BREAKING NEWS: Added 9/2/2018 at 11:55 am ET, Jimmie Johnson ($8,300) will have to start from the rear because of unapproved adjustments. He’ll still be scored from 20th in DraftKings, and I’d recommend being low on ownership with him.

Throwback Weekend is upon us with the 69th (nice) annual Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sunday night. This is one of the longest races of the season (time-wise) and it’s looking like we may be in for one hell of a race. Denny Hamlin, the defending winner of the Southern 500, won the pole for this year’s event, and he’ll have Kyle Larson alongside him when this thing goes green. Ever since the teams unloaded on Friday, the Chevrolets have looked stout, and they’re led by not only Larson but Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, who qualified 4th and has looked to have a great race car all weekend. Ryan Newman also qualified 6th for Sunday night’s race, giving Chevy three of the top six starting spots, with Toyota grabbing the other three. Only two Fords qualified in the top 10 for this year’s Southern 500.

We’re looking at a schedule distance of 367 laps on Sunday night, which means 91.75 FPTS in DraftKings are up for grabs simply from laps led. Looking at the trends at Darlington, we had three main dominators: Denny Hamlin (124 laps led), Kyle Larson (124 laps led), and Martin Truex, Jr. (76 laps led). Hamlin started 9th while the other two started 4th and 2nd, respectively. In 2016, Kevin Harvick led a race-high 214 laps from the pole with Brad Keselowski (started 2nd) and Kyle Larson (started 16th) each leading 47 and 45 laps (respectively) as well. Keselowski led 196 laps from the pole in 2015. In other words, it pays to start up front, and that’s going to be the case this weekend, too! In terms of fastest laps for Sunday night, we’re looking at around 280 green flag laps, which equals 140 FPTS in DraftKings. With tires being so important at Darlington, though, it’s rare to see one driver have a significant amount in this category. More likely, we’ll see 3-5 drivers in the 30-50 fastest lap range on Sunday night.

GPP Drivers I Love For The Darlington Bojangles’ Southern 500

Darlington Throwback Kyle Busch Skittles 2018 Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Image

Kyle Busch ($12,400) – DraftKings didn’t quite have the price jumps that FanDuel had this weekend, but it was close, as Kyle Busch is a whopping $12,400 for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sunday night. This is both a good and bad thing. The good here is that the high price point should deter some people from rostering Buesch, as should the fact that Denny Hamlin ($9,900) and Kyle Larson ($12,100) are starting up front and come at a discount. However, I had Kyle Busch #1 heading into this weekend, and I’m sticking to it, as I think he has the best car heading into Sunday night. Him and Alex Bowman had the best ten-lap averages by over 3-tenths of a mph in Happy Hour, and Busch also ranked 10th in overall average speed. The bad news, by the way, is that that high price tag means Busch has to get a significant number of dominator FPTS in order for him to be worth it. I don’t think that should be a problem, although I am a bit concerned that he only has 34 fastest laps total in the last four Darlington races.

Kurt Busch ($8,500) – Momentum is real in Fantasy NASCAR, and with his win at Bristol a couple of weeks ago, Kurt Busch has to be floating on cloud nine right now–well, except for the whole undetermined future thing. Anyway, one way to get your mind off of everything is to go out there and race well, and Kurt is poised to do that yet again this weekend. The #41 Ford qualified in 9th, which should keep Kurt’s ownership percentage relatively low when you pair that with his price tag. However, Busch was stout in Happy Hour on Friday, and even wound up 5th-best on the overall average chart after posting the 6th-best ten-lap average. Looking at Darlington history, Busch finished 3rd here last season and 7th in 2015, and over the last four seasons here, he’s averaging 19 fastest laps per race–good enough for 6th-best in the series. I’d definitely be okay with a top 5 finish and double-digit fastest laps from Kurt Busch on Sunday night.

Austin Dillon 2018 Darlington Throwback Dale Earnhardt Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Austin Dillon ($6,600) – The #3 Chevrolet has that awesome silver Dale Earnhardt throwback paint scheme on it this weekend, which I guess goes well with the silver spoon Austin Dillon was born with and used to get to where he is today… anyway, we all know Dillon has a knack for taking down big races, whether it be by fuel mileage or by wrecking the leader, but he’s actually pretty good here at Darlington Raceway; in addition to finishing a career-best 4th in this race one year ago, Austin has wound up 12th or better in three of his four career starts here with a worst finish of 22nd back in 2015 (after starting 29th). This time, he’ll roll off the grid from 18th, which I’m hoping is high enough to deter other DraftKings players from picking him. Austin didn’t show a ton of speed in the practice sessions here on Friday, but his teammate, Ryan Newman, did, and typically when one is good, so is the other. Dillon is downright cheap here at $6,600, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he challenged for a top 10 finish on Sunday night. Remember, three of the last four Cup Series races have ended with Austin in 13th or better.

