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NASCAR DFS Picks, Projections for Darlington

NASCAR heads to Darlington for one of its crown jewel events, the Southern 500. As always, I’ll give you my NASCAR DFS picks, fades, and projections for this weekend’s race. Also, the NASCAR DFS Multi-Lineup OptimizerSim Scores, and Splits apps are updated for your NASCAR DFS needs.

Make sure to get your NASCAR DFS questions to me on Twitter using #RVLive. I’ll record the show around 11pm ET/8pm PT and have it posted to the RotoViz Live landing page before you east coasters wake up.

For betting insights into the race, check out my piece at The Action Network. In that article, I’ll highlight my favorite NASCAR bets for Michigan. Also, be sure to check out Matthew Freedman’s article on the top prop bets for Sunday’s race.

If you’re new to daily fantasy NASCAR, or simply need a refresher, check out the steep track section of my track types article. Brush up on your general GPP strategy and game theory if you want to have a shot at taking down first place. If you’re more of a cash game player, check out how to target high floor drivers, and remember to find any potential race dominators.

Let’s get to the NASCAR DFS picks, strategy, rankings, and projections for Darlington!


The model projections assume that the driver finishes the race – hence why you don’t see any average finishing positions worse than about 31st. The Pts column shows the average projected DraftKings points for races when the driver finishes the race.

Note: Ownership projections will be added later Saturday evening.

Denny Hamlin18.6935.8617.5645.37990036.3%
Kyle Larson28.5253.7422.8453.831210028.3%
Martin Truex Jr37.1934.5220.6951.61090014.8%
Alex Bowman413.7713.596.2226.97760012.3%
Kyle Busch55.849.4527.3163.411240033.9%
Ryan Newman613.926.646.6127.13700011.4%
Erik Jones78.2212.3714.2444.77870013.8%
Joey Logano810.9916.549.9839.1591008.9%
Kurt Busch96.5217.8117.9753.39850026.1%
William Byron1017.111.153.3721.7572009.1%
Chase Elliott118.5314.816.1949.731020014.7%
Aric Almirola1210.15.879.542.01810024.7%
Brad Keselowski1310.613.4813.1645.74930013.2%
Paul Menard1415.781.093.5828.5640015.8%
Matt Kenseth1514.766.667.6134.96680012.3%
Daniel Suarez1615.141.524.1132.15790010.7%
Clint Bowyer179.7314.2513.3451.77890026.4%
Austin Dillon1818.550.214.4327.1666009.0%
Chris Buescher1920.310.1323.91610010.6%
Jimmie Johnson2011.233.268.446.55830017.0%
Ryan Blaney2113.4413.612.1247.57960016.3%
Kevin Harvick227.6146.4825.19751140034.5%
David Ragan2324.120.023.6720.5957008.3%
AJ Allmendinger2423.050.043.1923.51620011.7%
Ricky Stenhouse Jr2519.361.314.9133.06770023.9%
Michael McDowell2623.290.12.9324.91580011.9%
Bubba Wallace2723.240.172.5225.82590013.5%
Ty Dillon2822.650.414.1828.89540025.5%
Kasey Kahne2921.140.08633.74630021.8%
Matt DiBenedetto3024.570.091.9925.89550011.6%
Jamie McMurray3119.420.64.2438.43740035.8%
JJ Yeley3227.90.130.5320.5148003.4%
Ross Chastain3326.940.121.3323.8352004.3%
Corey Lajoie3427.330.121.2223.9750005.0%
Landon Cassill3528.560.181.4722.6551003.7%
Timmy Hill3630.330.111.2419.9947001.4%
BJ McLeod3729.80.121.2822.0749001.9%
Derrike Cope3830.350.131.2721.9745001.8%
Joey Gase3930.80.141.3622.1253002.0%
Jeffrey Earnhardt4026.380.141.231.87460012.7%

Now on to the NASCAR DFS picks for Sunday!


Denny Hamlin ($9900) — Hamlin had a strong car in both practice sessions, posting the best 10-lap average in opening practice, and a top-five car over 10 and 15 laps in final practice. More importantly, Hamlin has a strong track history, with the best average finish, the second-best driver rating, fourth-best quality pass percentage, and fifth-most laps led since 2015. Push it back to 2013 and he’s still near the top in each category. Look for him to lead some laps, pick up a good chunk of fastest laps as well. At $9900, that’s fantastic for cash games when compared to the $12k+ price tag of front-row starting mate Kyle Larson.

Kevin Harvick ($11,400) — Harvick starts 22nd and comes in at a significant discount to both Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch. Harvick has more fastest laps than either of those two at Darlington, a better driver rating, a better quality pass percentage, and a better average finish since both 2015 and 2013. Both of those dates are important since 2013 was the introduction of the current car, and 2015 since they seriously trimmed off downforce and moved the race to the fall. I’ll take the discount, the safety, and the fastest laps. One other thing I like about Harvick vs. Busch — Harvick was faster over 10 laps at the start of opening practice, when the track was much cooler than final practice, in the heat of the day. It’s a night race, meaning cooler temperatures, and maybe Harvick has a better night-time car based off opening practice when the track was the coolest.

Jamie McMurray ($7400) — McMurray blew an engine in the opening practice session which caused him to miss most of the first practice session and a large chunk of the second practice session. As a result, he used qualifying as a practice session and went out in race trim and ran a bunch of laps, putting him in the 31st starting position for DraftKings purposes. He will, however, go to the rear and start 40th. If those slower practice times and going to the rear keep people off McMurray, I definitely want a ton of him in all formats. McMurray meets a lot of the metrics here, relative to his price. He has the 11th best quality pass percentage and 12th best driver rating at Darlington since 2015.


Kyle Larson ($12,100) — Larson starts second, and was second-quickest to Hamlin in single lap speed in opening practice. At night, with that high-groove really working, I expect Larson to post a large chunk of fastest laps. Darlington is a good track for Larson as well. He led the most laps last year and the third-most in 2016. He struggled in the heat in second-practice, and if that keeps people off of him, I’m going to pounce.

Kurt Busch ($8500) — Busch has everything going for him at Darlington. He’s got the fourth-best driver rating, best quality pass percentage, sixth most laps led percentage, and fourth-most fastest laps percentage in incident-free Darlington races since 2013. Change it up to only since 2015, and those numbers are fifth, third, seventh, and second respectively. In other words, he should be a top-six driver at worst. The model gives Busch plenty of fastest laps, and at $8500, that’s a huge boost.

Aric Almirola ($8100) — Almirola starts 12th on Sunday, and doesn’t appear to have the best track history, and had a slow 10-lap average in final practice. These three factors could conspire to keep his ownership down. However, we have to remember his past history at Darlington was in inferior equipment compared to his current Stewart-Haas equipment. In that inferior equipment, Almirola still posted the 18th best driver rating and 17th best quality pass percentage at Darlington since 2015. Now he comes in as the 14th highest-priced driver. Track history is more important than practice times, so give me the driver who posted top-18 stats in a car that was 17th, 26th, and 24th in final standings the past three years. If he places six spots better than his current points position, he’ll have top-six potential.


Ryan Newman ($7000) — Newman has had a fast car that he’s happy with, but he just starts too far forward for me to be confident in him, especially considering other options in his price range. McMurray is $7400 but starts way in the back. Alex Bowman is $7600 and has showed speed that has an outside chance at being a dominator. William Byron is $7200 but starts farther back and finished fifth at Darlington last year in Xfinity. Even a driver like Paul Menard, who is $6400, starts farther back and posted fantastic 10-lap speed in opening practice.

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