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.

Track Breakdown

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

Tier 1

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Kyle Busch 4 11.8 6.7 5.8 6 0 2 3 4 4
Kevin Harvick 4 8.8 6 4.8 4 0 3 4 4 4
Denny Hamlin 4 6.5 7.7 11 -4.5 1 2 2 3 3
Martin Truex Jr 4 8.8 8.5 8.8 0 1 1 2 3 4
Brad Keselowski 4 5.8 6.7 7.5 -1.7 1 2 3 3 4
Joey Logano 4 7 9.5 9.8 -2.8 0 2 2 3 4
Chase Elliott 4 12.5 10.1 11.3 1.2 0 1 1 3 4
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Top-15 QP Avg. Laps. LC
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Rate /Race Rating Comp /Race
Kyle Busch 4 125 31.3 75 18.8 96.3% 34.5 107.9 1468 367.0
Kevin Harvick 4 236 59.0 83 20.8 97.8% 42.3 113.9 1467 366.8
Denny Hamlin 4 148 37.0 75 18.8 93.0% 34.8 102.6 1457 364.3
Martin Truex Jr 4 134 33.5 132 33.0 79.1% 30.5 113.2 1467 366.8
Brad Keselowski 4 93 23.3 84 21.0 90.6% 30.0 112.3 1467 366.8
Joey Logano 4 18 4.5 42 10.5 87.2% 42.0 99.1 1466 366.5
Chase Elliott 4 9 2.3 61 15.3 80.9% 43.5 92.9 1465 366.3

Tier 2

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Ryan Blaney 4 15.8 20.2 18 -2.2 0 0 0 2 3
Erik Jones 3 10.7 7.6 4.7 6 1 2 3 3 3
Alex Bowman 2 10 18.9 20.5 -10.5 0 0 0 0 1
William Byron 2 5.5 11.5 28 -22.5 0 0 0 0 0
Kurt Busch 4 6 8.5 12.5 -6.5 0 1 3 3 3
Jimmie Johnson 4 13.3 18.8 25 -11.7 0 0 0 1 2
Clint Bowyer 4 18.3 22.8 26 -7.7 0 0 1 1 1
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Top-15 QP Avg. Laps. LC
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Rate /Race Rating Comp /Race
Ryan Blaney 4 0 0.0 19 0.0 22.0% 12.0 69.1 1456 364.0
Erik Jones 3 79 26.3 66 22.0 72.4% 45.0 110.8 1101 367.0
Alex Bowman 2 0 0.0 52 26.0 18.7% 27.5 73.2 730 365.0
William Byron 2 0 0.0 13 0.0 41.2% 39.5 76.3 694 347.0
Kurt Busch 4 101 25.3 96 24.0 93.6% 44.5 99.0 1427 356.8
Jimmie Johnson 4 3 0.8 34 8.5 49.5% 24.5 79.5 1287 321.8
Clint Bowyer 4 1 0.3 42 10.5 43.3% 27.0 61.6 1059 264.8

