Alright well the first race back went pretty well, and mostly as expected. The guys that were fast two months ago before the coronavirus pandemic hit were still fast on Sunday. Now we have a quick turnaround for some mid-week racing, with the Toyota 500(k) scheduled for Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the weather forecast looks downright awful all week, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. NASCAR and the teams have already indicated that they are okay with running this race on Thursday or Friday, so keep that in mind.

With there just being a race here at Darlington a couple of days ago, we have a lot that we can analyze, so this post is going to be a little longer than usual. First we’ll go over the fastest cars from Sunday, then go with with some strategy for building lineups for the Darlington-2 race, I have some GPP plays that I think could help you take home some big prize money, and then finally the usual projections.

Sunday Race Recap – The Fastest Cars

Alex Bowman practicing at Auto Club Speedway 2020 in Cincinnati paint scheme
Photo Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

A quick overview of what happened the last time we were at Darlington (on Sunday). The biggest question going into the race was whether or not the teams with most of the speed at the beginning of the year (two months ago) would still have that advantage–namely Hendrick Motorsports. And the answer was a resounding yes. Alex Bowman finished 2nd, Chase Elliott finished 4th, and while Jimmie Johnson ended up finishing 38th, he was in the lead at the end of Stage 1. Soon after, the fourth Hendrick driver, William Byron, who won Stage 1, blew a tire and his day ended early. Still, all four Hendrick cars showed top 5 speed.

As far as the fastest cars on Sunday, Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman were pretty much in a league of their own. Looking at the fastest lap counter from that race:

  • Kevin Harvick – 77 fastest laps
  • Alex Bowman – 48 fastest laps
  • Brad Keselowski – 26 fastest laps
  • Denny Hamlin & Martin Truex, Jr. – 14 fastest laps each
  • Kurt Busch – 10 fastest laps
  • Tyler Reddick – 9 fastest laps
  • Jimmie Johnson – 6 fastest laps
  • Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch & William Byron – 5 fastest laps each
  • Matt Kenseth – 4 fastest laps
  • Timmy Hill – 3 fastest laps
  • Clint Bowyer, Joey Gase, Josh Bilicki, & Garrett Smithley – 2 fastest laps each
  • Erik Jones & JJ Yeley – 1 fastest lap each

Kevin Harvick has had a ton of speed all year, so no surprise there. Same with Alex Bowman. Brad Keselowski started on the pole and led 80 laps so his fastest laps make sense.

What’s noteworthy in those totals is the small uptick in Joe Gibbs Racing performance. Martin Truex, Jr. posted double-digit fastest laps for just the second time all year (he had 18 at Las Vegas), while Denny Hamlin’s 14 fastest laps were his most in a single race all season. Kyle Busch was averaging 6 per race since Daytona, so the 5 was average, while Erik Jones doesn’t really post fastest laps, as he added one more to his total (which is 6 since Daytona).

As far as Green Flag Speed goes for Sunday’s race, the top 5 in that statistic were: Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch. Click here for the Green Flag Speed chart from the first Darlington race. Looking at the drivers Fastest Late In A Run, the top 5 were: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, and Alex Bowman. Click here for the Drivers Fastest Late In A Run chart from the first Darlington race.

DraftKings Strategy for Darlington 2 Wednesday Night

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As weird as this may sound, I’m approaching this race at Darlington like a superspeedway race: all about the place differential and finishing position. Here’s the thing: we just raced at this track a couple of days ago. The fastest cars on Wednesday are probably going to be the cars that were fastest on Sunday. Think of it as actually having practice data to analyze, except it was real race data–even better.

So with that being said, most of the drivers starting inside the top 10 will not be in any of my lineups. Like I said, this is like a superspeedway to me. I won’t be touching the front row of Ryan Preece or Ty Dillon, very low on Clint Bowyer, not much if any of the two Ryans (Blaney and Newman), while DiBenedetto, Almirola, and Austin Dillon are all going to be super low owned for me, around 5% or lower. You’ll notice I didn’t mentioned Joey Logano (who starts 3rd) or Brad Keselowski (who starts 8th). More on them soon.

Now you may be asking yourself, “well what about the dominator points that Preece or someone will get to start the race?” I’m not concerned about those. The place differential points from the really good cars will probably be higher, especially when they take over and dominate. Not to mention, Wednesday night’s scheduled race is a full 65 laps shorter than Sunday’s race was. This puts place differential points as more significant to target than dominator points (compared to a normal race).

Drivers With The Best Chance of Dominating

Here’s where things get interesting with how the race may play out. I fully believe that the Penske cars of Joey Logano ($9,400) and Brad Keselowski ($9,700) sandbagged at the end of the race on Sunday to get a better starting spot for Wednesday. The #2 Ford had the 4th-fastest green flag speed in the race, while the #22 Ford was a top 10 contender before the tire issue, and even though Logano was saved, he couldn’t make his way back up through the field, even though others in a similar position could.

At the start of the race on Wednesday night, I could see Logano taking the lead early and leading for a bit. But I don’t think he’ll stay up there and be a contender. I could see Brad Keselowski having a car to dominate 10-15% of the race, but he starts back in 8th, and I think the extra time he’ll take to get to the front will just allow the super fast cars to catch up quicker. If I had to pick between the two, I’d take a chance with Brad, but I won’t be going crazy with ownership of him by any means.

