We kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs this weekend with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday night. This is going to be a relatively long race, as 500 miles around “The Track Too Tough To Tame” is 367 laps. Darlington is a high wear race track that eats tires like that’s its job. The fastest way around the track is going to be right up against the wall, and it’s not uncommon to see one or drivers absolutely dominate here. Thanks to last week’s race at Daytona, starting positions are a little wild for this weekend and there’s a lot of drivers with place differential. This should be a fun DFS slate to play on Sunday because of that.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this DraftKings article, make sure you check out my FanDuel write-up for this year’s Southern 500 as well (click here) because there’s a lot of crossover between these two sites. Now let’s goooo!!!!

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Speed Report & Loop Data Driver Averages

Kyle Larson Burnout at Texas Motor Speedway All Star Race
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

There are two charts below with statistics that I’m referencing quite a bit this weekend. The first one is loop data from races with the 750hp package this season. These races include the first Darlington race plus the events at Phoenix, Martinsville, Dover, Richmond, Nashville, and Loudon. The second chart shows this year’s loop data from the high wear race tracks. There have been four races on high wear tracks this year: Homestead, the first Darlington race, and then the two Atlanta events.

  • Starts
  • Finish
  • ARP = average running position
  • DR = driver rating
  • FL = fastest laps (total)
  • LL = laps led (total)
  • T15 = laps ran inside top 15 (total)
  • Total Laps = laps completed (total)

2021 Driver Averages w/ 750hp Package

Total Laps
Kyle Larson706.008.5110.735452819922496
Joey Logano706.108.0106.79419822162497
William Byron707.308.599.9663022262497
Denny Hamlin707.404.9115.625552423362497
Chase Elliott708.608.899.11096621132497
Martin Truex Jr708.909.1106.124145519242496
Kevin Harvick708.908.0101.8947622162495
Christopher Bell709.411.692.2641218592493
Alex Bowman712.912.089.611110818342380
Ross Chastain713.016.277.9221711282495
Ryan Blaney713.607.893.88925619702251
Austin Dillon714.315.576.019113822495
Ricky Stenhouse Jr715.016.775.36318862493
Tyler Reddick715.614.078.227215092493
Matt DiBenedetto716.315.973.1112013532488
Aric Almirola716.614.477.7382612292109
Brad Keselowski716.911.789.09510117302379
Kyle Busch717.314.381.1642614292205
Kurt Busch717.314.374.850515312308
Daniel Suarez718.319.965.53706392379
Bubba Wallace719.619.363.721276342490
Erik Jones721.120.058.82003372392
Chris Buescher721.119.064.11517812269
Ryan Newman721.121.158.6105932485
Cole Custer723.321.361.32705292248
Corey LaJoie724.624.750.80121322358
Michael McDowell725.024.849.4150992370
Chase Briscoe725.122.258.3055522346
Ryan Preece727.024.953.03901852267
Anthony Alfredo728.328.341.170362240
BJ McLeod731.131.237.52072382
Justin Haley631.328.637.530421354
James Davison631.333.829.71011895
Quin Houff731.932.232.00012049
Josh Bilicki731.933.430.80002339
Garrett Smithley532.032.832.500151653
Cody Ware632.733.332.33151836

2021 Driver Averages At High Wear Tracks

Total Laps
Martin Truex Jr404.006.7115.811528510731145
Kyle Busch405.007.8105.9721009481145
Kyle Larson406.505.4117.014027410791145
Kevin Harvick408.012.991.132107891145
William Byron408.307.5105.44210410391144
Denny Hamlin408.307.9102.631349711145
Alex Bowman408.308.499.535010051143
Ryan Blaney410.809.397.539259861144
Austin Dillon411.512.784.91307951143
Tyler Reddick411.515.483.82326551142
Chris Buescher412.811.886.755588051145
Ryan Newman414.516.375.51706991140
Christopher Bell415.815.874.51135061142
Chase Elliott416.513.783.920178311040
Matt DiBenedetto416.813.577.0807041141
Ross Chastain416.818.168.13103281142
Chase Briscoe416.820.763.2102611142
Joey Logano418.011.485.526129311142
Bubba Wallace418.318.865.41022651141
Brad Keselowski419.514.883.061516431138
Michael McDowell419.821.362.02601581135
Ricky Stenhouse Jr420.520.361.71403431060
Kurt Busch420.811.891.2105145616746
Daniel Suarez422.822.956.2922101124
Erik Jones423.322.754.62501121138
Cole Custer423.518.660.161225948
Ryan Preece424.024.652.0141211138
Anthony Alfredo425.827.446.00051135
Corey LaJoie427.325.649.3290111018
Aric Almirola427.520.050.038134851
Justin Haley428.329.140.8120111128
Garrett Smithley231.031.833.7002516
Cody Ware432.532.833.40141018
BJ McLeod432.533.233.40001110
Quin Houff433.332.931.40021106
James Davison333.333.231.8001663
Josh Bilicki434.335.228.10001037

