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
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.
- 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
|Martin Truex Jr||7||08.9||09.1||106.1||241||455||1924||2496|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||7||15.0||16.7||75.3||63||1||886||2493|
2021 Driver Averages At High Wear Tracks
|Martin Truex Jr||4||04.0||06.7||115.8||115||285||1073||1145|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||4||20.5||20.3||61.7||14||0||343||1060|
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 ($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
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.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Proj Ownership||Starting Position||Ceiling Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$11,000||86.10||40.51%||10||129.20||03.8||$128|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$6,800||33.90||22.43%||29||43.35||19.7||$201|