This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.
Cook Out Southern 500
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.37-mile oval
NASCAR Cook Out Southern 500 Race Preview
Austin Dillon scored a walk-off victory last week at Daytona to become the 16th different winner this season. The win meant the high-profile battle battle between Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney to make the playoff field came down to points with the pair separated by merely three positions, with Blaney claiming the final playoff spot. Blaney has no time to rest, though, as the playoffs get underway this weekend at Darlington Raceway in the Cook out Southern 500. Joey Logano took the latest win at the track back in May after chasing down and bumping William Byron out of the lead as the latter slowed due to tire wear in the final miles. This week's race will be 100 miles longer than that one, and all 16 playoff contenders will be anxious to earn an automatic pass into the next round of elimination races with a victory Sunday night. The playoff points are reset and it is time for the championship battle to commence.
Key Stats at Darlington Raceway
- Number of races: 122
- Winners from pole: 21
- Winners from top-5 starters: 73
- Winners from top-10 starters: 103
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
- Fastest race: 141.383 mph
Previous 10 Darlington Winners
2022 spring - Joey Logano
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.
Darlington Raceway is a track for the veterans. The 1.37-mile speedway has a unique layout with different radius turns at either end, staggered banking and a notoriously abrasive surface. Drivers will have to run different lines through the turns achieve the fastest lap time, but the preferred line will typically be right against the outside wall. The narrow track and variable banking makes track position extremely important. While drivers and cars will generally prefer the higher line, they will be forced to move around the track to negotiate slower traffic. The track's rough surface means nearly every stop will include a four-tire change, too. Teams will try to time their stops to get their drivers off of worn tires early since fresh tires will hold a significant time advantage each lap. Drivers who can manage tire wear most effectively, saving grip for the final miles, will set themselves up well for the race to the finish. Fantasy players saw that play out earlier this season as Logano quickly tracked down Byron as Byron's tires began to give up. Fantasy players should structure their lineups this week primarily around the playoff contenders, with secondary preference given to past Darlington success.
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DraftKings Value Picks for the Cook Out Southern 500 (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
NASCAR DFS Picks for the Cook Out Southern 500
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Denny Hamlin (DK $11,100, FD $13,500) has been one of the fastest playoff contenders in the close of the regular season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is aiming to carry that speed into the elimination races and add a little luck as well. He has four Darlington wins and led 42 laps in the spring race. Hamlin should be a top choice, and appears likely to race all the way into the championship four, too. The May race probably should have been won by Byron (DK $8,900, FD $9,000). The Hendrick Motorsports driver was in the lead as Logano approached from behind and moved him out of the way with less than two laps remaining. Byron will be out for retribution in the form of a trip to Victory Lane. Kevin Harvick (DK $8,500, FD $8,800) is another veteran who can get the job done at Darlington. He hasn't finished lower than ninth at this track since 2013 and has visited Victory Lane three times. Harvick ran under the radar for much of the regular season, but he should be considered a serious sleeper threat to fight for this championship. Bubba Wallace (DK $7,300, FD $6,800) didn't make the playoffs himself, but he will take over the wheel of the No. 45 entry that is competing for the owner's championship. Wallace has eight prior starts at Darlington with a best finish of 16th in 2020. Erik Jones (DK $7,200, FD $8,000), however, is a former Darlington winner. He won this race in 2019 and has been inching closer to a victory in the No. 43 this season. Fantasy players should see him as a value option with a decent shot at a win this week. Chris Buescher (DK $6,900, FD $6,200) falls into a similar category. He has been achingly close to victory this season and brings a nice track record into this weekend. Buescher has two Darlington top-10s and finished 16th in the spring race.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Rivaling Hamlin for the best pace heading into the playoffs is Chase Elliott (DK $10,700, FD $14,000). Elliott will start the playoffs with a 15-point advantage at the top of the standings, but should be aiming for Victory Lane. He has never won at Darlington but finished fifth there in the spring and has led 151 laps at the track. A win from Truex (DK $9,500, FD $10,500) this week would be poetic justice. He missed these playoffs by just a few positions, and win on Sunday would make a statement. He is a two-time Darlington winner and led 28 laps in the spring before crashing out. The man who did get into the playoffs, Blaney (DK $9,200, FD $9,500) would also deliver a statement with a win. He has yet to find Victory Lane this season but still sits seventh in the playoff standings due to his regular-season points haul. Blaney only has one top-10 finish at this track from 11 starts, though. Daniel Suarez (DK $8,000, FD $8,200) also only has one Darlington top-10. That finish for him was this season's spring visit, though. Suarez has just one top-five in the last five regular-season races, but he has typically been a top-10 contender. That trend should start again for him this week, returning to a track he found success at earlier in the year. Another Southern 500 winner can be had further down the price list in Brad Keselowski (DK $6,700, FD $6,000). Keselowski is one of the veterans that gets this track and his experience should pay off in this race. He finished seventh in this race last season, but didn't get to show what he can do with RFK Racing there in the spring after his day ended early with a crash. Wrapping up the selections then goes to Ty Dillon (DK $5,800, FD $3,000). Dillon's average Darlington finish from seven career starts is 18.7, and he finished 12th in the spring race. This should be a week he can outperform the typical expectations.