Mike Forbes examines the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Speedway!!
This weekend all three Nascar top series will once again join forces for a three day race weekend at Darlington Raceway that will feature Nascar’s throwback weekend. The Nascar Camping World Truck Series kicks off the festivities with the 2nd Annual Liftkits4less.com 200 Friday night. My article for that race is already posted where I break down my rankings and lineup construction to get your weekend started off right.
Saturday afternoon the Xfinity Series will resume after a week off for the Steakhouse Elite 200 that will go Green around 1PM Eastern time. Sean Engel has you covered for that race as he previews who we should be targeting in the 2nd chance for us to cash on some Nascar DFS this weekend. Ty Gibbs will be a driver to watch in that race as he has been nothing but impressive in each of his starts in the Xfinity series as well as the Arca races.
Finally, on Sunday the cup series will have their run on the 1.366 mile track dubbed the Lady in Black. The 2nd Annual Goodyear 400 will go green around 3:30PM Eastern on Mother’s day. The bulk of this article will break down who we want to target Sunday and guide us in a path to make sure we end the weekend on the right note in Nascar DFS.
First let’s talk about the track. There are two very different ends of this track. Turns 1 and 2 are large sweeping corners on 25 degrees of banking. Turns 3 and 4 are a much more compact, challenging turns. Often you will hear the phrase the Darlington stripe and that is because every year over half of the drivers entered in the race will have hit the wall in these turns on the 23 degrees of banking.
This track has multiple nicknames but besides the “Lady in Black” it is also known as the track “too tough to tame”. Let’s break down who has had the best luck attempting to tame the beast and who we think we should target this weekend.
For me it is going to start with Kyle Larson. He has had a couple disappointing finishes in a row, but, let’s face it, he was the class of the field last weekend in Kansas. He has had a couple slip away from him this year where he could easily have three or four wins instead of just the one he captured in Las Vegas.
There is no denying this team is locked in in terms of performance with the exception of the blown engine in Talladega. Kyle’s driving style lines up great for this type of track where runs often come from the top. In his last two races here for Chip Ganassi Racing he finished 3rd and 2nd.
In his six career races he averages just over a 6th place finish which is good enough for 2nd among active drivers. I know Kyle wants another win to show what he is capable of and this track is one he has to have circled. He will start from the 14th position, which I love. Larson is as close to a must start this weekend as we will get.
We talked last week about how we needed to see something out of Kevin Harvick at a track he has had a ton of success at and he came through with a 2nd place finish. That finish does not tell the story of his race however as he used some late race pit strategy and was able to run to the front on newer tires.
The fact is they struggled with that car for most of the day before getting it right at the end. That has been Kevin’s MO in the past where he has been dubbed the closer by a few analysts. What we have not seen yet this year is Kevin dominating like he did last year.
Darlington will once again provide him with that opportunity as he has had a ton of recent success on the track. He has not finished outside the top ten since 2012 and his only finish outside the top five in that time came in September of 2017 when he finished 9th. He has won two of the last three races at Darlington.
I tell you all this and I know what you’re thinking: this guy has to be in our lineup this weekend. Well, unfortunately for us, it’s not as easy as that. His performance this year has no doubt been getting better as we go but he still isn’t up front leading the race for long stretches.
I don’t love his 2nd starting spot. If he started somewhere near Larson I would be all over him this weekend but everything has to go right for Harvick to get max value which is what we need for a driver at the top of our lineup who starts in the top five. He certainly is in consideration for most lineups but he is not the lock Larson is.
I teased that Larson was second amongst active drivers in terms of career finishing position at Darlington. Can you guess who number one is? If you did, you had to cheat and look it up because that driver is Erik Jones. In six career races at Darlington his average finish is 5.17. In those races he does have a victory in 2018.
His worst career finish at Darlington is 8th in 2018. Let’s face it, some of Erik Jones’s statistics can be blown out of the water because he was on a top-tier team for the past few years and now he is on a mid-level team at Petty. I could easily make that argument and pass this off as a driver who just had the best equipment, but when you dig deeper, you can see that in his very first race in Darlington he finished 5th in a Furniture Row entry.
Recently he has had to come from the back half of the field and still is getting top five finishes. He will start 26th Sunday and there is no denying that he does have some work to do to keep his top ten finish streak alive at this track but he has talent and this is what is known as a driver’s racetrack so if he can get anywhere near the top ten from the 26th starting position it will be a win for us in fantasy.
I also really like Joey Logano here this weekend. His career stats are not all that impressive, but when you look at the arc of that team and his performances, you can see that they are constantly improving. The Penske teams have been up and down this season, but they are a powerhouse and I really think Joey has a strong shot to win here Sunday. His 12th starting spot gives us even a little bit more value and that is exactly what we are looking for this weekend.
Austin Dillon is another driver to watch out for. He is kind of up and down at this track but his career average finish of 12th puts him solidly in the top ten when it comes to all active drivers. He will roll off the grid in 9th so there isn’t a great deal of confidence that he will score us any improvement points, but if he could be in your middle group of drivers, I think you have a shot, especially in cash games.
