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DraftKings NASCAR DFS Advice: Darlington

May 15, 2020

First off, before we get started, I want to welcome those of you diving into NASCAR for the first time. Whether it’s being sports deprived, or if you are just trying to scratch that DFS itch, I’m glad you’re here. As a long-time NASCAR fan, I’m excited to see the sport take center stage as the drivers of NASCAR’s top tier series, the NASCAR Cup Series, return to the track for the first time since early March.

For those of you who might be new to NASCAR DFS, I’ll give you a quick rundown. First, the driver prices I’ll be referring to here can are over on DraftKings, where you can play a wide range of contests. NASCAR DFS works like this: drivers earn points based on fastest laps, laps led, place differential from their starting position to their finishing position, and finally, their actual finishing position. Just like with any DraftKings contest, participants must build a lineup not to exceed the set salary cap. For this game, you must select six drivers and keep your team salary under $50,000.

Due to NASCAR’s hiatus over the past few months, the series will run two races over the next week, both at Darlington Raceway. The first race is this Sunday, May 17th, with the second event the following Wednesday night, May 20th. Please keep in mind that the prices I refer to in this article are for Sunday’s contest, but you can use the notes and information to assist in setting lineups for Wednesday’s contest as well. So, with all that, let’s dive into some of the drivers to target or avoid this week at Darlington.

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Drivers to Target

Kevin Harvick (#4, Stewart-Haas Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $11,500
Race 1 Starting Position: 6th

Through the first four races of the 2020 season, Joey Logano might be tagged as the hottest driver in the sport after he picked up two victories, but Kevin Harvick is right there with him. Harvick comes into this Sunday’s race with a one-point lead over Logano in the NASCAR standings. Harvick has not finished worse than ninth, and he ranks second in the series for laps led on the through the first four weeks.

Harvick does carry a steep price tag of $11,500 for Sunday’s contest, however. That’s the second-highest in the field, and it’ll run you 23% of your salary. Still, the expensive price tag carries some strong results with it. Over the past four races at Darlington, Harvick has an average finish of 4.8, second-best among those entered in this week’s events. This includes a dominating performance in 2016, in which Harvick led 214 of 367 laps, as well as back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the past two races here.

Erik Jones (#20, Joe Gibbs Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $9,200
Race 1 Starting Position: 20th 

Coming into this event as the defending race winner, Erik Jones brings a very reasonable $9,200 salary, ninth highest in Sunday’s contest. Jones has struggled a bit so far in 2020, but Darlington could be just what he needs to get his season back on track.

Considered by some as one of the most difficult tracks on the NASCAR circuit, Jones has found success every time he’s entered an event at this prestigious venue. After two top-10 runs in the Xfinity Series, NASCAR’s AAA series, Jones has finished eighth or better in all three of his starts at this track in NASCAR’s highest level — including a victory and 79 laps led last fall. Factor in his starting position for Sunday’s race, and he should be a solid driver to target this week.

Kurt Busch (#1, Chip Ganassi Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $8,500
Race 1 Starting Position: 22nd 

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with NASCAR, Kurt Busch is the older brother of defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who is the most expensive driver for Sunday’s contest. While his brother Kyle is with the superior team and is considered by many as the most talented driver in the series, Kurt Busch could be just as valuable for DFS players this week.

Over the past three races at Darlington, Kurt Busch has the third-best average finish of active divers at 5.3, and he ranks fifth in laps led with 101. The older Busch brother has finishes of third, sixth, and seventh over the past three races at Darlington, and that includes 94 laps led last fall. As just the 12th-priciest driver for Sunday’s contest, he’s a nice value pick, and his 22nd-place starting position for Sunday’s race gives him a good opportunity to earn points for place differential.

Chris Buescher (#17, Roush Fenway Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $7,000
Race 1 Starting Position: 24th 

With the 21st-highest salary, Chris Buescher is more of a value play. Buescher has never finished worst than 17th at Darlington in his career, and all of those races were with lesser equipment than what he has now in his first year with Roush Fenway Racing. Buescher won’t be competing for the win, but he should be a solid option at a reasonable price.