Tier 3

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Matt Kenseth 3 12 13.1 12.3 -0.3 0 0 2 2 2
Aric Almirola 4 20.8 20.5 20.8 0 0 0 0 1 2
Matt DiBenedetto 4 28 25.9 24.8 3.2 0 0 1 1 1
Austin Dillon 4 14.3 14.8 10.5 3.8 0 1 1 3 4
Tyler Reddick                    
Chris Buescher 4 22.3 16.5 14.8 7.5 0 0 0 2 4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 4 20.5 23 23 -2.5 0 0 0 1 2
Christopher Bell                    
Ryan Newman 4 15.3 15 14.3 1 0 0 2 2 3
Cole Custer                    
Daniel Suarez 3 13.3 23.4 26 -12.7 0 0 0 1 1
Ryan Preece 1 20 22.7 22 -2 0 0 0 0 0
Bubba Wallace 2 27.5 26.8 25 2.5 0 0 0 0 0
John H. Nemechek                    
Ty Dillon 3 27.3 21.4 18 9.3 0 0 0 1 1
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Top-15 QP Avg. Laps. LC
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Rate /Race Rating Comp /Race
Matt Kenseth 3 10 3.3 22 7.3 48.2% 33.3 89.4 1098 366.0
Aric Almirola 4 0 0.0 6 1.5 13.6% 12.0 63.5 1444 361.0
Matt DiBenedetto 4 0 0.0 6 1.5 13.0% 7.0 53.0 1347 336.8
Austin Dillon 4 0 0.0 13 3.3 56.2% 28.3 80.9 1468 367.0
Tyler Reddick                    
Chris Buescher 4 0 0.0 6 1.5 46.5% 22.8 73.0 1467 366.8
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 4 0 0.0 14 3.5 14.9% 8.8 62.7 1443 360.8
Christopher Bell                    
Ryan Newman 4 9 2.3 10 2.5 55.9% 31.5 78.2 1465 366.3
Cole Custer                    
Daniel Suarez 3 0 0.0 4 1.3 22.0% 16.7 62.8 850 283.3
Ryan Preece 1 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.6% 5.0 55.5 365 365.0
Bubba Wallace 2 0 0.0 16 8.0 0.0% 0.5 51.4 728 364.0
John H. Nemechek                    
Ty Dillon 3 0 0.0 3 1.0 8.9% 11.3 63.3 1096 365.3

Tier 4

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Corey Lajoie 3 32 31.1 30.3 1.7 0 0 0 0 0
Brennan Poole                    
Michael McDowell 4 27.3 26.2 26 1.3 0 0 0 0 1
Timmy Hill 1 36 37.3 37 -1 0 0 0 0 0
Reed Sorenson 3 35 35.3 33.3 1.7 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Bilicki                    
BJ McLeod 2 36.5 36.3 35.5 1 0 0 0 0 0
Garrett Smithley 1 38 37.2 35 3 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Gase 2 39 37.5 37 2 0 0 0 0 0
Quin Houff                    
JJ Yeley 2 33.5 34.6 31.5 2 0 0 0 0 0
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Top-15 QP Avg. Laps. LC
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Rate /Race Rating Comp /Race
Corey Lajoie 3 0 0.0 4 1.3 0.1% 0.7 42.3 1050 350.0
Brennan Poole                    
Michael McDowell 4 0 0.0 2 0.5 0.8% 3.0 51.6 1368 342.0
Timmy Hill 1 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 26.2 268 268.0
Reed Sorenson 3 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.1% 0.0 33.4 817 272.3
Josh Bilicki                    
BJ McLeod 2 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 30.2 541 270.5
Garrett Smithley 1 0 0.0 3 3.0 0.0% 0.0 26.8 344 344.0
Joey Gase 2 0 0.0 1 0.5 0.0% 0.0 26.4 469 234.5
Quin Houff                    
JJ Yeley 2 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.0% 0.0 32.6 702 351.0

