RaceDayScore NASCAR: Bojangles' Southern 500

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Bojangles' Southern 500

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Bojangles' Southern 500

Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.36-mile oval
Laps: 367

Race Preview

With just two races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off, only three spots remain for drivers without a 2016 victory. That means a minimum of one driver will make the Chase by virtue of points alone. The current transfer spot is held by Jamie McMurray who holds a narrow lead over Ryan Newman. Kyle Larson became the most recent driver to book his spot in the playoffs after claiming his first Sprint Cup victory last week in Michigan. The victory was perfectly timed for the driver as he had just been knocked off the Chase bubble by Chris Buescher's top-five run in Bristol a week earlier. This week, the series heads to Darlington Raceway, a track notorious for being demanding on both car and driver.

Key Stats at Darlington Raceway

Number of previous races: 112
Winners from pole: 20
Winners from top-5 starters: 70
Winners from top-10 starters: 96
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
Fastest race: 141.383 mph

Last 10 Darlington Winners

2015 - Carl Edwards
2014 - Kevin Harvick
2013 - Matt Kenseth
2012 - Jimmie Johnson
2011- Regan Smith
2010 - Denny Hamlin
2009 - Mark Martin
2008 - Kyle Busch
2007 - Jeff Gordon
2006 - Greg Biffle

Darlington is a unique track on the Sprint Cup calendar and is also one of the most historic. The circuit features different corners at each end along with abrupt changes in banking through the low and high lines. The fastest line is generally along the top of the track, but drivers will have to move up and down the banking to make passes or simply to manage handling. Many nicknames have been applied to the speedway throughout its years of action such as, "The Lady in Black" and "The Track too Tough to Tame." Teams and drivers alike can expect a punishing race on a difficult circuit that can create its fair share of mechanical failures and driver mistakes.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Kevin Harvick - $11,800
Kyle Busch - $11,600
Jimmie Johnson - $11,100

Tier 2 Values

Kyle Larson - $10,900
Ryan Newman - $10,800
Kurt Busch - $10,700
Joey Logano - $10,600

Tier 3 Values

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,300
Regan Smith - $9,300
Trevor Bayne - $9,200
Casey Mears - $8,500

Long-Shot Values

Chase Elliott - $10,800
Chris Buescher - $8,500
Matt DiBenedetto - $8,000

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Denny Hamlin - $11,400
Ryan Newman - $10,800
Kurt Busch - $10,700
Jamie McMurray - $10,300
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,300
Michael McDowell - $7,100

Hamlin may be racing better than any other driver on the circuit at the moment. He's currently riding a top-10 streak that stretches back to New Hampshire in July. He won at Darlington in 2010 and led 57 laps in last year's race before finishing third. Fantasy owners should also be able to expect a top-10 finish from Newman this week. He scored five top-10s at the track in the last seven races and will be fighting to get back into Chase contention before the door shuts. Kurt Busch has no such Chase worries but can be pacey at this track. He qualified on the front row in two of the last three races here and led seven laps en route to a sixth-place finish last year. Michigan turned out to be a great outing for McMurray as he got his third straight top-10 finish. He's a consistent top-20 performer at Darlington and could outperform that on Sunday with his Chase position being extra motivation. While Stenhouse showed little fight in Michigan, he should be a top-20 contender this week. He qualified eighth here last season and has two top-20s from three Darlington starts. Finally, McDowell still will be riding the high of winning in the Xfinity series last week. He has three consecutive DNFs at Darlington but has been a regular face in the top 20 and should be a reliable selection deeper in the pack for the lower-risk option.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Kevin Harvick - $11,800
Kyle Busch - $11,600
Jimmie Johnson - $11,100
Greg Biffle - $10,100
Clint Bowyer - $8,700
Michael Annett - $6,700

A higher-risk lineup for Darlington includes some drivers who have struggled in 2016, but have historically been successful at Darlington. Harvick is back to his winning ways and has three Darlington top-fives from the last three races. After two weeks of bad luck it could be time for Kyle Busch to return to the front of the running order. He won at Darlington in 2008 and hasn't finished worse than 11th at the track in the last six races. Could a good weekend in Michigan signal a turnaround for Johnson just in time for the Chase? He has been ultra-successful at Darlington in the past with three victories. Biffle is another driver who has been off pace in recent weeks. He scored back-to-back wins at Darlington in 2005 and 2006 and scored a top-five there in 2014. Clint Bowyer may be the riskiest choice in this roster. The veteran driver has failed to make progress in this interim season before taking over the No. 14 machine. He finished last in Michigan last week but should be capable of a top-20 finish at Darlington this week if his average track finish of 19.8 is to be believed. Finally, Michael Annett rounds out the roster with his consistency of finishing better than his starting position in each of his last five races.

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.
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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.
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