NASCAR Picks for Darlington
Length: 1.366 miles
Location: Darlington, South Carolina
The Cup Series heads to legendary Darlington Raceway this weekend, and in addition to being the oldest superspeedway in the series, the unique layout of the egg-shaped oval it apart from the rest of the tracks on the schedule. Granted, the sandpaper-like surface of Darlington has been smoothed out in recent years, but the two separately-configured sets of corners and a preferred line that keeps cars inches from the outside wall make the track downright tough on drivers. In fact, drivers bounce of the wall so frequently at Darlington that the track has been nicknamed the "Lady in Black" because of all the scuff marks that end up dotting the outside of the track by the time a race ends.
From a fantasy perspective, it is tough to rely on anything other than past results at Darlington. The track is so unique that there really isn't any comparable track to pull data from. Not surprisingly, there are certain drivers that excel at Darlington and some that never seem to figure it out. As a result, catering your roster directly to Darlington is usually the best strategy.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has absolutely owned Darlington since coming into the series in 2006. In eight starts at the track, he has posted a series-leading 5.4 average finish, and he has never finished worse than 13th. Hamlin has actually been even better at Darlington recently, reeling off four straight finishes of sixth or better and picking up a win and two second-place finishes during the stretch.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Johnson has been his typical reliable self at Darlington. His 8.8 average finish at the track is the second best in the series, and in 15 starts, he has 13 top-15 finishes. In addition to his three wins at Darlington, Johnson has eight top-five finishes, including six finishes of third or better.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is a seven-time winner at Darlington, and Gordon hasn't missed a beat in recent years. In his last 10 starts at the track, he has eight top-five finishes, including six finishes of third or better. During the stretch, his 7.0 average finish is the second best in the series.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although Darlington was a trouble spot for Kenseth early in his career, he has more than figured out the track in recent years. Not only is he the defending winner of this weekend's race, but he has seven top-15 finishes in his last eight starts at the track. During the stretch, Kenseth has four finishes of sixth or better, including two straight.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Busch offers a nice blend of consistency and upside this weekend. He is the former winner at Darlington, and he has five finishes of seventh or better in nine starts at the track. Meanwhile, Busch has reeled off four straight finishes of 11th or better at the track, posting a 7.0 average finish during the stretch.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Aside from a couple of bad outings, Edwards has been one of the more reliable drivers at Darlington. He has compiled a 12.5 average finish in 10 starts at the track, logging eight top-15 finishes, including four straight. In fact, Edwards has reeled off three straight finishes of seventh or better at Darlington, compiling a 5.3 average finish during the stretch.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
A late wreck saddled him with a poor finish at Darlington last year, but Keselowski has been solid in his other four starts at the track. He has just a single finish outside the top 15 to go along with two finishes of seventh or better. Overall, Keselowski has a 13.8 average finish at Darlington.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Since joining the Cup Series in 1999, Stewart's 12.3 average finish at Darlington is the fourth best in the series. Shockingly, it is also one of the few tracks on the schedule where he has never won. However, Stewart has finished in the top 15 in his last three starts at Darlington, finishing a career-best third at the track in 2012.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Biffle has enjoyed a great deal of success at Darlington in his career. In 13 starts at the track, he has 10 top-15 finishes, including three straight. Meanwhile, Biffle is a two-time winner at Darlington, notching consecutive wins in 2005 and 2006.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
While he only has two top-five finishes in 19 starts at Darlington, Junior has been pretty reliable at the track. He has 10 finishes of 18th or better in his last 11 starts at the track, and during the stretch, he has finished 11th or better seven times. Junior finished ninth at Darlington last year, and he should challenge for a top-10 again this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Darlington hasn't been Harvick's best track, but he has more than held his own. He has 12 finishes of 17th or better in 17 starts at Darlington, including five straight. Harvick also has an 11.0 average finish at Darlington in the past five races at the track, and he finished a strong fifth in last year's Southern 500.
Martin Truex, Jr., #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Truex has always had a great feel for Darlington. His 11.4 average finish at the track is the third best among active drivers, and he has never finished outside the top 20 in eight starts. More importantly, Truex has seven top-15 finishes at Darlington, including three straight finishes of 12th or better.