DFS NASCAR Picks for Cup Series

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The NASCAR Cup Series will travel to Darlington Raceway this week for their “throwback race.”  Most of the cars will be wrapped in paint schemes to honor the drivers from the past. It is always cool to see the cars we cheered for in the past back on the track. The race at Darlington is going to have a tough time topping the race at Kansas last week, but the second-closest finish in NASCAR history happened at “The Track Too Tough to Tame” so I expect another exciting races this weekend. The Goodyear 400 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING

The Cup Series had a 20-minutes practice session to shake down their cars for Sunday’s race. It is tough to find a track on the NASCAR schedule that wears out tires like “The Lady in Black.” We will not see any gas-and-go pit stops or any two-tire pit stops Sunday. Four tires and a full tank of fuel will be the call from on top of the pit box. This means we need to focus our picks on the drivers who were fast on the long runs in practice.

Here are the speeds from the practice session Saturday at Darlington Raceway…

 

 

DRAFTKINGS POINTS AT DARLINGTON

Darlington is a unique track. It is a 1.366-mile; egg-shaped, high-banked track that wears out tires quickly. We must focus our picks on the driver’s track history at Darlington, but I am also going to use the data from the races at Las Vegas and Dover. Darlington is a high-speed track like Las Vegas and it is high-banked like Dover. I want some of the data from the 2024 season in the model this week, so I will combine the stats from Sin City and the Monster Mile to the last four races at Darlington.

Here are the stats from the last four races at Dover (2022 – 2023) and the races at Las Vegas and Dover this year, sorted by DraftKings Points…

Here are the stats from the last four races at Kansas (2022 – 2023) and the last race at Las Vegas, sorted by DFS Points…

 

 

DRAFTKINGS STRATEGY

The Cup Series race at Darlington is scheduled for 293 laps (400 miles). That means there are 73.25 points available for leading laps and 131.85 points available for fastest laps (205.1 dominator points). The trend in the Gen-7 car races at Darlington is for one driver to lead 140 laps and score 60 fastest laps (62 Dominator Points), another driver leads 100 laps and scores 30 fastest laps (38.5 Dominator Points) and a third driver leads 30 laps and scores 26 fastest laps (19.2 Dominator Points). We MUST have the top-two dominators in our lineup Sunday and most likely the top-three. We do not need the other three drivers in our lineup to do much as long as we score the 120 bonus points that the top-three dominators are expected to score Sunday.

The drivers with the best chance to score dominator points today includes Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski and William Byron

The drivers with the best chance to score place differential points include Chase Elliott, Noah Gragson, Erik Jones and Josh Berry

 

 

DRAFTKINGS MODEL (Prediction Based on Stats) 

Finish = Finishing Points                PD = Position Differential              Fastest = Fastest Laps Led = Laps Led

* The number in front of the driver is his projected finishing position based on stats.

 

 

DRAFTKINGS CASH CONTEST LINEUP

DENNY HAMLIN ($11,500):  Hamlin should have won the last race at Darlington. He led 177 laps, won both Stages, but was caught up in an accident in the final laps of the race. The No. 11 car looks fast again this week. Hamlin has a great chance to be one of the top dominators and the highest-scoring driver in DFS Contests.

KYLE LARSON ($11,300):  Larson won the last race at Darlington and he won the race last week at Kansas. The No. 5 car is going to be tough to beat Sunday at Darlington. Larson is one of the best at searching the track for grip and running against the wall to pass other cars. I thought about pairing Tyler Reddick with Denny Hamlin, but I’m afraid that Reddick will hit the wall too many times. I will play it safe and use Larson and his cool Terry Labonte paint scheme.

ERIK JONES ($7,500): 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). His price is too cheap this week and everyone knows how good Jones is at Darlington. I expect his ownership to be high, but I will still take a chance with the No. 43 car at the best track for Jones.

NOAH GRAGSON ($7,200): Can Gragson keep his hot streak going at Darlington? Gragson finished 3rd (Talladega), 6th (Dover) and 9th (Kansas) in his last three races. Now he gets to race at Darlington where he dominated in the Xfinity Series. Gragson posted the sixth-fastest speed in practice on the long runs and he starts dead last. Gragson has a great chance to score 20-25 place differential points and be one of the top-five drivers in DFS Sunday.