Another guy starting up front to keep an eye on is Clint Bowyer ($7,300), who starts in 4th. Clint ranked 9th in Green Flag Speed on Sunday and is teammates to guy that just dominated that race. If Bowyer can get out front early, he could definitely put up some dominator points, and he’s decently priced so you could fit him into lineups a little easier. Of course, he’s only led 17 laps in his entire career at Darlington, so it’s by no means a guarantee.

At the end of the day, I’m expecting similar names up front on Wednesday night, and I think the dominators will come from the guys starting 13th through 20th. If I had to rank them by dominator potential, I’d probably go Harvick/Bowman (toss up), Truex, Hamlin, Reddick (yep), Kurt Busch, Elliott, Jones.

GPP / Tournament Plays I Love for Darlington Wednesday Night

Erik Jones Fantasy NASCAR Dewalt
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Erik Jones ($8,500) – I like the strategy behind going overweight on Erik Jones in DraftKings on Wednesday night. Don’t forget, he led 79 laps here at Darlington last fall in his Southern 500 win, which was also the last time we raced here under the lights. Also, his record at The Lady in Black is ridiculously impressive, as Jones has a career average finish of 5.5 with no finish worse than 8th in four career starts. The #20 Toyota will roll off the starting grid from 13th in this Darlington-2 race, and if Jones can get to the front and lead for 40+ laps, I think he could end up being in the top DraftKings lineups for this race. He’s under-priced for DraftKings with his record here, and should be lower-owned than normal since he starts higher than others. Don’t forget, the #20 Toyota was at least a top 5 car late on Sunday, but then Jones had two loose lug nuts and limped home to an 8th-place finish.

Tyler Reddick ($7,700) – Tyler Reddick has two major chalk drivers right ahead of him in the DraftKings price list this week: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,900) and Chris Buescher ($8,100), who start 39th and 32nd, respectively. And I know I said I’m approaching this race like a superspeedway event, which means Stenhouse and Buescher would be awesome picks based on the place differential potential, but I love pivoting to Tyler Reddick. I don’t like it, I love it. Let me explain why. Tyler Reddick had legitimate top 5 speed on Sunday here at Darlington. His team had a pit road penalty and he still rallied to finish 7th, which is why he’s starting 14th on Wednesday night. Now, if Reddick is able to pull off a top 5 finish here in this race, he’ll earn 48 DraftKings points plus however many fastest laps and laps led points he puts up. In order for Stenhouse to get that many DraftKings points, he has to finish in 17th–something he’s only done once in eight career starts at Darlington. In order for Buescher to post that many points, he must finish 14th. That #17 Ford was a 20th-place car at best on Sunday. I’ve hopped on the Tyler Reddick bandwagon, and I think he could be an under-owned play that wins someone a whole lot of money in DraftKings this week (and season).

Darlington Toyota 500(k) 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.

DriverStarting PositionDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedDollar Per FPT
Kevin Harvick20$11,60073.102.249$159
Alex Bowman19$10,00064.604.036$155
Kyle Busch26$12,00053.908.86$223
Jimmie Johnson37$9,10053.813.60$169
Chase Elliott17$10,30053.005.68$194
Martin Truex Jr15$11,10053.005.419$210
Kurt Busch18$8,70051.705.85$168
Denny Hamlin16$10,70048.708.417$220
Brad Keselowski8$9,70046.605.220$208
Tyler Reddick14$7,70046.607.615$165
Erik Jones13$8,50045.507.413$187
William Byron34$8,90042.817.60$208
Ricky Stenhouse Jr39$7,90034.224.40$231
Joey Logano3$9,40034.108.214$276
Aric Almirola9$7,40031.810.60$233
Chris Buescher32$8,10030.822.60$263
Matt Kenseth11$7,60028.213.40$270
Christopher Bell24$6,80026.820.60$254
Austin Dillon10$7,20025.614.20$281
Cole Custer22$6,60025.220.40$262
John H. Nemechek12$6,20021.617.20$287
Clint Bowyer4$7,30020.115.210$363
Ryan Newman6$6,40019.615.20$327
Ryan Blaney5$8,30019.414.80$428
Matt DiBenedetto7$7,00018.616.20$376
Bubba Wallace21$5,70017.423.80$328
Corey Lajoie31$5,50015.829.60$348
Michael McDowell23$5,80014.626.20$397
Daniel Suarez25$6,10014.627.20$418
Quin Houff35$4,70013.432.80$351
Garrett Smithley36$5,20010.834.60$481
BJ McLeod38$5,00009.236.40$543
Brennan Poole27$4,80009.031.00$533
JJ Yeley29$5,30008.232.40$646
Joey Gase30$4,60006.833.60$676
Gray Gaulding28$4,50004.034.00$1,125
Timmy Hill33$4,90003.836.60$1,289
Ty Dillon2$5,90001.422.84$4,214
Ryan Preece1$5,40000.823.612$6,750
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.