This is a unique season for racing at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” Usually the Cup Series only competes at this historic track once each season, but the teams will travel to South Carolina for the third time this week. We have a lot of data to use for the Southern 500 this week, so here are my notes from the Darlington Double in May..
Darlington: Toyota 500 (2020)
The two races at Darlington were not exactly the same as the double-header races at the other tracks this season. The Cup Series competed on Sunday in a 293 lap race and then they came back on Wednesday for a 228 lap race. The teams were not required to use the same car, like they were required to in the other double-header races.
The two races were dominated by the two most dominating drivers this season. Kevin Harvick won the Sunday race and Denny Hamlin won a rain shortened race on Wednesday.
Click here for the Race Rewind for the Toyota 500
Driver Stats from the Darlington Double in May
– Martin Truex Jr. had two good but not great races in May at Darlington. He started both races in the 15th position. He finished 6th on Sunday and came back on Wednesday and finished 10th. He was only able to lead 16 laps but he did have the 5th best Driver Rating from the two races.
– Kyle Busch looked awful in the first race at Darlington. He started 4th and finished 26th. It was his 2nd worst finish at the track. The No. 18 team brought a new car to the track on Wednesday and it was much better. Busch started 26th and finished 2nd. He did not score any Stage points but his car came to life at the end of the race.
– Denny Hamlin had two great races at Darlington in May. The No. 11 car started 10th and finished 5th on Sunday and the team brought a new car to the track on Wednesday and won the race. It was Hamlin’s 3rd win at the “Lady in Black.” Hamlin also scored Stage points in all 4 Stages but was only able to led 12 of the 521 laps in the two races.
– Erik Jones had two great races at Darlington earlier this season, but that should not surprise anyone. To say Darlington is his best track is an understatement. Jones has finished 5th, 8th, 1st, 8th and 5th in his 5 races at Darlington (5.4 average finishing position). The only driver who has been better is Kevin Harvick. Jones started 20th and finished 8th on Sunday. He came back in a new car and started 13th and finished 5th on Wednesday. If Jones is available in your One & Done game, you need to use him this week.
– Brad Keselowski started on the pole on Sunday and he led 80 laps, Scored 16 Stage points but finished 13th because the team tried to use fuel-mileage strategy to beat a fast No. 4 car. It did not work and Keseloski finished 13th. He came back on Wednesday and had a solid race. The No. 2 car started 8th and finished 4th. Keselowski has finished 3 of the last 4 races at Darlington in the top 5.
– Joey Logano has only been an average driver at Darlington. His average finishing position in his last 4 trips to the Track Too Tough to Tame is 10th. Logano finished 18th in the first race and only scored 2 Stage points. He came back on Wednesday and led 19 laps, scored 8 Stage points and finished 6th. There are better tracks to use Logano at in season long games but he is a good contrarian pick in DFS.
– Ryan Blaney is very good at a lot of tracks but Darlington is not one of them. Blaney has 7 starts in the Cup Series at the Track Too Tough to Tame and his average finishing position is 20th. He has never finished in the top 10 at Darlington. Blaney finished 16th in the first race at Darlington and 16th in the second race in May. I would save the No. 12 car for some other track in the playoffs.
– Kevin Harvick complete smoked the field in the first race at Darlington. He led 159, scored 14 Stages points and went to Victory Lane. The team decided to bring the same car back to the track on Wednesday and it did not pay off. Harvick started 20th and finished 3rd. He used the car from the Sunday race at Indianapolis and smoked the field again. Crew chief Rodney Childers said they plan to use that car in one of the playoff races. You would think it would be in the race Sunday night.
– Clint Bowyer had fast cars in both races but he could not find a way to finish up front. Bowyer ran most of the race in the top 10 on Sunday. He scored 10 Stage points but finished 17th. He led 71 laps, won both Stages but finished 22nd on Wednesday. His poor finish was the result of a tire going down on lap 198. Bowyer should have a top 5 car again Sunday but can he bring it home in one piece? That is the problem with the No. 14 team this season.
– Aric Almirola was decent in the first race at Darlington and then the No. 10 team used the notes from Kevin Harvick to run a lot better in the second race. Almirola finished 12th on Sunday and 7th on Wednesday. His team has been pretty good this summer so I would expect another top-10 finish from Almirola Sunday night.
– Cole Custer looked lost in his 2 races at Darlington in May. That is to be expected though. This is a tough track for veteran drivers. It is almost impossible for rookies without any practice. Custer finished 22nd on Sunday and 31st on Wednesday. He had success in the Xfinity Series at Darlington so there is a chance he improves this week, but I will use safer options in my fantasy leagues this week.