Cole Custer (#41 Stewart-Haas Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $6,300
Race 1 Starting Position: 14th 

The top value pick of the week based on Sunday’s prices has to be Cole Custer. Custer is a rookie in the NASCAR Cup series, but he drivers for one of the sport’s top teams. Sunday makes for Custer’s first Cup Series start at Darlington, but the young driver has already found success in the Xfinity Series, including a second-place finish in 2018 and a win last fall. Custer’s starting position for Sunday could lead to come risk in earning points for place differential, but that might not be a factor for Wednesday’s event.

Drivers to Avoid

Ryan Blaney (#12 Team Penske)
Race 1 DK Price: $9,500
Race 1 Starting Position: 7th

Ryan Blaney enters Sunday’s race with the eighth-highest salary, and that price tag is more than likely based on his recent results this season than his prior success at this track. Blaney has been as solid as they come so far in 2020 despite some late-race circumstances costing him quality finishes.

However, Blaney’s history at Darlington is concerning, especially if you’re committing 19.0% of your team’s salary to him on Sunday. Blaney has failed to finish in the top 10 in any of his five Darlington starts, and his 18th-place average finish over the last four races here puts him 15th among active drivers.

Alex Bowman (#88 Hendrick Motorsports)
Race 1 DK Price: $9,000
Race 1 Starting Position: 2nd 

Similar to Blaney, Bowman is a younger driver who has found early success through the first four races of the season, including a dominating win at Auto Club Speedway. But like Blaney, Bowman’s DraftKings price tag is more than likely linked to his 2020 success than his prior Darlington results.

Bowman ranks just behind Blaney among active drivers with an average finish of 20.5, although he’s competed in only the two most recent events. Bowman rolls off from second on Sunday, which gives you additional risk if he can’t improve on his prior Darlington results.

Jimmie Johnson (#48 Hendrick Motorsports)
Race 1 DK Price: $8,300
Race 1 Starting Position: 8th

Even the more casual sports fan might be familiar with the name Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is the most decorated driver of his era, but with 2020 being Johnson’s final year as a full-time driver in the Cup series, one can point to a recent lack of success as the reason for his retirement. Johnson’s struggles have carried over to Darlington, as he has an average finish of 25.0 over the past four races, ranking him 22nd among active drivers. I would steer clear based on his current price tag and high starting position on Sunday.

Matt Kenseth (#42 Chip Ganassi Racing)
Race 1 DK Price: $7,900
Race 1 Starting Position: 12th 

A former NASCAR Cup series champion, Kenseth will return to the series for the first time since the end of the 2018 campaign. He’ll take over the #42 car for Kyle Larson after a well-documented incident cost Larson his ride during NASCAR’s hiatus. Kenseth has found a lot of success in NASCAR, including at Darlington, where he won back in 2013. However, after being out of the car for over a year and a half, and having never driven the current version of this car, Kenseth is not worth the risk — and that’s even with a price tag that ranks him 15th among drivers.

Other helpful hints and notes for this week’s contests!

With NASCAR’s return to the track, normal qualifying will not take place. This is important to note, as a driver’s starting position directly affects their DFS point total.

Sunday’s starting lineup was set by random draw among groups determined by the current point standings. Based on this structure, most of the good teams will start up front, with the lower teams near the back.

However, for Wednesday’s race, the first 20 positions will be an invert of the top-20 finishers from Sunday’s race. Positions 21-40 will also be an invert of the bottom 20 finishers. This is important to note, as a driver’s starting position could lend itself to a nice opportunity to capitalize on points awarded for place differential.

Now, I won’t tell you not to start these drivers in this week’s contest, but beware of the $5,500 and under group. All these teams are severely underfunded and rarely compete for quality finishes. As long as they’re all starting at the back, they won’t cost you negative points for place differential, but unless you’re looking to completely punt one slot to spend elsewhere, these drivers provide little to no upside.

I hope you all found this helpful, and I look forward to hearing about more people giving NASCAR a try! If you haven’t checked out a NASCAR race before, be sure to set some line ups, tune in, and enjoy some live sports. We all need it!

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Kyle August is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @kyleFFfellas.

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