This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Cook Out Southern 500
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.37-mile oval
Ryan Blaney held off the rest of the field in an overtime finish a week ago at Daytona to claim his third victory of the season and second in a row. That nail-biter was the conclusion to the regular season, and the playoffs get underway this week at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500. Martin Truex Jr. dominated the Darlington race back in May, leading 248 of 293 laps. Blaney will lead the field to green for his recent efforts, and Denny Hamlin will line up alongside him on the front row. Hamlin lost out to Kyle Larson for the regular-season championship last week, but Hamlin will have the small early advantage this week with Larson starting sixth. Only 20 of the 120 NASCAR Cup Series Darlington races have been won by someone starting on pole, but only 19 have been won by someone starting lower than 10th. All 16 playoff contenders will start in the first eight rows due to the points reset as the knockout rounds commence.
Key Stats at Darlington Raceway
- Number of races: 120
- Winners from pole: 20
- Winners from top-5 starters: 71
- Winners from top-10 starters: 101
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
- Fastest race: 141.383 mph
Previous 10 Darlington Winners
2021 spring - Martin Truex Jr.
2020 fall - Kevin Harvick
2020 II - Denny Hamlin
2020 I - Kevin Harvick
2019 - Erik Jones
2018 - Brad Keselowski
2017 - Denny Hamlin
2016 - Martin Truex Jr.
2015 - Carl Edwards
2014 - Kevin Harvick
The historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is notoriously tough on cars and drivers. The rough surface can best be compared to Atlanta and Homestead where William Byron and Blaney scored wins earlier this season. Nearly every stop on pit road will come with four-tires, and lap times will slow severely the longer a car stays out on old rubber. Making the right call at the right time to change tires could be a difference maker in Sunday night's long race. Drivers who can manage tire wear effectively, saving grip for the final miles, could find themselves swallowing up the competition. Passing is difficult, and drivers will have to be able to run both the high and low lines in order to work through traffic, but running as tight to the outside wall is likely to be the preference.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Busch (DK $11,200, FD $13,000) will start his playoff campaign from the sixth row at Darlington this week. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has one prior win at the circuit, but he has only finished worse than 11th four times from his 19 career starts. His average Darlington finish is 10.7. Teammate Denny Hamlin (DK $9,500, FD $12,500) will run the Xfinity Series race on Saturday to gain some track time ahead of Sunday's big prize. Hamlin has three Darlington victories on his resume and finished fifth there earlier this season. There may be no hotter driver at the moment than Blaney (DK $8,500, FD $9,800). He now has his first multi-win season and picked up his first back-to-back victories in the last two races. He will start from pole Sunday and scored his first Darlington top-10 in May. Austin Dillon (DK $8,300, FD $8,500) may have missed the playoffs, but he will also take advantage of the Xfinity race on Saturday to grab some seat time ahead of Sunday's race. Dillon will start 21st Sunday and was runner up in this race last year. Two top-20s in the last two Darlington races coupled with the 29th starting position make Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (DK $6,800, FD $6,500) a driver worth considering this week, too. His best finish of 12th at the track came in 2018's Southern 500. Finally, the Roush Fenway Racing cars have been at their best on rough pavement this season. Both drivers finished in the top 10 in the May race, and Ryan Newman (DK $5,700, FD $5,000) should be expected to have a strong showing again this week.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Many fans may see Sunday's Southern 500 race as Larson's (DK $11,500, FD $14,000) to lose. He has been the best driver in the series this season, wrapped up the regular-season championship last week, and finished second in his last two Darlington stops. Christopher Bell (DK $8,700, FD $9,200), on the other hand, will be looking for his first Darlington top-10 finish to get his playoffs off to a good start. His best Darlington finish is 11th and he finished 14th there in May. Tyler Reddick (DK $8,000, FD $9,000) is another playoff contender looking to make waves in this first round of elimination races. He will start Sunday's race seventh and has three finishes of 13th or better from his four series starts at this track. Like Newman, Chris Buescher (DK $7,800, FD $7,500) should be on fantasy managers' radars this week. He and the team have been at their best on tracks like Darlington this season. He finished ninth there in May and should be a top-10 contender again this week. The playoff dream didn't come true for Matt DiBenedetto (DK $7,700, FD $7,800) last week, but he remains in audition mode for a 2022 ride. He was in the best form of his career prior to Daytona and will be looking to add a third Darlington top-10 to his resume this week. With his 11th-place finish in May at this track, Chase Briscoe (DK $6,300, FD $5,500) could be a value choice for rosters this week. That was his first series start at Darlington, and he also boasts an Xfinity Series win at the circuit from 2020.