– Chase Elliott had one of the fastest cars in both races at Darlington in May. He started 11th and finished 4th on Sunday. Elliott started 17th in the second race and quickly went to the front. He scored 13 Stage points and he passed Erik Jones with 68 laps left in the race on Wednesday. Elliott was battling Denny Hamlin for the lead with 28 laps left in the race. He was flat out dumped by Kyle Busch and Elliott went onto the track and flipped the No. 18 car the bird. Elliott probably could have won the race without Busch putting him into the wall.
– William Byron has not had any success at Darlington in his career. The Lady in Black ranks as his worst track and it is not even close. Byron has competed in 4 races in the Cup Series at Darlington. He finished 35th, 21st, 35th and 12th. The good news is that his 12th place finish came in the last race so maybe the No. 24 team has something to work with this week. I recommend playing drivers with better track history this week.
– Alex Bowman had a great race on Sunday at Darlingto and a horrible race on Wednesday. Bowman started 2nd, scored 17 Stage points, led 41 laps and finished 2nd on Sunday. He started 19th, scored 10 Stage points and finished 18th on Wednesday. His average finishing position in his 6 career Cup Series starts at Darlington is 19th. I would not expect much more than a finish around the 10th position this week.
– Jimmie Johnson in tied with Denny Hamlin with 3 trips to Victory Lane at Darlington. His last win was in 2012 though. He started 8th and immediately went to the front in the Sunday race at Darlington in May. Johnson led 9 laps and then hit the wall. He had to start 37th on Wednesday and once again he drove through the field like he had 100 more horsepower. Johnson passed 29 cars and finished 8th. He should be a good pick if he stays out of trouble.
– Matt Kenseth filled in for Kyle Larson for the first time in the first race at Darlington. It looked like Kenseth was going to have the same success as Larson in the No. 42 car. He started 12th and finished 10th. Kenseth was running in the top 10 in the second race when he spun out with 49 laps left in the race. The No. 42 car finished 30th but it was a lot faster than the results would suggest.
– Kurt Busch entered the races at Darlington with 3 consecutive finishes in the top 7 at the track. He started 22nd and finished 3rd in the first race. He was not as good in the second race at Darlington. Busch had to start 18th because of his good finish on Sunday. His car did not handle well in traffic and Busch finished 15th.
– Ryan Newman has only been a mediocre driver at Darlington since he moved to Roush-Fenway racing. He finished 23rd, 15th and 14th in his 3 races at the track. The No. 6 team tried to use fuel strategy to steal some track position in the second race at Darlington in May. It allowed Newman to lead 6 laps but once the teams had fresh tires, Newman was a sitting duck. He finished 14th in the race.
– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had two poor races at Darlington in May, but that was to be expected. The Track Too Tough to Tame ranks as his worst track. Stenhouse has a 26th-place average finishing position in his 9 career Cup Series starts at the track. He finished 25th and 40th in the two races this season. I would not recommend Stenhouse for fantasy teams this week.
– Chris Buescher has not been much better than his teammate (Ryan Newman) at Darlington. He has 6 career starts in the Cup Series at this track and his average finishing position is 19th. The good news for people who are thinking about playing Buescher is that he usually scores positive place differential points. He needs to start outside the top 20 to be in your DFS lineups.
– Austin Dillon has been pretty good at Darlington in his career. He has 8 career starts in the Cup Series at the track and his average finishing position is 13th. Dillon started 16th and finished 11th in the first race at Drlington. He started 10th but had a pit road penalty that sent him back in the field on Wednesday. Dillon finished the race in the 20th position.
– Tyler Reddick was one of the biggest surprises in the races at Darlington in May. He started 29th and finished 7th on Sunday. He tried to run the high-line against the wall on Wednesday and it worked for most of the race. Reddick was easily passing cars until he smacked the wall too many times. He was still able to finish 13th. Reddick will be a great pick this week if he can keep the Darlington stripes to a minimum.
– Christopher Bell looked lost in his first race at Darlington. The teams did not have any practice so it was understandable that the No. 95 car would struggle. Bell must have figured something out in the first race because he was much better on Wednesday. Bell started 24th and made his way inside the top 10. He fell a bit at the end of the race and finished 11th.
– John H. Nemecheck came out of nowhere to finish 9th in the first race at Darlington. He ran the wall like Tyler Reddick and he passed a lot of cars. He tried the same strategy on Wednesday and it did not work. Nemechek crashed on lap 30 of the race and caused him to finish 35th. He should be a good fantasy pick if he can keep his car out of the wall like he did in the first race at Darlington.
– Bubba Wallace did not look very good in the first race at Darlington. He started 17th and finished 21st. Wallace improved slightly in the second race because of his pit strategy. Wallace stayed out after the caution for John H. Nemechek’s spins. Wallace led 3 laps before falling through the field. He was able to finish the race in the 16th position.
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