Top-20 Drivers At Last 8 Darlington Races

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Kevin Harvick 8 8.8 6 4.8 4 0 3 4 4 4
Denny Hamlin 8 6.5 7.7 11 -4.5 1 2 2 3 3
Brad Keselowski 8 5.8 6.7 7.5 -1.7 1 2 3 3 4
Jimmie Johnson 8 13.3 18.8 25 -11.7 0 0 0 1 2
Matt Kenseth 7 12 13.1 12.3 -0.3 0 0 2 2 2
Martin Truex Jr 8 8.8 8.5 8.8 0 1 1 2 3 4
Erik Jones 3 10.7 7.6 4.7 6 1 2 3 3 3
Kyle Busch 8 11.8 6.7 5.8 6 0 2 3 4 4
Joey Logano 8 7 9.5 9.8 -2.8 0 2 2 3 4
Kurt Busch 8 6 8.5 12.5 -6.5 0 1 3 3 3
    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Austin Dillon 6 14.3 14.8 10.5 3.8 0 1 1 3 4
Chase Elliott 5 12.5 10.1 11.3 1.2 0 1 1 3 4
Ryan Newman 8 15.3 15 14.3 1 0 0 2 2 3
Clint Bowyer 8 18.3 22.8 26 -7.7 0 0 1 1 1
Matt DiBenedetto 5 28 25.9 24.8 3.2 0 0 1 1 1
Chris Buescher 4 22.3 16.5 14.8 7.5 0 0 0 2 4
Aric Almirola 8 20.8 20.5 20.8 0 0 0 0 1 2
Ryan Blaney 5 15.8 20.2 18 -2.2 0 0 0 2 3
Ty Dillon 3 27.3 21.4 18 9.3 0 0 0 1 1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 7 20.5 23 23 -2.5 0 0 0 1 2
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Laps LC Avg.
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Comp /Race Rating
Kevin Harvick 8 518 64.8 206 25.8 2943 367.9 115
Denny Hamlin 8 264 33.0 131 16.4 2933 366.6 104.8
Brad Keselowski 8 293 36.6 151 18.9 2934 366.8 104.1
Jimmie Johnson 8 145 18.1 137 17.1 2763 345.4 95.3
Matt Kenseth 7 39 5.6 82 11.7 2574 367.7 96.9
Martin Truex Jr 8 159 19.9 180 22.5 2940 367.5 104.9
Erik Jones 3 79 26.3 66 22.0 1101 367.0 110.8
Kyle Busch 8 437 54.6 151 18.9 2944 368.0 111.5
Joey Logano 8 84 10.5 76 9.5 2925 365.6 95
Kurt Busch 8 177 22.1 176 22.0 2897 362.1 97.1
    Laps Laps Led Fastest Fast Laps Laps LC Avg.
Driver # Led /Race Laps /Race Comp /Race Rating
Austin Dillon 6 0 0.0 18 3.0 2209 368.2 77.3
Chase Elliott 5 9 1.8 61 12.2 1692 338.4 83.4
Ryan Newman 8 9 1.1 14 1.8 2940 367.5 80.9
Clint Bowyer 8 1 0.1 81 10.1 2535 316.9 73.2
Matt DiBenedetto 5 0 0.0 6 1.2 1714 342.8 52.4
Chris Buescher 4 0 0.0 6 1.5 1467 366.8 73
Aric Almirola 8 0 0.0 12 1.5 2917 364.6 67.3
Ryan Blaney 5 0 0.0 29 5.8 1822 364.4 68.6
Ty Dillon 3 0 0.0 3 1.0 1096 365.3 63.3
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 7 0 0.0 16 2.3 2496 356.6 61.6

Top-20 Drivers Over Last 16 Similar Races

(Darlington, Dover, Las Vegas, Homestead)