DraftKings Strategy & Dominators for Darlington

  • Darlington is a 1.366-mile track, which means it doesn’t really compare well to anything else on the schedule. Probably the 1.5-mile tracks, but then again, NASCAR is running the 750hp package this weekend and have been running the 550hp package on the 1.5-mile venues. Darlington is also a high wear track, with the other similar tracks in that category raced at this season being Homestead and Atlanta.
  • Turn two of this track was repaved a few weeks ago. Nobody really knows for sure how this is going to affect the racing, but most speculation thinks that it will make it even harder to pass.
  • We’re looking at at least a two dominator race on Sunday night, if not a three dominator event. It’s best to build your lineups targeting at least two dominators, if not three or four if possible.
  • There are 367 laps scheduled for the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday, which means we’re looking at 91.75 DraftKings FPTS up for grabs for laps led. You can expect around 50-60 laps of caution, so we’re probably looking at 140 DraftKings FPTS for fastest laps. Again, this is a long race, and we’ll likely see at least two dominators.
  • Fastest laps are going to be spread out a little bit more than usual. The leaders will still get a good chunk of them, but if any driver has an off-sequence pit stop, they’re going to start laying down fast laps because of how severe the tire wear is at Darlington.


These are the potential dominators for Sunday’s race at Darlington, and are listed in the order of likelihood according to my projections:

  • Martin Truex, Jr.
  • Kyle Larson
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Chase Elliott
  • Kyle Busch
  • Ryan Blaney

Some “surprise” dominators that could happen on Sunday include: William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman.

Driver-by-Driver Breakdown Video

Now for the video breakdown! Be sure to go here and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already.

Optimal Lineup According to Jordan’s Projections

The optimal DraftKings lineup for Darlington according to my Projections is:

  • Kyle Larson
  • Martin Truex, Jr.
  • Christopher Bell
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
  • Chase Briscoe
  • Ryan Newman

Confidence Rating = 7.5/10. I think this is a good build to work with if Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr. end up being the two main dominators in this race. Personally, I like getting off of the Ryan Newman chalk and going with Corey LaJoie in that spot, though. The highest projected lineup without Kyle Larson in it is: Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Ryan Newman.

GPP / Tournament Picks

Denny Hamlin racing side by side with Austin Dillon at Richmond Raceway in 2020
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Denny Hamlin ($9,500) – If you listened to the Stacking Dennys Podcast this weekend, you know that now that the Playoffs are officially starting, I think Denny Hamlin is going to find his way to victory lane, and I think he’s going to do it multiple times starting this week at Darlington. Do I think Hamlin is going to go out and dominate this Southern 500 on Sunday night? Not really. Is it possible? Yes. James Dennis Alan Hamlin is a three-time Darlington winner and has four top 5 finishes in the seven 750hp races this season. He starts up in 2nd this weekend, and with Ryan Blaney’s questionable record at Darlington, you have to think Hamlin has a good chance of leading early. If his pit crew can stay as fast as they’ve been most of this year, and this track is a little harder to pass thanks to the repave in turn two, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see Dennis lead more than expected on Sunday night, making the risk of him starting 2nd worth it in DraftKings at just a $9,500 salary.

Christopher Bell ($8,700) – If you’ve read any of my content thus far for Sunday night’s Southern 500, you’re probably sick of hearing about Christopher Bell. But, hey, what can I say? I really like the upside with him this weekend. Bell was a legitimate top 5 contender here at Darlington back in May but hit the wall late and had to pit. I’m expecting the same thing to happen this weekend in the Southern 500, although hopefully not the part where CBell hits the wall. Essentially you’re looking at a Joe Gibbs Racing driver–the team that has been great here at Darlington year over year–priced at $8,700, starting 13th, with top 5 finishing upside. This reminds me of when Erik Jones was priced the same way for Darlington races, and Erik Jones won me a lot of money in this #20 Toyota at Darlington over the years…

SUNDAY MORNING ADDITION: Alex Bowman ($8,900) – As I started solidifying my lineups Saturday night and Sunday morning, I was landing on Alex Bowman a lot more than I thought I would, and really as much as Christopher Bell, so I felt obliged to make this addition to the article. Alex Bowman is always a “come-out-of-nowhere” driver, and he’s done that on a few occasions on steep tracks–including the win at Dover earlier this season. Bowman the Showman starts 5th for Sunday night’s Southern 500 and with that starting spot and his salary of $8,900, he’s going to be low owned by most on DraftKings. I’ll be overweight for sure.

