This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.37-mile oval
Kyle Busch survived multiple late restarts to win last week on his birthday at Kansas Speedway. The win marked 10 different winners from the first 11 races this season, adding even further pressure on contenders who haven't gotten to Victory Lane yet this season. Just six spots remain for nonwinners to qualify for the playoffs with 15 races remaining in the regular season. Adding to that pressure is a trip this week to one of NASCAR's toughest tracks in Darlington Raceway. The 1.37-mile oval is egg shaped and sports an old, rough surface. The series raced three times at the track last season in the pandemic-altered schedule. Kevin Harvick won two of those races while Denny Hamlin won the other. Both of those drivers, along with defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, have yet to win in 2021. Brad Keselowski will start on pole with Harvick on the outside of the front row in this week's 400-mile throwback weekend at Darlington.
Key Stats at Darlington Raceway
- Number of races: 119
- Winners from pole: 20
- Winners from top-5 starters: 70
- Winners from top-10 starters: 100
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
- Fastest race: 141.383 mph
Previous 10 Darlington Winners
2020 fall - Kevin Harvick
2020 II - Denny Hamlin
2020 I - Kevin Harvick
2019 - Erik Jones
2018 - Brad Keselowski
2017 - Denny Hamlin
2016 - Martin Truex Jr.
2015 - Carl Edwards
2014 - Kevin Harvick
2013 - Matt Kenseth
This week's Darlington race will feature NASCAR's low-downforce package. The track is notoriously tough on tires, and that lack of downforce will magnify the already heavy tire wear. Having the race in the afternoon should also make the track hot and slick, which would only serve to spice up the action even more. Drivers will opt for four-tire pit stops at every opportunity, and lap times will slow the longer a car stays out. Calling the car in under green-flag conditions at the right time could make the difference between amassing an on-track advantage or being swallowed by the competition, and preserving that grip for the final miles could be a winning strategy. While track position is important at Darlington, a driver starting inside the top five hasn't won since Harvick won from pole in 2014. Passing is difficult, and drivers will have to be able to run high and low in order to work through traffic, but running as tight to the outside wall as possible will likely be the preferred option.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Hamlin (DK $10,600, FD $14,000) won the second of three Darlington races last season. It was his third career victory at the track. He's still looking for his first win of 2021, but it seems like just a matter of time before he gets the job done. Harvick (DK $9,600, FD $10,500) won the other two races here last year, giving him three track wins, too. He will start on the front row on Sunday and has been improving each week as evidenced by his runner-up finish last week at Kansas. Darlington should be a terrific venue for Christopher Bell (DK $8,600, FD $9,000). His best finish there last season was 11th, but this week will be the first time he has the full suite of Joe Gibbs Racing equipment at his disposal. He excels in low-grip environments, and fantasy players should expect to see him running very close to the outside wall this week. Tyler Reddick (DK $7,400, FD $8,000) is also capable of making waves at Darlington. He has climbed the standings with four top-10s from the last five races and will start 10th on Sunday. He finished seventh in the first race here last season. Roush Fenway Racing teammates Ryan Newman (DK $7,200, FD $6,000) and Chris Buescher (DK $6,500, FD $7,000) also make reliable choices this week. The pair announced their potential at Homestead earlier this season and now head to a track that should reward the same capabilities. Buescher has never had a top-10 finish at Darlington, but Newman has amassed 13 from 24 starts. The pair appears to have the tools necessary to outperform usual expectations again this week.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Larson's (DK $11,400, FD $13,000) speed has been good enough to win him multiple races this season. He nearly won last week at Kansas but lost it on restarts. He has been quick at Darlington in the past and has Hendrick Motorsports equipment this year, which could be a winning combination. He has three top-three finishes from six starts at the track and led 500 laps in that span, too. One could argue that Elliott (DK $9,200, FD $12,000) should have won at least one of the trips to Darlington last year. He led a combined 142 laps in those three races and will start sixth on Sunday. Darlington has been a good venue for Erik Jones (DK $8,200, FD $7,300). His worst finish from six starts is eighth, and his average finish is 5.2. He will start 26th this time and in a Richard Petty Motorsports car, but he should be able to outperform expectations given his previous track success. Austin Dillon (DK $7,500, FD $7,800) finished second here last fall and has three top-10s from nine career starts. Three top-10s in the last three races means he has wind in his sails, too. Bubba Wallace (DK $7,000, FD $5,800) should benefit from his team's alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. The organization has historically produced fast machinery for Darlington. He starts 23rd this week. Daniel Suarez (DK $6,700, FD $6,700) has also been on an upward swing. He has three top-20s in the last three races and has a previous best of 11th at Darlington.