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

Welcome to my FREE NASCAR DFS breakdown of today’s Cup Series race from “The Track Too Tough To Tame”,  Darlington Race Way.

Before you get too far in to this article, please take a moment to call your Mom and express your gratitude for all she has done for you and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Then, send her a link to my article because what could be a better gift for Mom than some NASCAR winners?

We have a great one lined up for Mom today! The Cup Series drivers are set to face off, not against each other, but against this demanding race track. Darlington is such a fun race and it really tests the driver’s limits. So get ready to spend an afternoon with “The Lady in Black”, complete with Darlington stripes, Rim-riding, and Slide Jobs!


Darlington Raceway is a historical, one-of-a-kind venue that offers a unique racing experience. The track delivers a dynamic afternoon filled with fluctuating fortunes as tire wear plays a significant role throughout the race.

In today’s race, it’s crucial to keep an eye on those drivers who have a proven track record at Darlington. Here, experience isn’t just beneficial; it’s imperative. Taking cues from last week’s race at Kansas, along with recent races at Las Vegas, Auto-Club, and even last year’s race at Homestead, will help us form an understanding. All four of these races used the same right-side tire, and notably, Homestead used the exact same tire package for both the left and right.

Tire management will be front and center in the minds of all drivers. Races at Darlington consistently bring an afternoon filled with positions constantly in flux due to tire degradation. Drivers who exercise caution with their tires early in the run will see advantages later on, as the tire fall-off will be 2-3 seconds per lap.

Another aspect to anticipate is the variety in pit strategies, particularly in stage 3. Teams will face a strategic choice in splitting the last leg into either two or three pit stops. This decision could potentially shake up the standings and add an extra layer of intrigue and unpredictability to the race.

The pivotal role of dominator points is as prominent as ever in today’s race. It’s worth noting that Darlington has only hosted three 400-mile races in the last 19 years. The distinctive track length translates into a unique lap count of 293, adding another layer to our strategic considerations.

Examining those three 400-mile races at Darlington, we’ve observed five instances of drivers earning 30+ Dominator points and an additional eight instances of drivers accruing between 10 and 20 Dominator points. It’s notable that almost all of these high-performing drivers started within the Top 10.

Focusing on the main dominators – those who’ve scored over 30 Dominator points – we find that all five started within the Top 6, and four even began within the Top 4. This data underscores the importance of a strong starting position at Darlington, particularly when it comes to racking up Dominator points. Today sets up as more of the same as some heavy favorites start towards the front this afternoon.

Taking a glance at today’s starting grid, it becomes evident that position differential will be crucial in this race.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Darlington is a track where drivers continually jostle for position as tires wear down. This natural race dynamic creates abundant opportunities for drivers to weave their way through the field as both tire runs and the race itself unfold.

Historically, the unique flow of this race has opened up substantial opportunities to target Position Differential. In the three 400-mile races that Darlington has hosted, there have been 18 instances where drivers have managed to accumulate 10+ Position Differential points.

Of these performances, 14 were good enough to land in the Top 10 of DraftKings scoring, which averages out to nearly five per race. Furthermore, these races have seen 6 Top 8 DraftKings performances from drivers who started between 14th and 20th. Each one of these drivers finished within the Top 10, pointing to the 14th-20th range as a promising area to seek out potentially high-scoring, yet less obvious plays.

As we navigate the landscape of today’s race and consider roster construction, I recommend starting with two potential main dominators. These are likely to be drivers who are starting towards the front of the field.

Next, pivot your attention to two mid-range starting options. Look for drivers who not only carry the potential to finish in the top 10, but also have the capability to contribute an additional 10-20 position differential points to their score.

Finally, complete your lineup with two value options. These selections will round out your build, providing a balanced roster that covers a range of potential high performers. By following this strategy, you maximize your chances of capitalizing on the potential of drivers from various starting positions, making the most out of your roster for today’s race at Darlington.

Cheat Sheet

Here is my FREE NASCAR DFS Cheat Sheet for today’s race at Darlington. This sheet incorporates data from the preceding eight Darlington races, together with information from the four races that shared this particular tire code. It also integrates data gathered from yesterday’s practice session, which includes fast lap, 10 lap, 20 lap, and 30 lap averages.

Keep in mind, the name of the game today is tire wear. Hence, the 20 and 30 lap averages carry much more weight than a single fast lap. You’ll notice some drivers highlighted on the sheet – these are drivers I have interest in for today’s race. The ones in dark green are my core plays, while those in pink are drivers I perceive to better suited for  GPP contests. Remember, this is not just about speed, it’s about endurance and strategy, so choose your line-ups wisely!

