The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Darlington, South Carolina, this week for the Bojangle’s Southern 500.
In an effort to create a more competitive race NASCAR decided to bring a new rules package to the race Sunday night. The cars will be similar to the setup used in the race at Kentucky. The difference will be the tires. Darlington is known for chewing up tires and that will be the case this week. Teams will pit every chance they get for new tires, which could really change the running order in the field.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have dominated the races this summer. The two teams have won eight of the last nine races, including four wins by Kyle Busch, two wins by Matt Kenseth and two wins by Joey Logano. These three drivers are the best in the series right now and should be used to build you fantasy team Sunday night.
Here are my picks for the Bojangle’s Southern 500.
Yahoo Group A Picks
The drivers with the most success at Darlington are from Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing this week. Darlington is called the “Track Too Tough to Tame”, but some of the drivers from this group have figured out how to conquer the “Lady in Black”. Denny Hamlin has an average finishing position of 6.89 and Jimmie Johnson has finished 12 of his 16 starts inside the top 10. Both drivers would be excellent choices Sunday night.
Jeff Gordon is my sleeper pick in Group A this week. A win would help in his chances of making the Chase and no one gets around Darlington better than Gordon. He has seven wins and finished eight of the last 11 races at the track in the top five. Gordon is worth a shot this week.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
Matt Kenseth (9)
Kenseth has been one of the best drivers in the sport the last six races. He has two wins (Pocono and Michigan) and had one of the cars to beat at Bristol until engine failure sent him to the garage.
Kenseth needs another win to tie for the most bonus points heading into the Chase. He will have a great chance to go to Victory Lane Sunday night. Kenseth has a series-best average finish position and the third-best driver rating in the last three races at the track. Kenseth is my pick to win this week.
Kyle Busch (5)
The best way to select your drivers in Group A is to choose two drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing. I debated on using Denny Hamlin because his stats at Darlington are unmatched, but I decided to go with the driver who has been visiting Victory Lane on a regular basis this summer. Busch has won four of the last nine races and he will be upfront again this week.
Busch has the second-best driver rating in the last three races at Darlington. In those races he led 309 laps and his worst finish was sixth. Busch should lead many laps in the race Sunday night and chase the leader to the checkered-flag.
Other good choices: Denny Hamlin,Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon
Yahoo Group B Picks
Since most of the drivers in Group B have struggled at Darlington, the best way to select your fantasy team is by looking at the drivers who have been running well the last six races. Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer have been the two best drivers with four top ten finishes in the last six races. Austin Dillon and Paul Menard have also run well this summer.
My sleeper pick in Group B is Greg Biffle. Darlington is an old school track and Biffle is an old school driver. He is one of the best at managing his tires and that could pay off this week. Biffle has won two races at the Track Too Tough Too Tame and he will need another win if he wants to earn a spot in the Chase.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Clint Bowyer (4)
After a rough start to the season, Bowyer is starting to gain momentum heading into the Chase. He has finished four of the last five races in the top 10. He will need another solid finish to retain his spot in the playoffs.
Bowyer has not been the best driver at Darlington, but he will not hurt your team as well. Bowyer has finished three consecutive races at the Track Too Tough to Tame in the 11th or 12th positions. Most fantasy teams would take a top-15 finish from Bowyer if it was guaranteed before the race began.
Carl Edwards (2)
If Edwards could ever figure out how to finish a race he would be the best driver in Group B. He consistently qualifies up front, leads laps and runs in the top 10. When it is time to waive the checkered-flag, Edwards usually falls back in the pack.
Edwards has finished three of the last four races at Darlington in the top 10. He should run better in a Joe Gibbs Racing car than he did when he was with Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards is my pick to win the pole this week and earn fantasy teams much needed bonus points.
Kurt Busch (3)
Busch has not been very good at Darlington in his career, but that is not going to stop me from using him this week. He won the pole at this track in 2013 and ran up front for most of the race. Last year he qualified 13th and was running in the top 10 when he was caught up in an accident. I am betting that his luck changes Sunday night.
Austin Dillon (8)
Dillon is the last choice for Group B because he is starting to figure out how to compete at NASCAR’s highest level. Dillon has finished three of the last four races in the top 13. He does not have a lot of experience at Darlington, but I still expect a good race from the No. 3 team. Last year Dillon started 20th and finished 11th in his first race at the track. He should have similar results this week.
Other Good Choices: Kasey Kahne,Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard
Yahoo Group C Picks
There are many interesting choices in Group C this week. Danica Patrick and David Ragan will be popular picks, but both have struggled at Darlington. It may be wise to save your allocations with these two drivers. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott are talented young drivers, but they lack experience at The Track Too Tough to Tame.
My sleeper pick in Group C is Justin Allgaier. He has only competed in one race at Darlington, but he ran well. Allgaier started 24th and finished 23rd.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Chase Elliott (8)
Elliott has never competed in a Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington, but his one race in the Xfinity Series was impressive. He started on the front row and led 52 laps on his way to Victory Lane. There is a big difference between the two series, but Elliott has the talent to finish in the top 20 Sunday night.
Make sure you check the forecast for the race this week. Elliott will be one of the drivers who will be sent home if qualifying gets rained out Saturday. If this were to happen I would recommend David Ragan or Danica Patrick as a replacement driver.
Ryan Blaney (4)
Blaney will be back in the No. 21 Wood Brother’s Ford this week. He has never competed in the Sprint Cup Series at Darlington and only raced one time in the Xfinity Series. He is talented enough to figure out the track, so I am using him this week to save a start with David Ragan.
Other Good Choices: David Ragan, Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier
Fantasy Live Picks
The strategy for Fantasy Live this week is to select two drivers who start the race upfront with a good chance to lead many laps and fill the rest of your team with drivers who can move through the field. This strategy will give your team the best chance to score bonus points for leading laps and position differential in the race.
Three drivers to watch this week are the drivers from Joe Gibbs Race. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth have won four of the last six races and Carl Edwards has won two poles in the last four races. Denny Hamlin is one of the best drivers at the track. He has finished three of the last five races at Darlington in the top two.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Darlington:
Driver 1: Matt Kenseth $26.00
Driver 2: Kyle Busch $27.25
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $21.50
Driver 4: Austin Dillon $15.25
Driver 5: Justin Allgaier $10.00
Pick to Win: Matt Kenseth
* Driver prices based on prices at Bristol
Fox Fantasy Racing
The best way to score well in Fox Fantasy Racing is to select drivers who start in the back with a good chance to make their way to the front Sunday night. The game only rewards one point for leading a lap, so picking drivers who start upfront will not help your team. Fantasy teams can earn one point for each position gained in the race so these bonus points will be needed to take your team to the top of your league standings.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Darlington:
Driver 1: Matt Kenseth $11,200
Driver 2: Kyle Busch $9,500
Driver 3: Jeff Gordon $10,300
Driver 4: Carl Edwards $9,100
Driver 5: Clint Bowyer $9,700
* Driver prices based on prices at Bristol