NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Cook Out Southern 500
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, 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, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, he also discusses this weekend's race on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on FanDuel.
|Practice||Saturday, September 3rd
12:05 p.m. EST
|Qualifying||Saturday, September 3rd
12:50 p.m. EST
Darlington is such a unique, egg-shaped track that practice and qualifying will be -- by far -- the most valuable information for daily fantasy in this race.
Joey Logano dominated here in May, leading 107 of 293 laps. It didn't come out of left field. Logano started from the pole, was second in practice's single-lap speeds, and he had the best 10-lap average speed of any driver in the field. His car was the best of the day by a mile.
There isn't a place where a single lap means much less, though. The tire wear at Darlington Raceway is extreme to the point where just five laps on tires could require a change with a quick yellow. We'll see cars ascend or descend all night based on their tire strategy.
Personally, this is one of the most challenging tracks in daily fantasy because of that. If a crew chief makes a strategy error, a driver could be trapped a lap down easily. It's also not a track where finishing position is necessarily correlated to starting spots. We saw that in May as 5 of the top-10 finishers started 20th or worse.
General Lineup Strategy
The ultimate goal needs to be finding Sunday's dominant car -- and it happens here routinely.
Logano led 36.5% of the race, but that was on the low end for this track historically. Martin Truex Jr. alone led 85.9% of the laps here in May of 2021, and Denny Hamlin combined with Kyle Larson to lead 82.8% of the laps here last fall. Typically, we see a ton of laps led in the hands of one or two drivers, and finding them is crucial with a substantial 36.7 FanDuel points for laps led available here.
There really isn't an optimal strategy for the value options behind them. As mentioned, 5 of the top-10 drivers this spring started deeper in the field, but last year, just 5 of the 20 total top-10 finishers fit that same criterion.
Therefore, the key takeaway isn't to jam in drivers up front or stack the back. Be open to drivers starting deeper in the field that have shown speed on this track type or in practice, but don't force it if speedy value plays are closer to the front. Chances are some mix of those two processes will net top-10 finishers.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level -- in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations were included.
As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Darlington (Spring) - 55%
2022 Richmond (Fall) - 25%
2022 Gateway (Spring) - 10%
2022 Bristol Dirt (Spring) - 10%
For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance of leading the race at any point.
For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to finish in terms of potential to finish inside the top 15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.
The reason Joey Logano ($11,500) dominated in May? Kyle Larson ($13,000) spun from the lead early and damaged his engine.
Larson has led 230 laps in his last four trips to Darlington, and that's even butt-kicking that he performed in this race in 2018 by leading 284 laps. Larson had the fastest median time at Darlington this spring, and he's got the best median lap blend of all four tracks in the sample. I'm comfortable pegging him as this weekend's favorite.
I wouldn't write off Logano, though. He added a win at Gateway to his May victory, and he's been exceptional on shorter, flatter tracks this season dating all the way back to February's Clash at the L.A. Coliseum. He's second in Jim Sannes' win simulations this week, winning 12.04% of the time.
I also love Kyle Busch ($12,500) at salary this weekend as much as Larson. Busch is second in this median lap time blend, and he'll likely slide under the radar to track history prognosticators with back-to-back crashes at Darlington. This is still one of his better circuits with six career top-five finishes.
Darlington stalwart Denny Hamlin ($13,500) is in the mix by default, but I'm not sure this particular track type is worth getting to Chase Elliott ($14,000). He's popped at concrete ovals this year, but in May at Darlington, he had just the 14th-best median time. I'll invest if he's fast in practice, but at first glance, he appears over-salaried.
Ross Chastain ($11,000) is on the other end of the salary spectrum. He crashed from the lead in May after leading 26 laps and winning Stage 2. Considering Chastain finished third here last fall in much worse equipment, it's very possible he begins the playoffs with a huge showing at Darlington -- so long as Hamlin isn't in a position to dump him as another stop on his revenge tour.
Dirt racers typically have owned this low-grip track, so Tyler Reddick ($12,000) and Christopher Bell ($10,000) should start the playoffs strong. Chase Briscoe ($7,500) is also in that category, and he's posted an impressive 16th-best average ranking in this blend of low-grip tracks.
Playoff participants I'm worried about include William Byron ($9,000) and Alex Bowman ($8,500). They've been down on speed all summer. In fact, Bowman's best median ranking on these four tracks was 17th at the Bristol dirt race.
Chastain's teammate Daniel Suarez ($8,200) has had two top-15 runs for Trackhouse Racing here. He's a high-floor play.
Though not a value play any longer, Erik Jones ($8,000) is still in the mix for a FanDuel lineup. His 11th-best average median lap ranking on these tracks was backed up with a top-10 finish here in May.
Values are tough this week, but both Bubba Wallace ($6,800) and Aric Almirola ($5,500) grade out with top-15 average median lap time rankings in this blend. We've also seen Brad Keselowski ($6,000) and Cole Custer ($5,000) pop for top-12 finishes at Darlington in the past two years.
However, the most interesting dart at the bottom might be Jones' teammate Ty Dillon ($3,000), who has the 19th-best average ranking on this track type. He's riding a streak of four straight top-20 finishes looking for a new ride.