    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Martin Truex Jr 16 8.1 7.1 8.1 0.0 4 9 11 12 14
Joey Logano 16 9.4 8.7 7.9 1.5 3 9 12 14 15
Brad Keselowski 16 8.6 8.2 9.4 -0.8 2 6 10 13 15
Kevin Harvick 16 5.3 5.1 6.3 -1.0 1 12 15 15 15
Kyle Busch 16 8.6 8.9 8.7 -0.1 1 6 11 13 15
Chase Elliott 16 9.8 11.3 13.4 -3.6 1 5 7 11 13
Denny Hamlin 16 5.6 10.1 12.1 -6.5 1 4 7 11 13
Erik Jones 14 12.9 14.5 15.7 -2.8 1 4 6 7 9
Jimmie Johnson 16 14.6 15.3 17.4 -2.8 1 2 4 9 11
Kurt Busch 16 10.3 11.3 14.9 -4.6 0 4 7 10 10
    Avg. Run. Avg. Pos.   Top Top Top Top
Driver # Start Pos. Finish Diff. W 5 10 15 20
Austin Dillon 16 16.4 15.3 12.6 3.8 0 2 4 11 14
Alex Bowman 13 12.2 14.7 15.4 -3.2 0 2 4 6 9
Ryan Blaney 16 12.3 15.6 16.7 -4.4 0 2 3 8 11
Clint Bowyer 16 15.3 15.1 17.7 -2.4 0 1 5 9 9
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 16 16.4 18.4 19.4 -3.0 0 1 3 4 10
Matt DiBenedetto 16 25.8 24.2 22.1 3.7 0 1 3 3 3
Daniel Suarez 14 15.6 18.1 19.2 -3.6 0 1 2 7 8
Matt Kenseth 7 13.1 13.1 11.1 2.0 0 0 5 5 5
Ryan Newman 15 17.3 17 16.5 0.8 0 0 4 6 10
Aric Almirola 16 15.6 16.2 17.3 -1.7 0 0 3 7 11
    Led Fast Laps Laps LC Avg.
Driver # /Race /Race Comp /Race Rating
Martin Truex Jr 16 38.2 36.1 5202 325.1 113.5
Joey Logano 16 26.1 13.7 5187 324.2 104.8
Brad Keselowski 16 22.5 14.1 5198 324.9 101.9
Kevin Harvick 16 71.4 37.6 5088 318.0 121.4
Kyle Busch 16 21.6 19.1 5084 317.8 103.5
Chase Elliott 16 15.4 16.0 4756 297.3 93.7
Denny Hamlin 16 25.8 11.9 5173 323.3 94.5
Erik Jones 14 5.6 8.1 4433 316.6 85.8
Jimmie Johnson 16 0.7 8.3 5008 313.0 81.5
Kurt Busch 16 7.9 10.8 5085 317.8 90.5
    Led Fast Laps Laps LC Avg.
Driver # /Race /Race Comp /Race Rating
Austin Dillon 16 0.2 3.7 5204 325.3 78.9
Alex Bowman 13 3.2 14.8 4193 322.5 84.3
Ryan Blaney 16 1.3 6.8 5089 318.1 81.1
Clint Bowyer 16 2.7 7.4 4783 298.9 79
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 16 4.2 4.5 5140 321.3 72.1
Matt DiBenedetto 16 0.6 4.3 5058 316.1 56.3
Daniel Suarez 14 4.5 4.0 4273 305.2 70.4
Matt Kenseth 7 1.4 4.9 2302 328.9 86.6
Ryan Newman 15 0.6 2.3 4905 327.0 72.9
Aric Almirola 16 4.2 4.8 5127 320.4 76.7

Finishes By Starting Spot Ranges

Start   Top Top Top
Range W 5 10 15
1-5 0 6 13 16
6-10 2 6 9 13
11-15 2 5 10 15
16-20 0 1 5 9
21-25 0 1 1 5
26-30 0 0 0 0
31-35 0 1 2 2
36-40 0 0 0 0
Total 4 20 40 60

Team Averages At Darlington (since Feb. 2018)

Team Avg Fin Races Wins Top 5 Top 10
Chip Ganassi Racing 5.25 4 0 2 4
Team Penske 8.33 6 1 3 3
Stewart-Haas Racing 12.25 8 0 2 4
Joe Gibbs Racing 12.75 8 1 2 5
Wood Brothers Racing 13 2 0 0 1
Leavine Family Racing 16 2 0 0 1
JTG Daugherty Racing 17.25 4 0 0 0

DraftKings Scoring At Darlington

Driver 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 Last 2 Avg Last 5 Avg DK Avg.
Kyle Busch 122 37 56 30.75 40.75 79.50 57.30 29.71
Kevin Harvick 47.5 65 42.5 118.5 65 56.25 67.70 52.96
Denny Hamlin -4.5 32.25 108.5 55.25 68.75 13.88 52.05 43.62
Martin Truex Jr 47.5 42.5 72 81.5 34 45.00 55.50 22.08
Brad Keselowski 47.75 72.5 26.75 60.25 110.5 60.13 63.55 38.38
Joey Logano 29 59 18.5 45 56.75 44.00 41.65 46.67
Chase Elliott 28.25 53 45 42.5 -16 40.63 30.55 47.96
Ryan Blaney 29 36 -1 40.5 -2 32.50 20.50 36.38
Erik Jones 88.75 55 48