FREE NASCAR DFS Cup Series Darlington Breakdown, Cheat Sheet and Cash Core

It’s finally Sunday!! And boy do we have an action packed Sunday full of all kinds of motorsports action. You can choose to tune in to the parade of cars driving single file with drivers waving out the cockpit to the rich and famous in Miami on ABC. But, if you are looking for a race with high banks and high tire wear, full of drivers on the edge every lap, rim riding inches from the wall and pulling breath taking slide jobs, then you know there’s really only one place to turn… You are going to want to turn to Ol’ Dirty Darlene Ton, The Lady In Black, The Track Too Tough to Tame, The historic, Darlington Raceway. I personally can not wait for the green flag on this one. It’s always a fun race and one of my favorite stops on the circuit.

Breakdown

Darlington is another unique track in comparison to the other tracks the series has been to in 2022. Tire wear is a huge factor here, we tend to see 2-3 seconds of fall off over the course of a run. This really allows for comers and goers through the field.  Over the course of a run, drivers who conserved their tires early will be faster later in a run and will move up the scoring pylon as the run progresses. Conversely, drivers who burn up their tires early will drop like a rock as a run progresses. Knowing those drivers that know how to handle their tires will be the edge we are looking for today. The closest track we have been to this season from a tire wear perspective is California, so you can look to there. I also think we can weigh a lot into past Darlington performances since tire wear has always been a thing here. Finally, I want to really look at practice speeds, primarily what fall off looks like over the course of their longest run.

The other thing that makes this track unique is that the high line is the preferred line. And when I say high line, I mean as close to the wall as possible. As a run progresses and tires start to wear, drivers will start searching for speed and they will find that up near the wall. When done right, driving close to the wall will pack air from off the nose of the car in between the car and wall. This creates what drivers describe as a bubble of air that helps the car turn through the corner, maximizing on throttle time and momentum. When drivers are on the edge like that, lap after lap, mistakes are going to happen and Darlington stripes are going to be made. Guys who are really fast using that high line will also carry a certain amount of risk, so be mindful of that risk when considering exposures across your builds today.

This is normally the part of the article where I go over scoring trends from previous Darlington races, but I don’t think a lot of it is relevant today with all the PD available on the slate. Chase Elliott and Harvick both had issues in practice and did not qualify so will start in the rear. Add to them Hamlin starting 22nd and we have a slate full of chalk that we will need to navigate through. So let’s get into how I’m approaching each salary range today.

Top Tier 

So lets talk the PD in this range first. We have Chase Elliott (34), Denny Hamlin (22) and Kevin Harvick (35). Chase Elliott wrecked his primary car in practice and is in a back up car starting from the rear. Fresh off his win last week with that 34 by his name will make him super chalk. He should be a nice safe play for cash today, but I worry about his upside for GPP in this back up car. We saw his team mate Byron struggle in a back up last week. Will this car off the trailer, that has zero laps on it yet, be good enough to compete for the lead or fast laps? There is enough question marks mixed with his ownership that I like the idea of being under weight on him in tourneys.

Denny Hamlin is my favorite of these 3. Not only will he be the lowest owned of the three, but I feel he has the most upside. When it comes to saving tires, few are as good as Denny. That fact is evident by his 4 wins and 11 Top 5’s here at Darlington. He was second fastest in 15 lap average in practice and only saw .4 seconds of fall off between his 5 lap and 15 lap average. Hamlin not only can score PD today, but he has win equity with Dom upside to go along with it. One of my favorite plays in this range and I will be over the field on Denny in GPP.

Kevin Harvick is like the free square on the slate today. He’s going to be super chalky, but his ownership is literally the only reason you would have to fade him. Harvick has 13 straight Top 10 finishes here, and has finished Top 5 in 8 out of the last 10. Even last year, as much as he struggled, he still finished 5th and 6th in both races here. He’s had much more speed this year in comparison to 2021. DK’s pricing on him here was criminal BEFORE he started 35th. Should easily hit value without trouble. He’s a virtual lock for this price.

So lets shift gears and talk dominators in this range. The 3 guys that stand out to me as potential Doms are Kyle Larson (2), Martin Truex (4), and Kyle Busch (5). Larson is the exact type of driver you would expect to be good at Darlington with his ability to run near the wall. Although he has never won here, he has led 656 laps here and has finished Top 3 in 5 of his last 6 races here. The last time we were here he put up 77 Dom points and a 2nd place finish. He has not had that break out performance yet in 2022, could today be the day?

