NASCAR DFS:  Cook Out Southern 500

NASCAR DFS: Cook Out Southern 500

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
Laps: 367

NASCAR Cook Out Southern 500 Race Preview

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs get underway this week with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Chris Buescher won a week ago at Daytona to grab his third win of the season, earning him the fourth seed in the 16-driver playoff field. Bubba Wallace confirmed his playoff spot with a good points day at Daytona, while Martin Truex Jr. secured the regular-season championship with his points. The stage is now set for the first three-race knockout round on the path to Phoenix to crown this season's series champion. There couldn't be a more fitting place to do it than Darlington, too. The historic track is one of the toughest on the calendar, chewing up tires and challenging drivers through 500 miles of intense racing. The spring race at the track was won by William Byron, who won a battle of survival to lead just seven laps for what was his third win of the season at the time. With little margin for error, the playoff contenders will be hoping to get off on the right foot this week in the Southern 500.

Key Stats at Darlington Raceway

  • Number of races: 124
  • Winners from pole: 21
  • Winners from top-5 starters: 74
  • Winners from top-10 starters: 104
  • Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
  • Fastest race: 141.383 mph

Previous 10 Darlington Winners

2023 spring - William Byron
2022 fall - Erik Jones
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

Darlington Raceway has developed a reputation as being one of the most unforgiving tracks on the calendar. It is an egg-shaped oval with different radius turns at either end, staggered banking and a very abrasive surface that punishes tires. Its staggered banking and rough surface combine to offer a narrow racing line for drivers to navigate, which makes passing difficult. That characteristic makes track position extremely important. While drivers and cars will generally prefer the higher line in turns 3 and 4, they will be forced to change grooves occasionally as they navigate slower traffic. By the end of the race, the fastest cars will likely be running inches away from the outside wall to maximize lap speeds. The track's rough surface means nearly every trip to pit road will be for four new tires to replenish grip lost from tire wear. That grip will enable the fastest lap times, and those who spend too much time on old tires will lose ground. Drivers that manage tire wear the best, saving grip for the final miles, will put themselves in the best position to race for the win. Fantasy players must be mindful of the weekend's practice and qualifying times when finalizing their lineups for Sunday's race.

RotoWire NASCAR DFS Tools

NASCAR Lineup Optimizer

NASCAR Projections

DraftKings Value Picks for the Cook Out Southern 500 (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values  

Denny Hamlin - $11,000
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,800
Kyle Larson - $10,500
William Byron - $10,200

DraftKings Tier 2 Values  

Kevin Harvick - $9,800
Ross Chastain - $9,600
Christopher Bell - $9,400
Tyler Reddick - $9,300

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Chris Buescher - $8,900
Brad Keselowski - $8,700
Ryan Blaney - $8,600
Chase Elliott - $8,400

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Alex Bowman - $7,600
Ty Gibbs - $7,200
Chase Briscoe - $6,500
Ryan Preece - $5,900

NASCAR DFS Picks for the Cook Out Southern 500

Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Denny Hamlin - $11,000
Tyler Reddick - $9,300
Brad Keselowski - $8,700
Chase Elliott - $8,400
Aric Almirola - $6,700
Ryan Preece - $5,900

Denny Hamlin (DK $11,000, FD $12,500) has been making a case for the 2023 championship consistently this season. He may only have two wins thus far, but he is a four-time winner at Darlington. With 801 laps led at the track across 22 career starts, his average finish of 7.7 is impressive. Hamlin will want to make a statement in these playoffs, and Darlington is the place he should do it. Keeping the focus on Toyota, Tyler Reddick (DK $9,300, FD $11,000) could be a good Darlington play, too. Reddick is the tenth seeded playoff driver, and he understands how to be fast at this track. He finished second and third here last season and 22nd in May after getting caught up in a late-race crash. RFK Racing's package has proven to outperform at tracks with rough surfaces, and Brad Keselowski (DK $8,700, FD $8,500) should benefit from that. His only win at the track came in 2018, but he has had two poles since and finished fourth in May's race. 

Chase Elliott (DK $8,400, FD $9,500) is the first non-playoff contender in this lineup. He didn't get the win he needed last week to remain in the championship hunt, but this team's speed should give them a chance to win before the season concludes. Elliott has yet to win at Darlington, but he has four top-fives at the track including May's third-place finish. Fantasy players should also consider Aric Almirola (DK $6,700, FD $5,500). It has been a challenging season for him, but he has recently been showing signs of life with two top-10s in the last five races. He finished 11th both times at this track last season and should be more of a top-15 contender again this week. The coming week will be a challenging one fore Ryan Preece (DK $5,900, FD $) after his wild crash at Daytona. His last two Darlington starts both ended with top-15 finishes, which is what fantasy players should expect again Sunday night.

Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Martin Truex Jr. - $10,800
Ross Chastain - $9,600
Ryan Blaney - $8,600
Ty Gibbs - $7,200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $7,000
Austin Dillon - $6,800

Leading the higher-risk lineup this week is Martin Truex Jr. (DK $10,800, FD $14,000), who is a two-time Darlington winner. He has led 914 total laps at the track, including more than 100 in three of the last six races. He led 145 laps in the spring race, but he also failed to finish the last three Darlington races. For that reason, he falls to the higher-risk options. Ross Chastain (DK $9,600, FD $10,500) presents a similar situation. Ever since he was told to clean up his aggressive driving style, his former consistent speed appears to be more fleeting. Darlington in May was one of those inflection points on that journey. Chastain led 93 laps in that race before crashing out in a conflict with Kyle Larson. He also crashed out of the spring race last season. If the leash comes off this week with the arrival of the playoffs, he could be a contender for the win, though. Ford power was on full display a week ago at Daytona, but Ryan Blaney (DK $8,600, FD $7,800) was the victim of the unpredictability of superspeedway races while going for the win. He will be have more things within his control this week and, with a good team performance, he should be capable of a nice start to his playoff run. He has two Darlington top-10s including this spring when he also led four laps. 

The first non-playoff driver in this bucket is Ty Gibbs (DK $7,200, FD $6,800). He didn't do enough to earn a playoff spot in his rookie season, but he was close and continues to be a consistent face among the top 10. Gibbs has two Darlington starts in the series with an average finish of 15.5. His price this week reflects that, but fantasy players should view him as having top-10 potential. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (DK $7,000, FD $6,500) was the first driver to stamp his playoff invitation with his Daytona 500 win. He hasn't always been the best at this track, but his results there have been more consistent top-15 finishes recently. His best Darlington finish was eighth last season and he finished 13th in May. He should be at his best this week with the playoffs underway. Another fantasy choice outside of the playoff contenders to consider this week is Austin Dillon (DK $6,800, FD $5,800). He crashed out of the May race, but he has five top-10s and two top-fives from 14 tries at the track. He comes with top-10 potential, and he has nothing to lose by simply going for wins without the pressure of the playoffs holding him back.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR DFS: Brickyard 400 Presented by PPG
NASCAR DFS: Brickyard 400 Presented by PPG
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Pennzoil 250
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Pennzoil 250
NASCAR DFS Trucks:  TSport 200
NASCAR DFS Trucks: TSport 200
Brickyard 400 Preview: The Oval Returns
Brickyard 400 Preview: The Oval Returns
NASCAR Barometer: Ryan Blaney Pulls Away to Win at Pocono
NASCAR Barometer: Ryan Blaney Pulls Away to Win at Pocono
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400