The Cup Series will have their throwback paint schemes this week when they compete at Darlington Raceway. If you like a tough track that wears out tires and requires the drivers to run inches away from the wall… this race is for you. The races at the “Track Too Tough to Tame” are typically 500-miles in length, but the race Sunday in only 400 miles. That means the drivers will have to be up on the wheel even more than usual. That should make for a good race. The Goodyear 400 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.
Here are my picks for the Goodyear 400…
*I mapped out my allocations with each driver for each race. I do this each year to ensure I am using each driver at their best tracks. I will tweak it during the season if a driver gets on a hot-streak, but it gives me an idea of what allocations I have left with each driver.
Denny Hamlin (4): Denny Hamlin is my pick to win this week. NASCAR switched the rules for Darlington this year. The Cup Series used the 550 HP aero package last year, but it will use the 750 HP aero package with tapered spacer this week. That is right in Hamlin’s wheelhouse. Not only did he win at Darlington last year, he also finished 2nd, 3rd and 3rd in the three races using the 750 HP aero package this year. He is also averaging 162 laps led in those races. Hamlin has been knocking on Victory Lane’s door this year. Sunday they will let him in.
Kyle Larson (6): Kyle Larson did not compete in any of the races at Darlington last year. That may be a good thing. The other drivers may try to race the track the same way they did last year in the 550 HP aero package and the extra 200 HP may throw them off their game Sunday. Larson led 284 of the 364 laps, won both Stages and won the race the last time NASCAR raced the high-speed aero package at Darlington. He should be very good again this week.
Brad Keselowski (4): Track position is important at Darlington and Brad Keselowski has it. The No. 2 car will start on the pole for the second race in a row. I expect Keselowski to have a similar race as what he had last week in Kansas. He should dominate most of Stage 1 before falling back in the field in Stages 2 and 3. Keselowski should score a lot of Stage points and finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Kevin Harvick (7): Kevin Harvick is your race winner if you simply go off of track history at Darlington. Harvick won 2 of the 3 races at Darlington last year and he finished 3rd in the other race. Harvick has not finished outside the top-10 at Darlington since 2012 (10 races). The changes to the 750 aero package should not affect the No. 4 team much. Harvick can run well at Darlington in a dump truck. Harvick should be a safe pick to score a lot of Stage points and finish in the top-10 on Mother’s Day.
Kyle Busch (8): Kyle Busch got back to Victory Lane in a race that had his name all over it. Can he keep the momentum going to at Darlington? Experience means a lot at Darlington and Busch has 18 races at the Track Too Tough to Tame on his resume with an 11h-place average finishing position. Busch will start up front this week and that should help him out because his pit crew ranks in the top-three. He should score a lot of Stage points and have a good chance to finish in the top-five Sunday.
Garage Driver Joey Logano (5): The driver who may be helped the most by the switch from the 550 HP aero package to the 750 HP aero package is Joey Logano. His average finishing position in the 750 HP aero package (the one used this week) is 3rd. His average finishing position in the 550 HP aero package is 16.5. Logano finished 3rd and 6th in the last two races at Darlington. I will have Logano in the Garage as an insurance policy Sunday.
Good luck and be sure to follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR. I will send out a Tweet during the race to let you know if I plan to swap out one of my drivers for my Garage pick.
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