Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking provides his driver rankings with commentary for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway!

We are entering the final off weekend of the 2018 season, but when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action, it will do so at famed Darlington Raceway. The track has been called everything from “The Lady in Black” to NASCAR’s original superspeedway, and next Sunday night, the egg-shaped oval will host one of the more prestigious events of the year, the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Thanks to Darlington’s long history, the Southern 500 ranks alongside the Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard 400 as one of the biggest races after the Daytona 500. Any driver would love to add a Darlington win to their resume, so don’t be surprised if the teams already locked into the playoffs are a little extra aggressive.

While I definitely expect the usual suspects to be among the top contenders next Sunday night, Darlington does have a unique layout and a preferred groove that forces drivers to run within inches of the wall. You will hear the term “Darlington stripe” used throughout the weekend, but while brushing the wall is fine, bouncing it off the wall can ruin a driver’s night.

Certain drivers just seem to excel at this place, and you can use these Darlington ringers to your advantage, especially when filling out your Group B options in the Driver Group Game. There are also some appealing Group A alternatives to the Big 3 this weekend.

Overall, I’m expecting a bit more attrition than normal as drivers try to pick up a coveted Southern 500 win at a track that is one of the toughest on the schedule. With just two races left for Fantasy Live, I’m not too concerned about budgeting my starts, but picking and choosing when to save starts in the DGG remains tough. This race at this track could be a good spot to try.

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  1. Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer
Harvick has ben fast at the intermediate ovals all year, and he has been excellent at Darlington with Stewart-Haas Racing. He has a 4.3 average finish in four starts, leading more than 20 laps in all four races and leading more than 200 laps twice. Harvick can be the centerpiece of any season-long or DFS lineup this weekend.
  1. Kyle Busch, M&M’s
He has been a Top 5 machine all season, and Busch has been the model of consistency at Darlington. He has finished 11th or better in nine of the last 10 races here, and he was the runner-up in last year’s race. Anything less than another Top 5 this weekend would be a surprise.
  1. Martin Truex, Jr., Furniture Row
Truex has reeled off three straight Top 10s at Darlington, winning the 2016 race and leading more than 70 laps here a year ago. He has been a Top 5 threat at just about every track this season, so if you have the starts left, fire him up in Fantasy Live.
  1. Denny Hamlin, FedEx
If you have burned through most of your starts from the Big 3 in the Driver Group Game already, this could be a nice spot to save one by using Hamlin. Over the last 10 races at Darlington, his 5.8 average finish, two wins, six Top 5s and eight Top 10s are all the best in the series. Hamlin led 124 laps on his way to a win here last year, so he also has dominator potential at DraftKings.
  1. Kyle Larson, CreditOne/DC Solar
Another solid alternative to the Big 3 this weekend could be Larson. He has an 8.8 average finish in four starts at Darlington and has never finished outside the Top 15. Larson has also been trending up at the track, leading 45 laps and finishing third in 2016 and leading 124 laps in last year’s race. Dial him up in season-long and DFS contests.


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