NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Cook Out Southern 500

If you are looking for an action-packed way to get your sports fix, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, of course!

Here at numberFire, we've always got you covered for everything NASCAR DFS. Our track preview breaks down this week's venue, and we also have The Heat Check Fantasy Podcast, where Jim Sannes breaks down his favorite plays for Sunday's slate. Jim also has a current form and odds breakdown to review how NASCAR's best drivers are performing recently analytically.

A wild NASCAR finale ended emotionally for many, as seven-time Cup Series champion was crashed out late battling for a playoff bid. That opened the door wide open for a playoff spot for William Byron, but Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate took matters into his own hands and scored his first career win at Daytona last Saturday Night. Matt DiBenedetto clinched a playoff spot on points as well, which means the 16-car playoff field is set for this weekend's first playoff race at Darlington Raceway. This unique, 1.33 egg-shaped oval has historically played host to the Cup Series event on Labor Day weekend, and that will be no different with the 500-mile race on Sunday night.

This race's lineup was determined using NASCAR's weighted formula that combines owner points, last Saturday's finish at Daytona, and the fastest lap of each driver in that event, which puts Chase Elliott on the pole for this event. The one difference is that all 16 playoff drivers will start in the first 16 spots, as will be the case for all playoff participants moving forward. Since pit stalls were selected solely by last week's finishing order, William Byron also has the premier pit stall choice for this weekend. With 366 laps in this event, finding two cars that can lead laps will be the optimal strategy for the event, but its length allows value plays to come from finish and place differential.

With that, let's preview the Cookout Southern 500 at Darlington.

High-Salaried Drivers

Denny Hamlin ($13,500): The top of the driver pool has a pivotal decision between Kevin Harvick ($14,200) and Hamlin. This season's two dominant drivers were both strong at Darlington in May, winning one race each, and have had great success at the track historically. Darlington has had stage racing since 2017, and Hamlin has earned points in nine of 10 stages held at the track, meaning that the driver of the FedEx Camry is consistently up front here. He has won three times at this track and led at least 100 laps in a trio of races. Hamlin starts second, which is immediate early access to the front, whereas Harvick would likely need plenty of Stage 1 to navigate traffic from eighth, which may be the slightest advantage to Hamlin in what figures to the a chess match between the two for NASCAR's championship the rest of the year.

Kyle Busch ($11,000): Speaking of champions, Busch, 2019's title winner, has had a dismal 2020 so far that has left him without a win up to this point. Busch's form has actually been good recently. Despite three hard-luck incidents in the last nine races, all of the other six events saw him finish 11th or better, including four top-five finishes. Busch is also no stranger to success at Darlington, as he has five top-five finishes at the track and has led 100-plus laps three times. Better recent speed bodes well for Busch, as does his team. Hamlin and Busch both drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, a team that has won five of the last seven races at Darlington. Hamlin and Busch will have a strong chance to continue the team's dominance on Sunday night.

Mid-Salaried Drivers

Erik Jones ($10,500): Last year's Southern 500 winner was also in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and that was Jones. A year makes all the difference for Jones, as that victory was his last one. Jones has had a disastrous 2020, missing NASCAR's playoffs this year, and he has lost his ride to Christopher Bell ($8,000) for 2021 and is currently searching for a new one. Jones, however, will look to make his case for a new team at his best race track. Jones has finished no worse than eighth in five Darlington starts, and four of those came when he was starting outside the top 10. Starting from 30th this weekend, Jones may be the top overall play on the slate, and he possesses race-winning upside.

Tyler Reddick ($9,000): Drivers need to stay right against the wall to make speed at Darlington Raceway, and that may be why the aggressive Tyler Reddick has taken a liking to the unique oval. Reddick led a race-high 70 laps and finished second in 2019's Xfinity Series event here, and he followed that up with a Cup Series debut at the track -- with no practice in May -- with a seventh- and 13th-place finish in the doubleheader here. Two wrecks at Daytona have left Reddick starting 24th this weekend through NASCAR's weighted formula, which means he has plenty of pass-differential upside.

Low-Salaried Drivers

Ryan Newman ($7,500): The track nicknamed "Too Tough to Tame" has always favored experienced veterans over young drivers, and the best value plays might be stable veterans. Newman definitely fits that moniker and has had great success at Darlington, recording seven top-15 finishes in his last nine starts here. Newman has had a very disappointing 2020 with only one top-10 finish, but that is largely due to the lack of speed in he and Chris Buescher's Roush Fenway Racing Fords. At a smaller track like Darlington, Newman's skill will be more important than the speed in his car. He has plenty of work to do, starting 31st on Sunday, but that makes his ceiling that much greater if he were able to crack the top 15.

Matt Kenseth ($7,000): Due to the aftermath of what happened with Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth hopped in a NASCAR stock car for the first time in 19 months and delivered a 10th-place finish at Darlington in May. That should not have come as a surprise, given that Kenseth has 11 top-10 finishes at Darlington in his career, including a 2013 win for -- you guessed it -- Joe Gibbs Racing. This Chip Ganassi Racing squad also dominated at Darlington with Larson the past several years, leading 497 laps in the last four races with Larson prior to Kenseth taking over. While Kenseth has had a poor year since that effort, a return to this track gives his DFS outlook a lift, and he starts 26th.

Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.