NASCAR is back in a big way. Not only is it one of the first major sports to resume since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but DraftKings has given us a “Million Dollar Race” contest with $200,000 going to 1st and a $10 entry fee. Kind of crazy considering how unpredictable this race might be. Will Denny Hamlin just send it and go three-wide into turn one on the first lap and wreck half the field? Will there be gamesmanship being played at the end between the drivers running 15th through 20th, since the top 20 finishers will be inverted to set the starting lineup for Wednesday night’s race? Who knows.
DraftKings Strategy for Darlington
Well, we’re all basically going in blind for this race with no practice or qualifying, but at least we’re all in the same boat there. The NASCAR Cup Series typically visits Darlington once per season (in the fall), and the race is 500 miles as it transitions from evening to night. This time, we have a race starting in the mid-afternoon that’s only 400 miles, so quite a bit of difference.
Unfortunately, Darlington is a really unique track that doesn’t compare well to others, so track history is going to play an important role in figuring out who should be good this weekend. With that being said, this track is worn out and rough, making it a “high wear” race track. Other venues that bear the same type are: Atlanta, Chicagoland Fontana, and Homestead. In addition to focusing a little bit on data from those tracks, I will also be looking into the speed of teams a couple of months ago. This is still a brand new season and typically the teams that are hot out of the gate (this year it’s Hendrick and Penske) don’t get caught until about a third of the way through the season.
With the random draw being done for qualifying this weekend, we have quite a few drivers that start much higher than usual, making them less-than-ideal options in DraftKings. Now obviously taking a risk on these drivers can have huge payoffs if they do come away with a top 5 finish, or grab a bunch of dominator points (laps led / fastest laps), but for the most part, you should use them sparingly, if at all.
Fade These Drivers or Don’t Use Much At All If You Must: Matt DiBenedetto ($7,500) starting 3rd, Bubba Wallace ($6,000) starting 17th, Corey Lajoie ($5,800) starting 19th, Garrett Smithley ($4,800) starting 26th, and Quin Houff ($4,600) starting 27th.
Now that we got who not to pick out of the way, let’s talk about potential dominators. The obvious choice here in any race is the pole sitter, which is Brad Keselowski ($10,400) this week. However, he won the pole by random draw, so the question is there on whether he can stay up there. If Keselowski only leads a couple of laps and then falls back, it’s highly unlikely he makes it into the winning lineup.
Drivers With The Best Chance of Dominating
Kevin Harvick ($11,500) is the most likely to lead the most laps in this race, in my opinion, even though he starts back in 6th. He has the first pit stall, though, and that’s a huge advantage at Darlington. I’d put Brad Keselowski ($10,400) with the 2nd-best odds since he’s on the pole.
If Keselowski doesn’t have a lead-worthy car, Alex Bowman ($9,000) is right there starting in 2nd to take over. The Hendrick cars have had a bunch of speed in 2020, and the #88 Chevrolet should be a threat on Sunday. Don’t forget, Bowman dominated at Fontana earlier this year, another high-wear track.
Kyle Busch ($11,800) starts 4th and could lead, but we just haven’t seen that type of speed out of Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020, so I actually like leaning heavier on Joey Logano ($10,100), who already has two wins this year and could add possibly a third on Sunday.
With no practice data to go off of this weekend, there’s should be plenty of opportunity to go try some strategy plays. There are definitely some chalk drivers in the field this week, and personally I like being a contrarian so I love evaluating the pivot options off of those chalky guys.
Pivot Options Off The Chalk
Ty Dillon ($5,600) is insanely low priced for his record at this track and starts 33rd. Honestly, he might be the highest owned driver on the slate. While I’m going to have a good amount of exposure with Ty, I will be pivoting with lineups here. John Hunter Nemechek ($5,900) is a safe play and he starts 34th, but from a strategy perspective I don’t hate jumping up to grab Daniel Suarez ($6,200), who starts 37th. If there’s a bunch of wrecks, Suarez is the type of guy that could sneak through and end up in the winning lineup. Michael McDowell ($5,400) is also in play here.
Darlington The Real Heroes 400 DraftKings Projections
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. Also included are projected laps led for each driver. This doesn’t take into account fastest laps. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||Starting Position||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||15||$10,800||48.7||06.4||10||$222|
|John H. Nemechek||34||$5,900||27.6||25.2||0||$214|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||23||$6,800||26.6||20.2||0||$256|