This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.37-mile oval
Chase Elliott became the latest winner this season last week at Dover, joining his three other teammates with a 2022 victory. He is the ninth different winner this season, leaving just seven playoff spots open for drivers to qualify for the championship battle through points. Those contenders will be hoping to stamp their ticket to that fight with a win this week at one of NASCAR's oldest tracks – Darlington Raceway. Joe Gibbs Racing swept victories at the track last season with Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin taking the wins. In fact, Toyota powered drivers have won three of the last four races there. The unique and challenging oval has been splitting wins between Toyota and Ford the past few years with the last victory for Chevrolet being Kevin Harvick's win back in 2014. This will be the 122nd race at the track that favors fresh tires and track position, and drivers will be anxious to visit Victory Lane as this is just one of two races remaining before the All-Star weekend.
Key Stats at Darlington Raceway
- Number of races: 121
- Winners from pole: 20
- Winners from top-5 starters: 72
- Winners from top-10 starters: 102
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
- Fastest race: 141.383 mph
Previous 10 Darlington Winners
2021 fall - Denny Hamlin
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
Darlington Raceway is renowned for its difficulty. The 1.37-mile speedway has a unique layout with different turns at opposite ends, staggered banking and an abrasive surface. Drivers will have to run different lines through the turns to get the most out of their cars, and a good amount of lap time will be spent right up against the outside wall. Being able to run different grooves will be a necessity to make passes and move through traffic, however. Due to the rough surface, nearly every stop on pit road will include a change of all four-tires. The trick for timing those stops will be teams maximizing the time spent on fresh tires since lap times will significantly slow the longer a car stays out. Making the right call at the right time to change tires could be a difference maker. Drivers who can manage tire wear effectively, saving grip for the final miles, will set themselves up for a surge forward in the final miles. Track position is a key component of success at Darlington, too. Getting off of pit road first and having those fresh tires to maintain that position out front is what everyone will be aiming for.
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)
For fantasy players looking for recent trends at Darlington to continue this week, the lower-risk lineup is the one you'll want to go with. Joe Gibbs Racing swept victories at the track last season. Truex (DK $10,500, FD $13,500) has been recently threatening victory, too. Those points could be indicators of potential success for the defending race winner this week. It would be Truex's third Darlington win if he got it done. Luck hasn't been on Ryan Blaney's (DK $9,400, FD $10,500) side much this year, but speed has. He is winless so far but leads the points among nonwinners. His best Darlington finish came in this race last year when he finished eighth. Christopher Bell (DK $8,300, FD $8,500) has also been a bit short in the luck department. He brings JGR Toyota strength to the lineup and led 13 laps in the two Darlington races last season. Erik Jones (DK $7,700, FD $7,200) is another former track victor to throw in. He is on a great run of form with two top-10s in the last two races, and he bumped his way into the playoff positions as a result. He won here in 2019 and even led two laps at the track last fall before his engine expired. Austin Cindric (DK $7,100, FD $6,200) will make his first Cup Series start at the track this week. His best Xfinity result at the track came last fall when he finished third. Chris Buescher (DK $6,900, FD $6,800) earned his third top-10 of 2022 last week at Dover, but truth be told he has been steadily climbing the order for multiple weeks before that. This week should be a good one to ride his upward swing of momentum, especially considering he finished ninth in both races at this circuit last season.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Larson (DK $11,000, FD $14,000) finished sixth or better in four of the last five races and might have been in position to battle for the win at Dover were it not for a spin. He has not yet won at Darlington but has gained seven top-10 finishes from his eight starts at the track. He was the runner up in both races last season and led 165 laps in the fall version. Ross Chastain (DK $9,700, FD $11,500) has also been quite competitive each week. He is one of just two drivers with multiple victories at this point of the season and has three top-fives from the last four races. He led 11 laps in the two Darlington races last season and finished third in the fall race. Tyler Reddick (DK $9,000, FD $8,800) has been consistently quick this year, too. His best Darlington finish was a seventh-place in 2020, but he has also consistently finished in the top 15 there. He is another driver looking for a bit of luck to claim his first series victory, and there is no reason it couldn't happen this week. Kurt Busch (DK $7,300, FD $8,000) came in second place in one of NASCAR's closest finishes at Darlington in 2003. He has never won at the track but has amassed 12 top-10s, four of those being top-fives, from his 28 career starts there. Last week's second-place finish could be a sign that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (DK $6,700, FD $6,000) may be ready to join the 2022 winner's club, too. It was his best performance of the season so far and might boost him to his best Darlington finish yet. His best so far was 12th in 2018, but he has been a regular top-20 finisher there, too. Cole Custer (DK $6,300, FD $5,000) may be another driver fantasy owners can expect a bit more than normal from this week. He has two top-15s in the last five races, including last week at Dover. He also finished 12th at Darlington last fall despite starting the race back in 31st.