Driver Notes

Hard not to love Larson today. One of his best tracks and he has had the best car all season. If your fading him today, your just hoping he has trouble, because he should have a rocket and no one is better at running the wall than Larson. Should be everyone’s top Dom today.

Last week’s winner, Denny Hamlin, also happens to be really good at Darlington. He has 2 wins and 5 Top 5’s here in the last 8 events and he boasts the best AVG position as well. Few in the series know how to save tires as much as Denny, and this team is evidently “White Hot” right now. Great option for those precious Dom points today.

Well, someone who knows how to save tires as well as Denny is his teammate Martin Truex. Truex has seen a resurgence in 2023 with a win 2 weeks ago at Dover, a great run at Kansas last week, and now a pole win at a track he has had a ton of success at. Looking at the last 8 races at Darlington, he has the best driver rating and is #1 in fast laps % and Laps led %. Had 1 of the fastest cars last time we were here as well with his 46 fast laps that were second only to Ross Chastain’s 49.

Willy B doesn’t have as great a track record here as the guys above him, but he has been the second best car all season and he had himself in position to win this exact race last season. Could serve as a nice pivot off some of the likely more popular plays above him. Looked to have speed in practice, but this team has had a tendency to fade late in races, which is definitely not something you want here at Darlington.

Chase is likely going to be pretty popular today with his 21st starting position. He’s got the name, the big starting number, and he was fast in practice. a lot of reasons to jam him in and many will. If your playing him, I think you still need to squeeze in two of the Dominator options above as well. I’m likely going to be under here though, as I think you can get some similar PD upside for cheaper.

$9,400 is too cheap for Ross here. When looking at the 4 tracks that have ran this tire code, Ross is number 1 in terms of Driver Rating, AVG Position, and Average finish. He is 3rd in laps led % and 5th in fast laps %. Darlington has been a track that Ross has showed a lot of speed at but unfortunately does not have the finishes to back it up outside of a 3rd place finish in 2021. But, his fast lap % of 7.7 is 3rd best in the last 2 years at Darlington, behind only Martin Truex and Kyle Larson. Does he go under the radar? Not sure, but I like him in GPP contest regardless due to the potential upside he provides.

Harvick, Berry, and Buescher are all 3 guys that I feel provide similar PD upside as Chase above, but at a cheaper price tag. Both Harvick and Berry are guys that know how to take care of the tires, so I anticipate them making their way towards the front of the field and both have Top 10 upside. Buescher has 4 finishes of 16th or better, including 2 Top 10’s, in the last 8 Darlington races. RFK looks to have some speed today as both Buescher and Brad showed speed in practice.

No secret that Jones and Legacy has been having a disappointing season, but this is the perfect get right spot for Jones and the price is pretty cheap. We saw Gragson running competitively at Kansas for a bit and Jones finished 21st. He also finished 19th at both Vegas and Auto Club, but his AVG running position in those races were 3 to 4 spots better. This is by far his best track with 2 wins here, including in last year in this #43 in the Southern 500 and 5 Top 8 finishes in the last races. P&Q speed was a little concerning for Erik though, he put down a blistering fast lap but then fell off big time. You would have to imagine though that his experience will help to compensate for that once the race gets started.

Dinger is a solid value option once again this week. Starting way back in 30th for $6,600. His price might keep him a little under owned as people could be looking for more savings or will go up to Jones.  He has finishes of 18th and 14th in 2/3 races this year from our sample. He also finished 3rd at Homestead in 2022, another HIGH tire wear track.

Coming of a solid run last week at Kansas with a 13th place finish after starting 18th. This has historically been a solid track for Almirola. His AVG finish of 15th on the last 8 Darlington races is miles ahead of everyone $7600 and below with the exception of Jones and Dillon. Almost half the laps he has ran in those races were Top 15 lap times. He had a pair of Top 10’s here in 2020 and finished 11th in both races last year. Will likely be super low owned today as well, great option for GPP contests.

Another great option for GPP’s today is Michael McDowell starting 19th. McDowell had a pair of solid performances here last year finishing 6th and 7th and both of those races. His two worst races on this tire code was Kansas and Las Vegas. The tracks with more wear, Auto Club and Homestead he had finishes of 16th and 18th.

Cindric and Lajoie are going to both be very popular value options today. Cindric has had a terrible season, but this $5,900 price tag is way too cheap for this car. He showed solid speed in practice and starts 25th, literally just has to not wreck and he should be solid. Lajoie however, is a different story, he has NOT had a terrible season. In fact, this team has been excelling in 2023 and he carries an AVG finish inside the Top 20 at the 4 comparable tracks we are considering today. He also got some added seat time this weekend running the Truck race, another bonus nod for Lajoie.




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