All of JGR seemed to turn a corner last week at Dover, but leading the way was Martin Truex with his 56 fastest laps. Now he comes to a track where he has 2 career wins, and has led a total of 445 laps in the last 3 races. Practice speeds might seem slow at first glance, but he was third in terms of fall off from his fastest lap to his 10 lap average. It’s obvious he was practicing for the long run and was one of the faster cars on the track 15 laps into a run. The fact he was able to qualify 4th should show the speed he has regardless what the practice charts show.

Kyle Busch is one of my favorite GPP plays today. He has been fast for a few weeks now and likely would of dominated last week at Dover if not for an untimely caution. His car looked good in practice and he saw very little fall off between his FL and his 5 lap average. He should come in lower owned than Truex and Larson, and the salary he saves you from those guys allows you to reach some other high upside plays you otherwise couldn’t. Should be noted that there is a slight chance he does not race today with the expected birth of his child. So will need to keep an eye on that if you are playing him today.

The last guy in this range that I think has some dominator potential is Ross Chastain. Ross has been fast virtually everywhere in this new car this season, now he comes to a track he ran 3rd at last season while putting up 18 fast laps. This is the exact type of track that can reward someone as aggressive as Chastain. It can also bite him, so this play does not come without risk. He is going to provide a ton of leverage though with the ability to put up a big score with the speed in this car, the team’s speed on and off pit road, and his knack for finding the front of the field this season.

Middle Range

Chase Briscoe is another one of those guys who’s driving style meshes well with Darlington. I’ll never forget when he beat KB in a hell of a race to the finish here in the Xfinity series a couple years ago. That shows you how good he is here to be able to out drive one of the best. I’m really liking what I’m seeing in this car through practice and qualifying as not only was he fast, but he was one of the better cars in terms of fall off between his fastest lap and his 10 lap average. Should be super low owned today as well.

Daniel Suarez is a solid play in this Trackhouse car from the 20th starting position.  He had a great run for Trackhouse in the 2nd race here last season with a 13th place finish. Looked to have solid speed in practice as he was top 10 in FL, 5 lap and 10 lap average.

Austin Cindric had a ton of speed in practice providing the potential for some solid PD from the 19th starting position. He also had a solid run to a 12th place finish earlier this season at California, the other high tire wear track we’ve been to this season.

Ricky Stenhouse could be the most popular play in this range. He is fresh off a second place finish last week and he appears to have speed in his car again this week. He was 10th fastest in 5 lap average and 6th fastest in 10 lap. Ricky is really good at taking care of his tires and he showed off that ability by finishing 10th at California earlier this season.

Value Tier

Corey Lajoie is a great option for less than $5k. He had a hell of a run last week and he hopes to carry momentum to a track that provided some solid runs for this team last season. He finished 22nd and 15th respectively in both Darlington races this season. Very easy route to Lajoie returning value at this sub $5k price tag. Likely going to be the value chalk on the slate.

Todd Gilliand looks to be shaping up as a solid value option as well. Todd was able to take care of his tires at California and scored a 20th place finish. Taking care of his tires looks to be his focus again today as he was by far the best in tire fall off over the course of his run in practice. He had less than .2 seconds of fall off between his fast lap and his 15 lap average. He was 7th fastest in 15 lap average, faster than guys like Almirola and Bowman for reference.

Ty Dillon is a great lower owned option to consider in GPPs, no one will play him from P21. He was 15th fastest in 5 lap average in practice and has finished Top 20 in 3 of his last 4 Darlington races. He also was able to finish 17th at California earlier this season.

May 7, 2022; Darlington, South Carolina, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) during practice for the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Cheat Sheet

Below is my Cheat Sheet for today’s race at Darlington. Stats under the yellow header are compiled from the 2022 season, minus super speedway races. Stats under the blue header are compiled from the last 6 Darlington races. I have included practice speeds as well. I made a column to show the difference between a drivers Fast Lap and their 10 lap average to help represent tire fall off. Guys highlighted green are guys I like. Guys in purple are guys I like that should also be lower owned.

Cash Core 

Below is my Core for Cash games on todays slate,

 

 

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