I’ve saved my last spotlight driver for a guy I have been talking up all season long and that is Denny Hamlin. Denny did win here last May and I have been talking about how each week should and could be his week. I call this the Kyle Busch syndrome and I had it bad last year.
This weekend I am going to not use Denny as my favorite bet, but I do think he has a ton of value in fantasy. Starting 7th I think he easily finishes in the top five. He will cost you a number one position however but he is almost a sure thing.
Let’s go ahead and jump right into the full field rankings for the Cup series at Darlington:
- Kyle Larson ($11,400)
- Denny Hamlin ($10,600)
- Joey Logano ($11,100)
- Brad Kesolowski ($10,000)
- Kevin Harvick ($9,600)
- Martin Truex Jr ($10,300)
- William byron ($8,800)
- Kyle Busch ($9,800)
- Chase Elliott ($9,200)
- Christopher Bell ($8,600)
- Alex Bowman ($9,400)
- Erik Jones ($8,200)
- Austin Dillon ($7,500)
- Kurt Busch ($8,400)
- Ryan Blaney ($9,000)
- Aric Almirola ($8,000)
- Tyler Reddick ($7,400)
- Bubba Wallace ($7,000)
- Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800)
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($7,600)
- Ryan Newman ($7,200)
- Daniel Suarez ($6,700)
- Cole Custer ($7,100)
- Chris Buescher ($6,500)
- Chase Briscoe ($6,800)
- Michael McDowell ($6,100)
- Ryan Preece ($5,900)
- Ross Chastain ($6,300)
- Corey LaJoie ($5,700)
- Anthony Alfredo ($5,400)
- JJ Yeley ($4,800)
- Justin Haley ($5,500)
- Quin Houff ($4,500)
- James Davison ($5,200)
- BJ McLeod 9$4,700)
- Josh Bilicki ($5,000)
- Cody Ware ($4,600)
Lineup construction this weekend is all about who you want to start at the top. For me that driver is going to be Larson. Not only do I love his chances to win here this weekend, his 14th starting spot gives us some reassurance when it comes to point total.
He is the most expensive driver on DraftKings so that is not ideal but he is where I want to start my lineup build for this week. You could make a case for Hamlin up there but the $800 difference is not enough to sway me to make that pick. Denny should be in consideration for the top two spots, but if we are paying up for Larson, we may not have enough left over to use Denny.
For that reason my number two pick is going to come from a group of drivers that consists of William Byron, who I love at $8,800, Harvick at $9,600 or Alex Bowman at $9,400. The reason I included Bowman over his teammate Chase Elliott is purely starting position. I think we get more value from Bowman starting 19th than Elliott starting 6th.
My 3rd and 4th drivers are going to come from a group that has some potential upside. I am going to try to see if there is any way to squeeze William Byron down into 3rd at $8,800 but by paying up at the top that is going to be hard to do.
Christopher Bell is an intriguing driver at $8,600. Ricky Stenhouse Jr at $7,600 intrigues me as well. I highlighted Austin Dillon, and if he was used at $7,500, that seems like a solid play. Aric Almirola starting 27th is an OK selection here but not ideal. His 27th starting spot would be the only reason to look his direction this weekend. Matt DiBenedetto, who starts 8th, is another guy I’d use but hate his starting spot. I think that team has the potential to have a good race but the risks may outweigh the rewards for fantasy users.
At the bottom we need to be very careful where we use our salary dollars. We need drivers who will finish the race and not retire early. Bubba Wallace at $7,000 is a tempting pick if we can afford it. I am very high on Daniel Suarez and his team this year and at $6,700 he is constantly in my lineups. I like Ryan Preece’s tag of $5,900 a great deal and Michael McDowell at $6,100 seems pretty reasonable down at the bottom.
My ideal lineup this Sunday will look something like this.
- Kyle Larson
- Alex Bowman
- Christopher Bell
- Bubba Wallace
- Daniel Suarez
- Michael McDowell
So in my lineup build I paid up at the top and cost me at the bottom. I feel this is a strong lineup in cash games but in tournaments I might take some more chances and use guys I highlighted with higher upsides. A driver I didn’t include here that I think is a really good target for tournaments is Erik Jones. He has a ton of potential in this race and could be the steal of the tournament if he performs the way he has in the past.
Lastly, I want to talk about my bets to win the Goodyear 400. My favorite is Larson at 4.5/1. That should be no surprise. He is offered +130 to finish in the top three so I would hammer both of those bets.
My mid pack driver will be Logano at 14/1. I like this bet even more than the Larson one because it has so much more upside. At +375 to finish top three I would stay away from that and just place a wager to win this weekend.
My longshot driver is Jones at 80/1. There aren’t a lot of reasons to think he can perform anywhere near where he performed here the past couple years, but anytime you have a driver who is this good on a track and you are getting 80/1 odds, you have to go for it.
So as all three Nascar series’ return to the track together for the first time in over a month we have got you covered from every angle. Be sure to check out Sean Engel’s articles and cheat sheets for even more analysis all weekend long.
For any late breaking new or notes you can follow me on Twitter @mikejforbes!