The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
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1. Kyle Larson ($11,400) - There are two key stats this weekend: current form at low downforce tracks and the 2018 Darlington race stats (low downforce race). Larson has been on fire at every track this season. In the 2018 Darlington race, Larson led 284 laps.
2. Denny Hamlin ($10,600) - According to Hamlin, his cars have not been as fast as they were last season. He has compensated with fast pit stops and solid restarts. The exception was the last low downforce race at Richmond where Hamlin scored 134 points.
3. Brad Keselowski ($10,000) - The last time Darlington was a high horsepower, low downforce race in 2018, Keselowski won. Last season, Brad Keselowski was the second best driver at low downforce tracks in terms of top 5 laps.
4. Joey Logano ($11,100) - Last season, Logano was the best high horsepower, low downforce driver, his stats this season should not be surprising (53 hog points at Bristol, 24 hog points at Martinsville, 27 hog points at Richmond). His high downforce stats have been surprisingly bad, but that doesn’t matter the week.
5. Martin Truex Jr ($10,300) - Last fall, Truex had the best car at Darlington, but an aggressive pass for the lead at the end of the race did not work out and he wrecked into Chase Elliott. Unfortunately for Truex, that fast car means nothing because this season Darlington will be a high horsepower, low downforce race.
6. Kevin Harvick ($9,600) - In the first race back from the COVID break, Harvick’s team guessed on the setup correctly at Darlington. They built upon that setup in subsequent races. This weekend, they will have to guess again. In 2018, an eight win season for Harvick, the team was afforded practice, and they were unable to dial in the car for a low downforce race at Darlington.
7. Chase Elliott ($9,200) - Something is off with the #9 car this season. In the last low downforce race, Elliott struggled, but he has never been consistently good at Richmond. The team has struggled in high downforce races, too. Elliott is only averaging five hog points (fast laps and laps led) per race.
8. Kyle Busch ($9,800) - The decision to switch this race back to a low downforce race might help Busch. This team struggled last season with guessing setups, so in many ways, the #18 car is a season behind in data. The package change is a reset that puts Busch on even footing.
9. William Byron ($8,800) - He has a top 10 driver rating in all three low downforce oval races this season. The Hendrick cars are very fast, Rudy Fugle is proving that he is a genius crew chief, and Byron is finally coming into his own. With clean pit stops and restarts, Byron will be a championship contender.
10. Alex Bowman ($9,400) - Phoenix is always a tough track for Bowman. Martinsville was a mess. At Richmond, Bowman won. It appeared to be a lucky win because Hamlin led so many laps, but Bowman put himself in a position to win by running the 6th most laps inside the top 5.
11. Kurt Busch ($8,400) - The racing package doesn’t matter for Kurt Busch at Darlington. He’s an old school racer that appreciates old school race tracks. Kurt has a top 10 DFS performance in seven of the last nine Darlington races.
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($7,600) - It should be no surprise that Stenhouse’s best race at Darlington was in the low downforce package. In the high downforce package, Darlington was an extreme one groove race track. Stenhouse’s strength is searching the track for multiple grooves, and that strength will be restored with the return to the low downforce package at Darlington.
13. Ryan Newman ($7,200) - Darlington is a challenging track and with the low downforce package, driver skill will be at a premium. Talented veterans like Newman do not get to benefit from their experience in high downforce races. Newman hasn’t been great this season, but this could be a weekend where Newman can will his average equipment to a top 10 finish.
14. Christopher Bell ($8,600) - There isn’t much Darlington data to review for Bell. His cup races involved wrecks and were in a different racing package. He was fine, but not great in his two Xfinity races at Darlington. A better data point is his driver rating at low downforce tracks this season. Bell has the 4th best driver rating at these tracks this season.
15. Aric Almirola ($8,000) - Why does he start in the back every week? Almirola starts in the back every week because he finishes in the back every week. This car should earn a top 15 every week, but this season Almirola has just three top 15 finishes and one top 10.
16. Ryan Blaney ($9,000) - Darlington is Blaney’s worst track. It doesn’t matter what racing package is implemented. Switching the package will only exacerbate Blaney’s struggles.
17. Bubba Wallace ($7,000) - The sponsors are behind Bubba, but how long will Michael Jordan have his back? Bubba is averaging a 22nd place finish and his best finish is 16th. If things go poorly for Bubba, it might be the final sign that this isn’t going to work. On the other hand, a good performance in a challenging race should keep the checks coming.
18. Ross Chastain ($6,300) - An aggressive driver can get more out of their car at a challenging track like Darlington. Chastain almost beat Denny Hamlin at Darlington in an Xfinity race last season. An aggressive driver can also wreck at Darlington. Chastain wrecked while battling Denny Hamlin at Darlington in an Xfinity race last season.
19. Ryan Preece ($5,900) - He’s wrecked in the last two races, so now he starts near the back. Preece is having the best season of his career. It’s not great by others’ standards, but for Preece, an average finish of 21st is pretty good. The low downforce race at Darlington will be Preece’s biggest test to date. If he runs well in this race, JTG Daugherty should solidify itself as the best small team in NASCAR.
20. BJ McLeod ($4,700) - Let’s give McLeod some credit. His cars finish and he’s averaging a 30th place finish. That does not sound very appealing, but at his price, he can work this week. Darlington is a challenging track, and a lap turner has a better chance of avoiding the treacherous Darlington wall than a driver that’s actually racing.
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