Kasey Kahne ($6,300) – Kasey Kahne qualified back in 29th for Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500, but I still think he’s a legitimate threat for a top 20 finish this weekend. Darlington is a track that driver talent comes into play a little more than usual, and when you combine that with the fact that the #95 Chevrolet has been getting better and better as the season has gone on…well, I like that combination. Additionally, Chevrolet has a whole is coming on as of late, and Kahne has been a top 20 threat at most of the intermediate track races this season. Finally, whenever Kasey Kahne shows up high on the speed charts, it’s better to not ignore that; in Practice #1 on Friday, Kasey was 11th-fastest and he followed that up with the 7th-fastest lap in Happy Hour. I have Kahne projected around a 23rd-place finish, which would give him 6 place differential FPTS a pretty solid finish FPTS total considering his salary.

Talkin’ Strategy

Kyle Larson Brad Keselowski Garage Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Lineup construction got a little easier on Saturday afternoon when Jeffrey Earnhardt ($4,600) spun into the inside wall before even making a lap in qualifying. The #96 team had to go to a backup car, and Earnhardt will be scored from dead last in DraftKings on Sunday–meaning it’s impossible for him to score negative points. The best thing about this situation, though, is that the #96 Toyota has actually had some good runs over the last couple of months, incluing a 29th-place finish at Pocono and 24th at Watkins Glen. The primary car was also kind of sporty in practice this weekend, ending up 31st-fastest in Practice #1 and 33rd-fastest in Happy Hour. Earnhardt should be able to easily pass guys like Timmy Hill, BJ McLeod, Joey Gase, and Derrike Cope on Sunday, not to mention anyone that wrecks. Let’s just hope Jeffrey can keep it off the wall for one night.

The reason I said lineup construction got easier was because Kevin Harvick ($11,400) threw a wrench into things on Saturday by qualifying 22nd. He’s been one of the fastest cars here at Darlington over the last three years, and now we have a bunch of place differential points sitting there as well. When you pair that with Kyle Busch ($12,400)Kyle Larson ($12,100), and Denny Hamlin ($9,900) starting up front and looking to have great race cars, you’re going to need some low-dollar options to make this work. The pairing of Harvick with one those three is really going to put some constraints on your salary cap situation, but that’s likely going to be the building block to the top lineup on Sunday night.

Driver Point Projections for the Bojangles’ Southern 500

The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedProj Fastest LapsDollar Per FPT
Kyle Busch$12,40090.1503.08349$138
Kevin Harvick$11,40085.12203.03830$134
Denny Hamlin$9,90077.9104.68441$127
Kyle Larson$12,10067.8205.45039$178
Martin Truex Jr$10,90061.2304.44225$178
Ryan Blaney$9,60056.22107.8511$171
Kurt Busch$8,50051.6906.61118$165
Chase Elliott$10,20044.31109.0910$231
Brad Keselowski$9,30044.11308.637$211
Erik Jones$8,70042.4708.2911$205
Clint Bowyer$8,90040.91710.822$218
Jimmie Johnson$8,30040.12014.209$207
Jamie McMurray$7,40039.93117.801$185
Joey Logano$9,10037.4808.213$244
Aric Almirola$8,10032.11212.201$252
Alex Bowman$7,60031.0412.4158$246
Austin Dillon$6,60030.91815.801$214
Daniel Suarez$7,90028.91615.801$273
Kasey Kahne$6,30027.42922.800$230
Ryan Newman$7,00027.1613.694$259
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$7,70027.02521.000$285
William Byron$7,20026.61016.267$271
Ty Dillon$5,40026.02823.000$208
Paul Menard$6,40024.11417.201$266
Bubba Wallace$5,90022.22724.400$266
Matt Kenseth$6,80021.91518.801$311
Ross Chastain$5,20019.03329.000$274
Matt DiBenedetto$5,50018.83027.600$293
Chris Buescher$6,10018.21922.400$335
Michael McDowell$5,80017.62626.200$330
Jeffrey Earnhardt$4,60017.24033.400$267
AJ Allmendinger$6,20015.62426.200$397
David Ragan$5,70015.42325.800$370
Corey Lajoie$5,00015.23431.400$329
Landon Cassill$5,10013.43532.800$381
Joey Gase$5,30012.23935.400$434
BJ McLeod$4,90009.03736.000$544
Timmy Hill$4,70006.03637.000$783
Derrike Cope$4,50004.43838.800$1,023
JJ Yeley$4,80002.83236.600$1,714

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.


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