The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by value of each driver. Note: fppk = average fantasy points per $1,000 of salary.
1. Chase Elliott ($10,600) - In the second Darlington race, he lost the lead during the last pit stop, then Kyle Busch wrecked him laps later. The early competition caution Sunday night is a concern, but if Elliott does not lose the lead during that pit stop, then he’ll lead every lap in stage one. (4.2 fppk)
2. Kevin Harvick ($10,900) - He dominated the first Darlington race, but domination implies an excellence that was absent from Harvick’s performance. The high downforce package has ruined this race track. Any driver up front dominates. In the second Darlington race, Harvick did not have track position and he was not a factor. (5.6 fppk)
3. Denny Hamlin ($11,400) - Wins can be deceiving, but Hamlin’s won enough races this year that they do mean something. His win in the second Darlington races was thanks to a very quick pit stop and Kyle Busch wrecking Chase Elliott. Nonetheless, Hamlin put himself in position to win and he’s done this several times at Darlington over his career. (5.1 fppk)
4. Brad Keselowski ($8,800) - Who wins at Darlington? It’s not the fastest driver. Last year, Erik Jones took the lead late in the race on pit road. Kevin Harvick had a perfect pit stop every time in the first Darlington race this season. In the second race, Hamlin took the lead on pit road just before rain ended the race. Keselowski wins races on pit road. (4.7 fppk)
5. Joey Logano ($9,800) - His season started off hot, but then he cooled off in the races following the COVID-19 break. Over the last month, Logano has started to creep back towards the top, but the last month has featured a diverse mixture of races. (3.6 fppk)
6. Aric Almirola ($8,300) - After nine straight top 10 finishes, Almirola experienced a mixed bag of results in July and August. His lack of consistency was likely due to a departure from high downforce, low horsepower oval race tracks. Darlington is a return to Almriola’s strength. (4.4 fppk)
7. Erik Jones ($9,600) - His 2019 Darlington win was a direct result of fast pit stops. In the second Darlington race this season, Jones took the lead late in the race. How did he get the lead? His pit crew pushed him to the front. (3.7 fppk)
8. Clint Bowyer ($8,100) - The field invert in the second race handed Bowyer the lead. Bowyer held the lead for most of the race because this high downforce package does not work at Darlington. The cars glue to the top of the track and passing simply does not happen. (3.8 fppk)
9. Kyle Busch ($10,000) - True story, Busch almost got left out of the rankings again this week. There is a clear path to a top 10 DFS score for Busch, but will he be efficient enough to fit in the optimal lineup? Busch’s biggest weakness has been the absence of notes based on practice; he should have plenty of notes from the first two Darlington races. (2.9 fppk)
10. Jimmie Johnson ($8,400) - He doesn’t have to win to be in the optimal lineup. A top 10 will get the job done, but there is a slight concern that Johnson might aggressively chase wins since he is no longer point racing. He’s been chasing wins for the last two years. No one has noticed because he’s been so far away from the wins. (3.7 fppk)
11. Kurt Busch ($9,000) - In the first Darlington race, Busch looked great. In the second race, he showed up with a lemon. His average running position in the high downforce, low downforce package is 11th. That’s only a few spots away from the best average running position of 7th. (3.7 fppk)
12. Christopher Bell ($6,900) - His plate race result means nothing, but so do the disappointing races at a road course and the two in the low downforce package at Dover. Bell finished 11th in the second Darlington race and he would have earned at least a top 15 finish in the first race, but he wrecked. (3.6 fppk)
13. Tyler Reddick ($7,000) - Ryan Newman said Reddick ran out of talent last week, his Xfinity championships are worthless, and he’s a goofball. No lies were detected. At a traditional oval in the high downforce package, Reddick should be less of a goofball and more of a top 15 driver. (4.3 fppk)
14. Ryan Newman ($7,200) - In his first two races back, Newman finished 15th and 14th in the two Darlington races. Based on those race results and a career full of 15th place finishes, Newman should finish 15th and hit 6x. (3.1 fppk)
15. Matt Kenseth ($6,500) - This will be Kenseth’s third race at Darlington this season. It’s the safest he’s been as a DFS play this season, but even so, he’s not very safe. Kenseth has been a 20th place driver in the high downforce package, but he had a top 15 average running position in both Darlington races. (2.8 fppk)
16. Ryan Preece ($5,900) - Just about every DFS player has been burned at least once this year by Preece. If he wrecks, then you’re toast, but that can be said of every driver. Of course, Preece wrecks more than any other driver in the field. DFS players do not need much. In the six races before Daytona, Preece averaged a 22nd place finish. That would be perfect. (3.0 fppk)
17. Michael McDowell ($6,400) - Front Row Motorsports has been competitive in the high downforce, low horsepower races this season. NASCAR dreamed of this result, but the package didn’t deliver in 2019. The executives did not give up on their dream of forced equality. This year they doubled down and canceled practice in order to prevent well-funded teams from testing and improving their cars. (5.0 fppk)
18. William Byron ($7,800) - Post plate race momentum does not exist, but there is definitely good juju that comes with a first career win. In the first Darlington race, Byron drove from 18th to the lead in stage 1, but he made a mistake and wrecked. That was a long time ago, and a lot has changed, but his setup should be close Sunday night. (3.8 fppk)
19. Ryan Blaney ($10,300) - Darlington is not his track. Blaney had bad luck in the first two Darlington races, but drivers often suffer from bad luck at their worst tracks. His extremely fast cars aren’t much of an advantage at a single groove race track where the race is decided on pit road. (4.2 fppk)
20. Austin Dillon ($8,600) - The NASCAR playoffs are one of the biggest jokes in sports. There are 20 decent drivers in NASCAR and 16 make the playoffs. Millennials like Austin Dillon have no problem with this format. They have been raised on participation trophies since tee ball. (4.4 fppk)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.