The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Darlington, S.C. this week for the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Drivers will dance with “The Lady in Black” in a Saturday night special.
The race last season at Darlington came down to three drivers. Kurt Busch started on the pole and dominated the beginning of the race, but when the sun went down, Kyle Busch took over the race. He led 265 laps until his teammate Matt Kenseth took the lead in the final laps. Kenseth took the checkered flag for his third win of the season.
The strategy for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing this week is to select drivers who have experience racing on “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” Drivers either know how to get around the track, or they do not. The drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have a history of winning races at Darlington. They would be excellent picks for your team this week.
The strategy for the Fantasy Live will be to review the practice speeds and select the drivers with the fastest 10-lap averages. The race at Darlington tends to have some long race runs without any cautions. The teams that can race around the track without their tires wearing out will make their way to the front.
Racing for the Win
1. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has the best stats of any driver in the field at Darlington. His average starting position is 10th, and his average finishing position is fifth. He has finished second in the last two races at Darlington. He will make it eight different drivers to win the first eight races.
2. Kyle Busch: Busch dominated this race last year. He started third and led 265 of the 367 laps but ended up finishing sixth. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have been very good at Darlington in the recent races, and if Busch gets to the front Saturday night, he will be tough to pass. He will race his teammate to the checkered flag.
3. Jeff Gordon: Track to Tough Too Tame? If any driver has come close to taming Darlington, it is Gordon. He has finished eight of the last 10 races in the top five at the track. He has been knocking on the door for his first win this season. He will come close again this week.
4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has started the last two races at Darlington on the front row and finished both races in the top five. He is the safest pick in the field this week. He will easily finish in the top five Saturday night.
5. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won this race last year. He started seventh but only led 17 laps in the race. Luckily for him, he led the most important laps of the race. He has not been great at Darlington in his career, but since he moved to Joe Gibbs Racing, his teammates have taught him how to tame the track at Darlington.
6. Carl Edwards: Edwards has a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at Darlington. He does not lead many laps (only led 94 laps in 10 races) and does not always race up front. He does know how to get to the front at the end of the race. Expect him to finish in the top 10 this week.
7. Tony Stewart: Stewart has been hit or miss at Darlington. In the last 10 races at Darlington, he has finished four races in the top 10 and four races outside the top 15. He will finish in the top 10 once again Saturday night.
8. Joey Logano: Logano was not very good last year at Darlington. He started 30th and finished 22nd. Two years ago, he finished in the top 10. He brings a lot of momentum into Darlington after his win at Texas. He will be fast once again Saturday night.
9. Kasey Kahne: Kahne is my pick to win the pole for the Saturday night race. He has been very good at starting up front at Darlington. In his 11 races at the track, he has won four poles. He will start up front and finish just inside the top 10 Saturday night.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Darlington is not one of Earnhardt’s best tracks, but he has been racing better than his career averages this season. He has an average starting position of 17th and an average finishing position of 14th at Darlington. Expect him to finish inside the top 10 this week.
11. Brad Keselowski: Penske Racing struggled at Darlington last year. Keselowski and Logano both finished outside the top 20. The team is much better this season. Keselowski has finished four of his five starts at Darlington in the top 15. He will do it again this week.
12. Kevin Harvick: Harvick could end up in Victory Lane Saturday, but I have a hard time trusting him. This season he has either finished up front or in the back. He always has a fast car, but mechanical problems have plagued the team. He has a history of success at Darlington, so expect him to finish near the top 10 if he can avoid mechanical issues during the race.
13. Kurt Busch: Busch won the pole for this race last year and led 69 laps early in the race. He usually does not run up front at Darlington. In his 17 career races at the track, he has an average starting position of 12th and an average finishing position of 17th. Expect him to run in the top 15 but not in the top 10 Saturday night.
14. Ryan Newman: Newman usually starts up front at Darlington and finishes inside the top 15. His average starting position at the race track is eighth, and his average finishing position is 12th. He would be a good value pick Saturday night.
15. Greg Biffle: Biffle won back-to-back races at Darlington in 2005 and 2006. Since his two wins, his average finishing position has been 17th. Expect him to run in the top 20 and finish in the top 15.
16. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex is usually pretty good at Darlington, but fantasy teams cannot trust him this season. He has finished the last two races at Darlington in the top 10. Do not expect him to make it three in a row this week. The team has had too much bad luck this season.
17. Jamie McMurray: McMurray has been good but not great at Darlington. He usually starts inside the top 20 and finishes inside the top 20. He could be a decent sleeper pick this week for your fantasy team. Just do not expect a top-10 finish from him.
18. Kyle Larson: What can you say about Larson so far this season? The rookie driver has been incredible. This is one race track for rookies to avoid, but he does not fall into that category. Use him with confidence this week.
19. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has not been able to figure out Darlington in his career. He has finished five of his eight races at the race track outside the top 15. He will do it again this week.
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has only competed in one Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington. He started 14th and finished 18th. Those are good stats for his rookie year. He should run inside the top 20 again this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Brian Vickers: Vickers has not raced at Darlington since 2011. In that race he finished 34th. This is not the race track where drivers can show up after a long absence and have much success. Do not be surprised to see him struggle Saturday night.
22. Aric Almirola: Almirola is another driver who struggles at Darlington. His average finishing position is 23rd, with only one finish in the top 10. Do not expect much more than a top-20 finish from him this week.
23. Paul Menard: Menard only has one finish inside the top 15 at Darlington. He usually finishes inside the top 25. He is having a good season this year, but do not expect him to run up front Saturday night.
24. Austin Dillon: Dillon has competed in two races in the Nationwide Series at Darlington. He was able to qualify inside the top 10 and finish both races in the top 11. It will be much different this week in the Sprint Cup Series. He should finish in the top 25 this week.
25. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose only has one top-10 finish in his five starts at Darlington. His average finishing position at the race track is 23rd. It would be an accomplishment for him to finish inside the top 20 Saturday night.
26. A.J. Allmendinger: This is not the week to select Allmendinger for your fantasy team. His average starting position at Darlington is 20th, and his average finishing position is 28th. He will finish just slightly ahead of his average this week.
27. Justin Allgaier: This will be Allgaier’s first start in the Sprint Cup Series at Darlington. In the Nationwide Series, he has five starts and has finished each in the top 17. He could be a good value pick this week.
28. Casey Mears: Mears only has two top-20 finishes in his 12 career starts at Darlington. His average finishing position is 30th. He should run inside the top 30 this week.
29. David Gilliland: Gilliland is on this list because someone needs to finish inside the top 30. So many drivers have poor stats at Darlington that it is hard to come up with a list of 30. He has finished four of his seven races at the race track inside the top 30. He could do it again Saturday night.
30. Danica Patrick: Patrick has two career starts at Darlington. She finished 38th in her first start and 40th last season. She cannot be that bad again this year, can she?
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon
Group B: Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart
Group C: Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon
Fantasy Live Picks
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Denny Hamlin
Driver 2: Kyle Busch
Driver 3: Kasey Kahne
Driver 4: Jeff Gordon
Driver 5: Tony Stewart
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