Driver Group Game Picks Darlington

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The Cup Series will travels to Darlington Raceway for their “Throwback Race.” This is one of my favorite races of the season. Not only because the racing is really good at Darlington, but also because I love seeing the old paint schemes on the cars. This week Kyle Larson will be throwing it back to Terry Labonte’s Kellogg Car. Labonte was my favorite driver and that was my favorite car. I cannot wait to see it on the track with the other iconic paint schemes this weekend. The Goodyear 400 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

 

STRATEGY FOR DARLINGTON

We are in a unique portion of the NASCAR schedule. We have Dover, Kansas, Darlington and Charlotte all in a row. These are all intermediate tracks and the top drivers in each group typically finish up front at these tracks. We need to continue to use our top drivers this week at Darlington. It will seem you are running low with your allocations with Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick….. but there will be plenty of races to save these drivers over the summer. Do not worry about allocations this week. Simply play the drivers who have a history of running well at Darlington and have run well on the intermediate tracks this season.

Here are the picks for the Goodyear 400

 

GROUP A DRIVERS

KYLE LARSON (5): I cannot fade Larson this week. Not only is he driving my favorite paint scheme ever (Terry Labonte’s Kellogg car), but he is also on a hot streak right now. Darlington is kind of a combination of Dover (high-banked) and Kansas (high-speed) track. Larson won last week at Kansas and he finished 2nd two weeks ago at Dover. No one is better at searching the track for grip than Larson. He won the last race at Darlington and he will have a good chance to win again Sunday.

DENNY HAMLIN (8): How can you fade Hamlin right now? He has led laps in 16 consecutive races. Hamlin will tie Kyle Busch for the record if he leads a lap Sunday. He won the race at Dover and Hamlin finished 5th last week at Kansas. Hamlin led 177 laps and won both Stages in the last race at Darlington. I know it is getting old for some fans, but the Goodyear 400 should once again be a battle between Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin.

(OTHER PICK) WILLIAM BYRON (7): Byron should be the play this week if you want to simply go off of the stats at Darlington. His 6.5 average finishing position at Darlington is the best in the Gen-7 era. Byron won this race last year and he finished 4th in the Southern 500 last September. The only reason I faded him is because Byron finished 33rd at Dover and 23rd at Kansas. Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin have been on a hot streak, while Byron is in a slump. I still wouldn’t be surprised if Byron won the Goodyear 400 Sunday.

GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) Kyle Larson 3) William Byron 4) Martin Truex Jr. 5) Chase Elliott 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Kyle Busch 8) Christopher Bell

 

GROUP B DRIVERS

TYLER REDDICK (5): It is no secret that Reddick is one of the best drivers at Darlington. This track wears out tires quickly and that forces the drivers to move up the track to make speed. Reddick is one of the best at running the wall. The only question is… How many “Darlington Stripes” can his car take in the race? Reddick finished 2nd, 22nd, 3rd and 2nd in the four races at Darlington in the Gen-7 car. He also has the second-best average finishing position on the intermediate tracks in Group B. There is no reason to fade Reddick this week.

ROSS CHASTAIN (6): Chastain has been one of the best drivers at Darlington in the Gen-7 car but he doesn’t have much to show for it. Chastain qualified 5th, led 93 laps, finished fourth in Stage 1, won Stage 2, but he wrecked at the end of the race. Chastain is going to be a “checkers or wreckers” driver for our lineup. I will play the upside with Chastain and use him in my lineup this weekend.

BRAD KESELOWSKI (6): Could this be the weekend when Keselowski breaks his 110-race winless streak and gets his first win at RFK Racing? Darlington is a good track for Keselowski, so maybe it will happen. Keselowski finished 6th, 4th and 7th in his last three races at Darlington. He also scored Stage Points in every Stage last year and had the 4th-best average running position in the two races. This is a good race to take a chance with the No. 6 car.

CHRIS BUESCHER (8): How will the dramatic finish at Kansas affect the No. 17 team? Will they come out pissed off and ready to win the race or will they lay an egg as they wonder how they lost a race by .001 seconds? I think Buescher is going to be fired up and ready to finish up front again. He finished 10th in this race last year and 3rd in the Southern 500 last September. Buescher should be a factor once again at Darlington.

(OTHER PICK) JOEY LOGANO (7): It is really tough to trust Logano right now. He has not shown any signs of being able to win a race, but maybe a trip to Darlington is what the No. 22 team needs to get their season kick started. Logano has the second-best average finishing position at Darlington in the Gen-7 era in Group B (Behind Tyler Reddick). He won the race in 2022 and he won the pole in two of the four races. I do not trust Logano, but he should be a good play for qualifying points this weekend.

(OTHER PICK) ERIK JONES (9): Jones will return from his back injury and there is no doubt that Darlington is his best track. He has three wins in the Cup Series and two of them came at Darlington. Jones won the Southern 500 in 2022 while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports (Now Legacy Motor Club). They only reason why I faded Jones is because he is really good in the Southern 500 and not so good in the spring race at Darlington. Jones finished 25th in both spring races at Darlington in the Gen-7 car. He finished 1st and 10th in the two Southern 500’s. I will save Jones for the September race at Darlington this year.

GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Tyler Reddick 2) Ross Chastain 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Chris Buescher 5) Joey Logano 6) Erik Jones 7) Ty Gibbs 8) Alex Bowman

 

GROUP C DRIVERS

NOAH GRAGSON (7): The stats for Gragson at Darlington suck, but I am going to ignor them and play the driver who is on a hot streak. Gragson has only raced one time in the Cup Series car at Darlington. He finished 25th. Gragson finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in his last three Xfinity Series races at Darlington, so he knows how to tame this track. Gragson finished 6th at Dover and 9th last week at Kansas. He is just running too well right now to fade.

CARSON HOCEVAR (9): Hocevar only has one start at Darlington on his Cup Series resume. He started 15th and finished 17th in the N. 42 car for Legacy Motor Club last year. He should have a good chance to finish in the top-15 in his full-time ride at Spire Motorsports. Hocevar did not get the finish he deserved last week at Kansas, but he should bounce back at Darlington Sunday.

(OTHER CHOICE) CHASE BRISCOE (5): The safe play this week is to pair Chase Briscoe with Noah Gragson. I am running low with my allocations with Briscoe and I need to save him for the short, flat tracks, so I will pivot to Carson Hocevar. Briscoe should be a good pick though. He finished 15th and 17th in the two races at Darlington last year. He has also been really good at qualifying on the intermediate tracks this year. I have no problem signing off on Briscoe in Group C. I just do not want to be tempted to play him so I will leave Briscoe out of my lineup this weekend.

GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Noah Gragson 2) Carson Hocevar 3) Chase Briscoe 4) Justin Haley 5) Todd Gilliland

* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.

 

 

TRUCK SERIES PICKS

 

 

XFINITY SERIES PICKS

 

Good Luck This Weekend!

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