Corey LaJoie ($5,500) – As talked about in the driver-by-driver breakdown video this week (above), I really like pivoting off of the Ryan Newman chalk on Sunday night to Corey LaJoie. To me, Newman has more downside than LaJoie does despite his very good record at this race track. LaJoie and this #7 team are running in the low 20s week after week right now, and here at Darlington back in May, he came home 22nd when the checkered flag flew. If a few cars have issues here in the Southern 500 on Sunday night I could see Corey LaJoie posting a top 20 finish.

Stacking Dennys Podcast with Jordan & RotoDoc

Cash Core Drivers

Martin Truex, Jr. #19 Toyota Bass Pro Shops racing at Dover 2020
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kyle Larson ($11,500) – The price is high on Kyle Larson this week (like it is almost every race) but the upside is huge here. Darlington is one of Larson’s best tracks and in four of the last five races here he has finished 2nd or 3rd. Somehow, Larson doesn’t have a win at “The Track Too Tough To Tame,” but it’s coming sooner rather than later–and maybe even this weekend. With a 6th-place starting spot and major dominating upside, Larson is definitely in play for cash lineups this weekend. He has the best average finish in the 750hp package this season and the best average running position on high wear tracks.

Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,000) – It’s Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr. that have been the best this year on high wear tracks and in the 750 hp package combined, and while it’s definitely not ideal to wrap up $22,500 in salary with just two drivers in a DraftKings lineup, it’s still the combination with the most upside on Sunday night. Truex starts back in 10th and has been the best driver here at Darlington over the last two races, especially the first race this season when he dominated it from pretty much start to finish. Additionally, Truex has the best average finish on high wear tracks this year and the 2nd-best average running position.

Chase Briscoe ($6,300) – Chase Briscoe was under-priced by DraftKings this weekend, and because of that he’s definitely a cash play in my eyes. In addition to finishing 11th here at Darlington back in May, Briscoe finished 18th at Homestead and 15th in the second Atlanta race this season, both of which are high wear tracks as well. Additionally, this #14 team is finally starting to find some speed, and as we start to hit race tracks for a second time this year, we should see rookies like Chase Briscoe perform even better. It’s hard to imagine him not being a mid-teens challenger on Sunday night, which is a great value for a $6,300 driver in DraftKings.

Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington DraftKings Driver 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 six different ranking systems. Also factored in are projected laps led and fastest laps for each driver. 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 FPTSProj OwnershipStarting PositionCeiling Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishDollar Per FPT
Martin Truex Jr$11,00086.1040.51%10129.2003.8$128
Kyle Larson$11,50081.7839.75%6120.0502.5$141
Kyle Busch$11,20067.7218.22%1292.3005.5$165
William Byron$10,70060.0220.75%1477.5006.3$178
Denny Hamlin$9,50055.7321.42%281.7003.8$170
Chase Elliott$9,20053.2026.39%485.0005.8$173
Kevin Harvick$9,80048.8017.83%957.6006.7$201
Christopher Bell$8,70047.3222.14%1358.1009.5$184
Brad Keselowski$10,40042.8816.06%1660.8012.7$243
Joey Logano$10,10042.4815.73%1160.6509.2$238
Ryan Blaney$8,50042.4515.28%158.5008.8$200
Chris Buescher$7,80042.3728.52%3463.1519.0$184
Austin Dillon$8,30041.4718.83%2149.0512.2$200
Alex Bowman$8,90039.0013.88%552.2009.2$228
Matt DiBenedetto$7,70038.0721.44%3048.3517.5$202
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,80033.9022.43%2943.3519.7$201
Tyler Reddick$8,00033.5319.84%745.3512.0$239
Kurt Busch$8,10031.6810.95%346.2512.3$256
Ross Chastain$7,50030.2819.82%2337.8018.0$248
Chase Briscoe$6,30028.4021.49%2446.1519.8$222
Cole Custer$7,10027.1719.57%3138.0022.5$261
Ryan Newman$5,70026.5737.22%1939.3519.3$215
Erik Jones$6,10024.8516.18%2234.3521.5$245
Daniel Suarez$7,30022.7820.83%2633.9023.7$320
Bubba Wallace$6,00021.359.01%1732.2520.7$281
Aric Almirola$7,00016.009.87%829.5017.8$438
Anthony Alfredo$5,80015.6710.30%3224.0029.5$370
Corey Lajoie$5,50014.1215.88%2523.9027.0$390
Michael McDowell$6,40010.976.77%1522.2524.2$584
Ryan Preece$6,60010.857.65%1818.2525.3$608
Quin Houff$5,40009.835.07%3712.0034.3$549
Cody Ware$5,20008.173.62%3315.0033.3$637
James Davison$5,10004.832.41%3611.0035.8$1,055
Joey Gase$4,90004.672.38%3508.0035.8$1,050
BJ McLeod$4,80004.000.57%2711.0032.3$1,200
Josh Bilicki$4,50001.830.41%2805.0033.8$2,455
Justin Haley$4,60001.670.98%2010.0030.2$2,760
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.