NASCAR DFS: Darlington 400 Track Breakdown (Free Preview)
Matt Selz has the full track breakdown and Hot Pass for this week's race -- the Darlington 400 from Darlington Raceway.
How’s it going y’all (said in a South Carolina drawl)? The Cup cars are back on track this week after nearly two months on hiatus and relegated to watching drivers iRace from their homes. Things are starting with a bang too as it’s an early-season trip to Darlington Raceway, one of the gems of the NASCAR schedule. It is quite a unique track in its own right but this weekend it’ll be an even more unique experience as there are no practice sessions nor is there a qualifying session either as NASCAR will randomly assign starting spots based on ownership points broken down into groups of 12.
Darlington is one of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit having opened in 1950 for the first Southern 500, a crown jewel race, and it’s been on the schedule ever since, though with differing race dates and differing numbers of races a year. It’s typically a once-a-year track now with the Southern 500 held near Labor Day weekend but with these ever-changing times, NASCAR has decided that this is a great venue for getting back to racing since it’s driveable from Charlotte, the home base for teams. Thus Darlington is getting two races this week, I’ll have an updated Breakdown out for Wednesday’s race as well, plus it will still get the Southern 500 later this year. The track is a 1.366-mile layout with a unique Egg-shaped design to it with Turns 1&2 being a wider set of corners and Turns 3&4 being a sharper set as well as having two different degrees of banking in the sets of corners making it tough on crews to set up the car the right way to make good time at both ends of the track. The racing surface is fairly abrasive as well so tire wear will be a factor in the race over the long runs much like it is at Chicago and Atlanta and Dover.
There will be a few sections of the typical track breakdown left out this week as the Momentum and Team Momentum sections won’t appear for a few weeks due to the break in the schedule. The weekend schedule breakdown will also not appear since they are only one-day shows with no practices or qualifying sessions.
It’s a good idea to follow me on Twitter as well (@theselzman) for news updates throughout the weekend.
Drivers To Watch
Tier 1 - Kevin Harvick (DK: $11,500 FD: $14,500)
Harvick leads the tier in average finish (4.8) as well as Top-5s, Top-10s, and Top-15s
He has the most laps led (236) and the best Top-15 Rate (97.8%) and Rating (113.9) in the field.
Harvick is always a threat on tire wear tracks like Darlington is
Tier 2 - Erik Jones (DK: $9,200 FD: $9,800)
Jones is the defending winner at the track having won the Southern 500 last September
He has the best average finish in the field at 4.7 and a healthy plus-6 PD (which mimics what he did in iRacing the last few weeks)
The young driver ranks second in the field in the last few races across both DFS sites
Tier 3 - Chris Buescher (DK: $7,000 FD: $7,300)
Buescher’s 14.8 average finish in the last four races ranks 10th among all active drivers
He also has four top-20s in the last four races, tied for most in the field amongst other drivers with twice as many races as him.
The 7.5 positive PD mark is among the best in the field and should pay off with nice value at this price point.
Contrarian - Matt Kenseth (DK: $7,900 FD: $7,200)
Kenseth is fresh off a 1.5-year “retirement” but he has the most starts at this track in the field with 25.
The 42-car team was having a great start to the season before the break and has been bringing fast cars to the track each week.
He will have time in the simulator to get used to the package and he trusts his “new” teammate in Kurt Busch with info since the two have been teammates before which should ease the acclamation process for Kenseth.
Fade - Jimmie Johnson (DK: $8,300 FD: $10,000)
Not only does Johnson have the worst stats among his tier, but his -11.7 PD is also one of the worst in the field over the last four races.
He ranks 24th or worse in the last five races on both sites and 30th or worse in the last two races in scoring.
The last several weeks in iRacing weren’t good for his mojo as he spent the whole time crashing out of the races most of the time.
Last Four Darlington Races
Top-20 Drivers At Last 8 Darlington Races
Top-20 Drivers Over Last 16 Similar Races
(Darlington, Dover, Las Vegas, Homestead)