JOSH BERRY ($6,700): To be honest, I had no plans of playing Berry at Darlington. He posted the 20th-fastest speed on the long runs and he qualified 33rd. Berry finished 14th at Dover and 15th at Kansas. He has a good chance to move up 10-15 spots from his 33rd starting position and be one of the best value picks in the race.

CARSON HOCEVAR ($5,700): I would love to hear an explanation why Hocevar is so cheap this week. He has scored the 14th-most DraftKings Points on the intermediate tracks this year and he has the 28th-highest price. Hocevar started 15th and finished 17th at Darlington last year. He scored 25.9 DK Points in that race. Hocevar starts 21st, but I am not worried about it. I still think he will move up in the race.

 

 

DRAFTKINGS TOURNAMENT CONTEST LINEUP

* I am going to play a lot of lineups with DENNY HAMLIN and KYLE LARSON Sunday. They will be my two highest owned drivers. Fading these two drivers could be the easiest way to the top of the leaderboard in our DFS Contest (but it is really risky). I will fade Hamlin and Larson and take a chance with TYLER REDDICK and ROSS CHASTAIN as my two dominators. This lineup is for large Tournament Contests where you need to outscore thousands of players. A better lineup for Single-Entry Contests would be DENNY HAMLIN ($11,500), MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($10,700), CHRIS BUESCHER ($7,800), ERIK JONES ($7,500), NOAH GRAGSON ($7,200) and JUSTIN HALEY ($5,300).

 

TYLER REDDICK ($10,300): 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. The No. 45 car looks fast again this week. Reddick starts on the pole and he has the No. 1 pit stall in a race where there will be many pit stops. Reddick has a great chance to be one of the top-two dominators and score top-three points in your DFS Contest this week.

CHASE ELLIOTT ($9,800): Elliott seems to have his mojo back. He finished 5th (Richmond), 3rd (Martinsville), 1st (Texas), 5th (Dover) and 3rd (Kansas). Elliott consistently runs up front like he did in his championship year. Last year he was in a slump and still finished 3rd and 8th in the two races at Darlington. Elliott starts 31st and his average finishing position in the Gen-7 car at Darlington is 13th. He will score 48 DK Points if he can simply finish 13th Sunday. I think he can do it.

ROSS CHASTAIN ($9,600): Chastain started 27th and led 93 laps on his way to a 5th-place finished last year at Darlington. He scored the 2nd-most DFS Points in that race. The No. 1 team unloaded with more speed this week. Chastain just won the Truck Series race Friday night. I am sure the extra laps will help him get his rhythm for the race Sunday. The “Watermelon Man” will be in the winning lineup if he leads 90+ laps like he did last year at Darlington.

CHRIS BUESCHER ($7,800): Can the No. 17 team repeat their performance from last week at Kansas? Buescher will be one of the best picks in the field if he can. Buescher posted the 2nd fastest speed on the long runs in practice and he qualified 3rd for the race. Buescher finished 3rd in the last race at Darlington. He has the upside to be a dominator for only $7,800. That is simply too good to pass up Sunday.

NOAH GRAGSON ($7,200): Gragson is going to be one of the highest owned drivers Sunday, but he also has one of the best chances at being in the winning lineup. Sometimes you simply have to “eat the chalk” in order to score well in your DFS Contests. This is one of those times.

DANIEL HEMRIC ($5,200): Hemric has been an awesome “punt play” on the intermediate tracks this year. He scored 40 DK Points at Las Vegas, 41 DK Points at Texas, 42 DK Points at Dover and 15 DK Points last week at Kansas. Hemric should ride around the back, stay out of trouble and score well at the bottom of your lineup Sunday.

 

 

FANDUEL MODEL (Prediction Based on Stats)

 

 

FANDUEL CASH CONTEST LINEUP

 

 

FANDUEL TOURNAMENT CONTEST LINEUP

 

 

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