The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for Saturday. The order is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
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1. Martin Truex Jr ($11,000) — Top dollar drivers must score more than place differential points and finishing position points. In the spring Darlington race, Truex scored 93 hog points (fast laps and laps led points). Last September, he scored 94 hog points at Darlington.
2. Kyle Larson ($11,500) — If he started inside the top 10 or if he didn’t earn a penalty before stage 2, could Larson have won the May Darlington race? In stage 3, Truex was milking his lead and dealing with lap traffic, but it appeared that Larson was just as fast.
3. Joey Logano ($10,100) — The wins aren’t there, but when it comes to running inside the top 5 in high horsepower, low downforce races, no one is better than Logano. In the first Darlington race, Logano ran the fourth-most laps inside the top 5, but he didn’t earn the finish he deserved due to a stage 3 green flag penalty.
4. Denny Hamlin ($9,500) — In terms of laps led, top 5 laps and top 10 laps, Denny Hamlin has been the best driver at low downforce, high horsepower oval tracks. He hasn’t won this season, but Darlington could be his first because this has been one of his best tracks in the past.
5. Kevin Harvick ($9,800) — Surprisingly, Harvick ranks No. 2 at the low downforce, high horsepower oval tracks this season based on a weighted formula that factors lap led, top 5 laps and top 10 laps. He’s closer than DFS players think, but he’s been close all season.
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6. Kyle Busch ($11,200) — At the beginning of stage 3, the broadcast booth decided to talk to Kyle Busch instead of the leader. Busch joked, “You got tired of talking Truex?” Busch was fast and was coming off of a win at Kansas, but he could not touch Truex at Darlington.
7. Christopher Bell ($8,700) — The stat sheet does not tell the whole story. In the first Darlington race, Bell was on his way to a fifth place finish, but a flat tire with six laps remaining resulted in a 14th place finish.
8. Alex Bowman ($8,900) — In GPPs, make sure that Bowman is in your player pool. He does not stand out, but that’s partly because the wonky summer schedule does not suit Bowman. He has won two low downforce, high horsepower races this season — Richmond and Dover.
9. Aric Almirola ($7,000) — Most DFS players will quickly dismiss Almirola because of his starting position, but if he holds that position — at a track where it’s hard to pass — he can return value. New Hampshire was a controversial race, but he still won the race.
10. William Byron ($10,700) — DraftKings is charging us for place differential points. Byron probably isn’t going to win, but he has earned a top-5 finish in the last two Darlington races. However, a top 5 is not enough at his price — he needs to lead laps.
13. Chris Buescher ($7,800) — In cash games Buescher will be very popular, but in GPPs he might not score enough points and his price tag may hamper lineup construction. If Buecher can squeeze into the top 15, then he will likely be in the winning GPP lineup.
12. Chase Elliott ($9,200) — Outside of the road courses, this has been a forgettable season for Elliott. Last season wasn’t that exceptional until he got on a heater at the end. He could heat up, but that would most likely occur at road courses or short, flat tracks.
13. Tyler Reddick ($8,000) — It’s possible that Reddick could point his way into the next round, but where from there? Underdogs never do anything in NASCAR’s playoffs. It would behoove Reddick to race for wins and Darlington is a wall riding track that suits his driving style.
14. Ryan Blaney ($8,500) — Darlington is one of Blaney’s worst tracks. He finished eighth in the May race and spent 90% of his laps inside the top 10 — fourth-most. However, he raced inside the top 5 for 15 of the 293 laps.
15. Ryan Newman ($5,700) — Experience matters at a challenging track like Darlington, especially when the racing package — low downforce, high horsepower — is similar to the real racing packages of years past. Newman has a top 15 finish in eight of the last 10 Darlington races and his average finish of 12.7 makes this his best track.
16. Brad Keselowski ($10,400) — His team missed the setup in the spring race and things got worse when he had to pit for a tire issue. Keselowski battled, but was unable to recover. This team has struggled and will not likely improve with Keselowski's departure months away.
17. Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700) — Every week, DiBenedetto praises his team in the post race interview because he’s trying to get a job next year and no one wants to hire a toxic personality. His interviews seem staged and forced, but that’s DiBenedetto. It might sound fake, but the team is running well and they’re doing it in both racing packages.
18. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($6,800) — This never seems to work, but Stenhouse was a top-15 driver until the schedule switched over to the summer smorgasbord. Now that the circuit is getting back to meat-and-potatoes racing, Stenhouse could return to being a top-15 driver.
19. Chase Briscoe ($6,300) — His 11th place finish in the first Darlington race was all smoke and mirrors. He got a lucky dog and another perfectly timed caution allowed Briscoe to stay out and cycle to the front. In his defense, he took advantage of the lucky break and held his position.
20. Ross Chastain ($7,500) — The high downforce, low horsepower package has not been kind to Ross Chastain. However, the opposite is true for the low downforce, high horsepower package — he finished second at Nashville and eighth at New Hampshire.
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