The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at Darlington Sunday. This is the 25th race of the season and there are 11 races remaining after today’s race. It is very important to save allocations whenever you can. You need to use your allocations wisely and the race at Darlington is a good place to keep your top drivers on the bench.
There are four major races in NASCAR (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500). When I looked at the drivers who won the previous three major races I noticed that the top drivers in the sport did not win the races. Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Kasey Kahne won the Brickyard 400. I think another driver who is not locked into the playoffs could gamble and make it to Victory Lane Sunday night. So if you want to gamble the drivers I like who are on the outside of the playoffs are Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Here are my picks for Darlington…
Brad Keselowski (4): I expect Keselowski to be up front Sunday night. He was 3rd fastest in the first practice and 2nd-fastest in race trim in the final practice. Keselowski also had the 4th-best 10 lap average in final practice. I have a gut feeling that Midnight (Keselowski’s throwback car) will lead some laps Sunday night and bring back memories of when Rusty Wallace drove the Black Miller Genuine Draft car.
Group A Rankings: 1) Martin Truex Jr., 2) Kevin Harvick, 3) Brad Keselowski, 4) Denny Hamlin, 5) Kyle Busch, 6) Matt Kenseth, 7) Jimmie Johnson, 8) Joey Logano, 9) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kurt Busch (4): Busch starts 7th Sunday night and he has been fast all weekend. Busch was 9th fastest in the first practice and he was 4th fastest in race trim in final practice. Busch also had the 3rd best 10 lap average speeds in final practice. One of the stats I look at for Darlington is Quality Pass %. Busch has the 3rd best Quality Pass % at Darlington (this means he is the 3rd-best driver at passing cars for position at Darlington). This is a good race to use an allocation with Busch.
Ryan Newman (7): Newman starts 17th but I am not worried about where he starts the race. Newman was consistently fast in both practices and he said that this is his favorite track. Newman was 10th fastest in the 1st practice and 8th fastest in race trim in final practice. He said multiple times on the radio in practice that his car is nearly perfect. I like the No. 31 car for a top-10 finish Sunday night.
Group B Rankings: 1) Kyle Larson, 2) Kurt Busch, 3) Chase Elliott, 4) Jamie McMurray, 5) Ryan Newman, 6) Ryan Blaney, 7) Clint Bowyer, 8) Kasey Kahne, 9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10) Austin Dillon, 11) Aric Almirola, 12) Paul Menard, 13) Trevor Bayne, 14) Chris Buescher, 15) AJ Allmendinger, 16) Danica Patrick
Ty Dillon (5): Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are the best choices for Group C but I am down to one allocation with Jones and two allocations with Suarez. I do not want to use my last allocations at a track that is very tough on rookies. I will take my chances with Dillon this week. He has more experience at the track than Jones and Suarez and he was decent in practice. I will be happy if Dillon can finish inside the top 20 Sunday night.
Group C Rankings: 1) Erik Jones, 2) Daniel Suarez, 3) Ty Dillon, 4) David Ragan, 5) Landon Cassill
Good luck this week!
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