The regular season is over and the playoffs will begin Sunday night at “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” That means there are only 10 races left in the Driver Group Game season. Hopefully you saved some of your allocations with your top drivers for these races because the cream usually rises to the top in the playoff. Labor Day weekend and the Southern 500… It does not get any better than that.
Race Rewind at Darlington: Toyota 500 (2020)
Here are my picks for the Southern 500 …
Driver Group Game A Picks
Denny Hamlin (Start): Denny Hamlin had two great races at Darlington in May. The No. 11 car started 10th and finished 5th in the first race and the team brought a new car to the track in the second race. It took a while for Hamlin to get to the front but he had the best car in the second-half of the race and went to Victory Lane. It was Hamlin’s 3rd win at the “Lady in Black.” Hamlin also scored Stage points in all 4 Stages. This race should be a battle between the No. 11 and No. 4 cars Sunday night. I will save my allocations with Kevin Harvick and use Hamlin in the race Sunday night.
Kevin Harvick (Bench): 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 in the second race and it led to a 3rd place finish. He also used this car in the 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. I was told that Harvick will be using the same chassis he had at Darlington in May.
Chase Elliott (Allocation Savor): You need to have 3 allocations left with Denny Hamlin and 2 left with Kevin Harvick. If you do not have these allocations, you may want to go with Chase Elliott. He starts on the pole and his Green Flag Speed was second-fastest to Clint Bowyer in the last race at Darlington. Elliott had the race won until Kyle Busch dumped him and Elliott flipped him the bird. I expect the No. 9 car to be fast again Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Denny Hamlin 3) Chase Elliott 4) Brad Keselowski 5) Martin Truex Jr. 6) Kyle Busch 7) Joey Logano
Driver Group Game B Picks
Clint Bowyer (Start): 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 in the Sunday race at Darlington. He scored 10 Stage points but finished 17th. He led 71 laps, won both Stages but finished 22nd in the second race. He also had the fastest Green Flag Speed in the second race at Darlington. His poor finish was the result of a tire going down on lap 198. Bowyer should have a top 5 car again Sunday night but can he bring it home in one piece? That is the problem with the No. 14 team this season. The No. 14 car is too fast to fade Sunday night.
Erik Jones (Start): 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 in the first race at Darlington. He came back in a new car and started 13th and finished 5th in the second race. Jones must be in your lineup if you have any allocations left with the No. 20 car.
Jimmie Johnson (Bench): 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 first race at Darlington in May. Johnson led 9 laps and then hit the wall in the race when he had a tire go down. He had to start 37th in the second race and once again he drove through the field like he had 100 more horsepower then the rest of the field. Johnson passed 29 cars and finished 8th. Johnson said he is still on a mission to get to Victory Lane before he retires so I do not expect the No. 48 team to pack it in for the rest of the season.
Austin Dillon (Allocation Saver): 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 Darlington. He started 10th but had a pit road penalty that sent him back in the field in the second race. Dillon finished the race in the 20th position. It could be a good idea to use Dillon while he is in the playoffs and has a lot to race for.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Clint Bowyer 2) Erik Jones 3) Alex Bowman 4) Aric Almirola 5) Ryan Blaney 6) William Byron 7) Kurt Busch 8) Jimmie Johnson 9) Matt DiBenedetto 10) Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game C Picks
Tyler Reddick (Start): Tyler Reddick was one of the biggest surprises in the races at Darlington in May. He started 29th and finished 7th in the first race. He tried to run the high-line against the wall in the second race 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.
Matt Kenseth (Bench): 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.
*If you are out of allocations with Tyler Reddick and Matt Kenseth is in Group B, I would use Christopher Bell.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Tyler Reddick 2) Matt Kenseth 3) Christopher Bell 4) Cole Custer 5) John H. Nemechek
Driver Group Game Team
Good luck this week!
*Stats from Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Pro
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