NASCAR Picks for Darlington
Length: 1.366 miles
Location: Darlington, South Carolina
There's no need to delve too deep into last weekend's race at Talladega. It was as rough as fantasy owners feared, and recapping it will just bring back bad memories. Not to mention that the best way to recover from the carnage is to pile up some points this weekend at Darlington Raceway. The track is considered NASCAR's original superspeedway, and a win in Saturday night's Bojangles Southern 500 is one of the most-coveted accomplishments in the Cup Series. If there were majors in NASCAR, this race would be one of them.
The race's significance is actually great news for fantasy owners because the elite drivers in the series tend to be at their best. Of course, Regan Smith's victory last season would seem to go against that theory, but let's face it, the 2011 season was a wild one. In addition to Smith grabbing the win at Darlington, Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 and Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400. Those type of monumental upsets don't happen often, and owners should be confident that the big names will flex their muscles Saturday night.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
His 6.5 average finish at Darlington is the best among active drivers, and Hamlin has never finished worse than 13th in six career starts at the track. He also has five top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2010. Hamlin finished sixth at Darlington last year, and with two wins under his belt already in 2012, he should be a factor for the win Saturday night.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon's seven career wins at Darlington are tied for his most at any track, and he has 21 top-10s in 31 career starts. He has remained the picture of consistency in recent years, reeling off eight straight top-12 finishes. During the stretch, Gordon has finished in the top five an impressive seven times, including a win in 2006. He should be a top-five option this weekend for fantasy owners.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is a two-time winner at Darlington. With Biffle running as well as he ever has in the Cup Series, there is a good chance he could return to his winning ways at the track this weekend. Even in recent years, Biffle has been a top-10 driver at the track, which makes him a low-risk pick anyway. He finished eighth at Darlington one year ago, and he should improve on that result this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
In 13 career starts at Darlington, he has finished outside the top 15 only twice. His 9.8 average finish at the track ranks third among active drivers, and no driver with as many starts has a better average finish. Johnson is a two-time winner at Darlington, and he has finished seventh or better in seven of his last 10 starts at the track. Pencil him in for another strong showing.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Two really bad runs pull down his average finish, but Edwards has been stout at Darlington. In eight starts at the track, he has six top-15s and five top-10 finishes. More importantly, he has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts, including a pair of second-place efforts.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Darlington can be a tough track for young drivers to get a feel for, but that hasn't been the case for Keselowski. He has a 7.3 average finish and has finished 12th or better in all three career starts. Keselowski finished a career-best third in last year's Southern 500, and he is on his way to establishing himself as one of the top options at Darlington.
Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
This weekend's trip to Darlington could be Truex's best chance to end his winless drought. The track has always been one of his best, and he has never finished outside the top 20 in six career starts. Truex has a 12.3 average finish at the track and has two top-10s in his last three starts. With as well as he has performed in 2012, a top-five finish isn't out of the question.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
In 13 starts at Darlington, Newman has finished in the top 10 on nine occasions, including all three starts at the track with Stewart-Haas Racing. More importantly, Newman has finished in the top five in seven of his 13 starts. He has never been to Victory Lane at Darlington, but he is certainly capable of delivering a strong run for fantasy owners this weekend.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
As his 18.1 average finish suggests, Darlington has never been Kenseth's best track. However, he has been making major strides in the last few seasons. Kenseth has finished 13th or better in five of his last six starts, picking up four top-10s during the stretch. He still isn't an elite fantasy option at Darlington, but won't be dead weight on a roster either.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
It has been a mixed bag of results for Busch at Darlington in his seven career starts, but he has been enjoying a solid stretch. He has finished 11th or better in three of his last four starts at the track, including a trip to Victory Lane. He isn't the best option in Yahoo! leagues, but don't be surprised to see Busch running in the top 10 this weekend.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Darlington is one of only two tracks on the schedule where Stewart has never won a race, and while he has been solid, he has just three top-five finishes in 19 career starts. On the plus side, he has finished seventh or better in two of his three starts at the track since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. A win may still be asking a bit much, but Stewart is improving at Darlington.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick is normally one of the most consistent drivers out there, but Darlington has always been a trouble spot for him. In his last eight starts at the track, he has just one top-10 finish and not a single top-five. Harvick has managed to finish 11th or better in two of his last three starts, but fantasy owners are better off saving him for another week.