The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for Sunday. The order is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
The DraftKings NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington slate locks at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday.
1. Kyle Larson ($11,400) — Will he ever win at Darlington? For the last decade, Larson has been one of the best drivers at Darlinton but he’s never won. Last fall he finished just behind Hamlin after trying to “video game it” in the last turn. In the spring, he ruined his car after he spun out while attempting to pass for second place.
2. Ross Chastain ($10,000) — Similar to Kyle Larson, Chastain was severely penalized for being aggressive. Chastain attempted to pass Denny Hamlin for the lead on the opening restart of Stage 3. Chastain got loose and a race-winning car was ruined.
3. Denny Hamlin ($11,100) — The reigning Southern 500 champion almost made it two in a row in the spring. His car came to life in Stage 3 but pit cycling and a late caution did not fall in his favor, and he cycled out of the lead. In traffic on the second-to-last restart, Hamlin got caught up in the big one.
4. Joey Logano ($9,800) — Did Logano have the best car in the spring? It might not have been the best but it was a top-3 car? Did Logano win in dirty fashion? Yes, but the DFS points count the same.
5. Kyle Busch ($10,200) — In the spring race, Busch was biding his time and patiently running laps inside the top 5 for most of the race. Like several other race-winning cars, it wasn’t in the cards for Busch at Darlington in the spring. Brad Keselowski wrecked in front of Busch, and Busch ran into Keselowski.
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6. Martin Truex Jr ($9,500) — A lot of very good cars wrecked in the first Darlington race, and Truex was one of them. On lap 261 of 293, Truex lined up on the second row. He ended up three-wide entering turn 1. His car got loose and triggered the big one.
7. William Byron ($8,900) — The cautions played to Byron’s favor. On the final restart, Byron outdrove Joey Logano and took the lead. Logano claimed that Byron doored him into the wall. Byron said Logano just got spooked. Only Logano’s opinion matters because on the final lap, Logano retaliated and sent Byron into the wall. Logano won, Byron finished 13th.
8. Chase Elliott ($10,700) — He wasn’t a factor in the spring race, but he had to start in the back in a race where passing was limited. Even with the disadvantage, Elliott was a top-10 driver by the end of the race.
9. Christopher Bell ($8,700) — Despite being a famed dirt racer, Bell does not fancy himself a rim rider like the other dirt racers on the circuit. Darlington may not completely suit Bell, but it’s hard to fade any JGR car right now.
10. Kevin Harvick ($8,500) — Put the road course and the plate race to the side, and Harvick has won the last two oval races. Harvick wasn’t great in the first Darlington race, but the No. 4 SHR Ford team was struggling with the Next Gen package at tracks longer than a mile at that point in the season.
11. Tyler Reddick ($10,500) — He was in the optimal lineup and finished second in the spring Darlington race. Reddick was fortunate and unfortunate in that race, but his bad luck was not as costly as the other elite drivers.
12. Ty Dillon ($5,800) — The Petty-GMS cars were fast in the spring race, and Dillon has earned four consecutive top-20 finishes coming into this race. Also, Dillon is one of a handful of drivers pulling double-duty on Labor Day weekend.
13. Bubba Wallace ($7,300) — Darlington has not been kind to Bubba in the past. The same can be said of many tracks but Bubba has overcome past struggles this season. It helps that he is driving the fastest car of his career. Funny how that works.
14. Austin Dillon ($7,800) — Momentum is on his side and Darlington has been a surprisingly good track for Dillon. His average finish is 11th over the last 10 Darlington races with five top-10 finishes — three in the last four.
15. Ryan Blaney ($9,200) — Darlington has never been a good track for Blaney. His average finish at the Lady in Black is 18th with one top-10 finish. He’s got a new lease on life after last week, so there’s no telling what he could do in the Southern 500.
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