while now, and he finally broke through last week. We shouldn't write that win off as being a fluke.
Including the win, Busch has now had a top-7 average running position in 4 of his past 6 and 6 of his past 10 races. He has led at least 20 laps in 5 of those, as well, so again, it shouldn't be a shock that he was out front at the end of a race.
Busch has been solid recently in Darlington, too, finishing third last year with a fifth-place average running position. He also had a fifth-place average running position in the 2015 race, so we should be reacting aggressively to Busch's string of recent strong runs.
Erik Jones ($10,000): Erik Jones is another recent winner, capturing the flag back in Daytona. That's a track that can lead to some flukey winners, too, but Jones has flexed muscle since then, perhaps setting himself up for a return trip to the winner's circle.
Jones had a seventh-place average running position two weeks ago at Bristol en route to a fifth-place finish. That gives him three top-fives in his past four races, and his average running position has been seventh or better in each. Going all the way back to Sonoma, Jones has now finished seventh or better in seven of the past nine races. For a guy who is currently 50/1 to win the Cup series championship, according to BetFair, this is all really freaking impressive.
Jones showed up big in his Darlington debut last year, finishing fifth in that one. He finished sixth and fourth, respectively, in a pair of Xfinity Series races at the track, so he knows how to get around this place. This is a driver we can trust in tournaments if he qualifies in a spot to lead laps, and he's a cash-game delight if he qualifies further back.
Ryan Blaney ($9,500): Guys with Ryan Blaney's current form usually aren't priced at $9,500. But with Blaney's struggles at Darlington, you can start to understand why he's here.
In Blaney's 3 races at the track, his best finish is 13th, and that's his lone run better than 30th. His average running positions have been 19th or worse in each of those events. Given how unique Darlington is, that may matter more here than other places.
Even with that in mind, it's hard not to be into Blaney when he's this cheap. He led 121 laps in Bristol and has had an average running position of 8th or better in 4 of the past 6 races. We do need to see some speed in practice to confirm that Blaney has figured out Darlington, but if he shows that, it's fine to disregard his disappointing track record here.
Chris Buescher ($6,000): Historically at Darlington, punting has been a viable strategy, and we already discussed Dillon as being an option there. Chris Buescher should be on the list, too.
Buescher has been running well recently. He has finished 20th or better in 3 straight races -- and 4 of his past 5 -- at a wide range of tracks (a road course, a speedway, and a short track). Normally, Buescher's a guy we target moreso on restrictor-plate tracks and short tracks, so seeing the increased viability is encouraging as they head to Darlington.
This is also a track where Buescher has run well. He has finished 17th each of the past two seasons, and his average running position has been 20th or better both times. Buescher's cheap enough to help you get up to the uber-expensive Harvick and Kyle Busch, so as long as he's starting around 25th or so, he deserves a look.