Bojangles Southerns 500
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fantasy Live / Fox: Quick Picks
The Sprint Cup Series visits Darlington Raceway this weekend for one of the biggest races of the season. The egg-shaped oval is known as the original superspeedway, and the track's storied history causes Darlington to hold a special place in the heart of drivers. If NASCAR had majors, the Southern 500 would be one of them.
Given the importance of Sunday's race, it should be no surprise that big names from big teams have enjoyed success at Darlington. Throw in the fact that all the top drivers are starting up front after qualifying was rained out and the field was set by owner points, and loading up on the top drivers in each tier in the Yahoo game could pay off.
On the flip side, the field being set by points makes sleeper tough to come in the FOX game. Place differential is the main way for drivers to post big scores, but since all the top drivers are starting up front already, you need to pick and choose your sleepers carefully. In fact, it isn’t a bad idea with a few drivers starting in the top 10. Remember, a top five finish can steal result in around 40-plus fantasy points, even if place differential bonus points are nonexistent.
In the NASCAR.com game, I'm again targeting the big names starting up front. Sunday's race is scheduled for 367 laps, so there are a ton of points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories. History says that the drivers starting in the top five are going to monopolize the points in those categories, so I don't mind paying up for a couple of studs and the expense of the bottom of my lineup.
Check out a complete look at all of my season-long fantasy NASCAR lineups, and check out the Bojangles' Southern 500 Sunday at 6:00 p.m. ET on NBC.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Kevin Harvick (A)
There are plenty of strong A-List plays, but starting on the pole gives Harvick a big boost in value. Drivers starting up front tend to excel at this track, and when he started on the pole in 2014, he won the race in dominating fashion. I think a repeat performance could be on tap.
Carl Edwards (B)
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has finished seventh or better in four of his last five starts here and six straight top 15s. His safe floor and high ceiling make him a great play in this format, and his third-place starting spot and strong practice times make Edwards an easy choice.
Ryan Newman (B)
Newman has been a reliable option at Darlington for years, and over the last ten races, he has seven top 10s and has reeled off three straight top 15s. I don't expect him to challenge for the win, but I do expect Newman to extend his streak of top 15 finishes this weekend and provide a safe, solid finish.
Jeff Gordon (C)
With the unfortunate news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss the remainder of the season, there is no longer the need to use up Gordon's starts as quickly as possible. That being said, the seven-time Darlington winner has seven top 10s and an 8.8 average finish in the last ten races here, so he is still my C-List choice.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick ($28.00)
The last time Harvick started on the pole at Darlington was in 2014. In that race, he led a race-high 238 laps on his way to the win. A repeat performance could certainly be in the cards this weekend, and Harvick has to be considered the favorite to dominate the laps led and fastest laps run categories and finish as the top scorer in this format.
Brad Keselowski ($27.50)
Starting up front is big at Darlington, and after starting on the pole last year, Keselowski led a race-high 196 laps on his way to a second-place finish. He starts second this time around, and after pacing Happy Hour, another big performance could be on tap.
Jimmie Johnson ($24.00)
He has shown signs of emerging from his summer slump, and Johnson had one of the best cars during practice Saturday. He is a three-time winner here, and he has finished fourth or better three times in his last four starts here and six times in his last ten starts. Johnson could easily log points in the laps led and fastest laps run categories while delivering a top-five finish, and he is priced a notch below the other top drivers.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($13.50)
His numbers at Darlington are nothing special, and in three starts, his best finish is 18th. However, Stenhouse cracked the top 10 in both practices Saturday, and since he is starting 22nd, he would pile up points in the place differential category if he comes close to matching his practice times.
Brian Scott ($5.75)
His price tag is a selling point, but Scott also has a chance to post a useful point total while freeing up plenty of cap space. He has a 24.4 average finish over the last five races, and considering he starts 34th, he should be able to pad his final score with some place differential bonus points.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Kyle Larson ($10,600)
Of all the drivers starting outside the top 15, Larson is the only one that has a reasonable chance to challenge for the win Sunday. He has finished in the top 10 in both of his starts at Darlington, and he had a top-five car in practice. Starting 16th Larson has 50-point potential this weekend, and there aren't many drivers you can say that about.
Matt Kenseth ($10,200)
Kenseth has always run well at Darlington, and his 9.6 average finish over the last ten races ranks third in the series. He has finished sixth or better in three of his last four starts here, winning in 2013, and Kenseth could also add a handful of bonus points through place differential since he is starting 10th. He has a safe floor and decent ceiling.
Denny Hamlin ($9,900)
Since there aren't any big names with a lot of upside through place differential, I'll instead opt for the most dependable driver at Darlington. His 6.5 average finish at the track is the best in the series, and he has a series-leading eight top 10s in the last ten races here, including four finishes of third or better in his last six starts. Hamlin should be in the 40-point range.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,400)
His price tag has been driven down by a lackluster summer stretch, but the six-time champ is starting to show some serious speed with the Chase approaching. The three-time Darlington winner has six finishes of fourth or better in the last ten races here, including three in his last four. He should push for 40 fantasy points on finishing position alone.
Greg Biffle ($8,400)
While I don't think there is any driver in the field who is an obvious candidate to gain 15-plus spots, I do think Biffle is a safe bet to gain between five and ten spots. He starts 23rd, but he has an 11.2 average finish in his last five starts at Darlington, and he had a top 15 car in practice. Biffle could be an affordable source of 30-plus fantasy points.