Jimmie Johnson’s ($9,300) four 2015 wins give him the added luxury of experimenting and taking chances week-to-week given his cemented status in the playoffs. That might suggest Johnson is gambling more than he should, but the results of his last 12 races prove otherwise: one win (Dover), four Top 5s and eight top 10s. He’s also been pretty good at Darlington International Speedway – the site of this weekend’s race – with one win (2012) and three Top 4s in his last three starts with a place-differential of +22. So the fact that there are eight drivers priced higher than the No. 48 driver is a bit baffling. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson ranks third in Fastest Laps Run (256). Johnson is a solid bet to get out front and lead some laps, evidenced by his 134 laps led in his 2012 win, giving him the DraftKings trifecta. Johnson is an excellent option across all formats, but holds the most value for Fantasy owners in DFS.
Kyle Larson’s ($8,500) sample size is small – only 2014 – but for the most part it’s quite impressive. In his lone starts at Darlington, Larson finished eighth with a +9 place-differential and five Fastest Laps Run. His 41st place finish at Bristol two weeks ago ensured that he has no chance of getting into The Chase purely on points. The only way in now is a win, and Larson will be going hard for it. He’s right around the DraftKings average price per player ($8,333) and is a nice option for Fantasy owners building a level DFS squad. I also recommend using Larson in Tiered/Grouping formats.
Jeff Gordon ($8,400) has been remarkable at Darlington over the course of his career: seven wins, 19 Top 5s, 23 Top 10s, three poles and 1,744 Laps Led. That’s the stuff of which Fantasy dreams are made. Since 2004, excluding the 2011 and 2012 events, Gordon led at least five laps in every race and finished no worse than seventh. That sample size includes eight Top 5s. Getting off the topic of nostalgia, Gordon actually needs to turn in good race. He’s currently 15th in the The Chase standings with a healthy lead on 17th-place, but a win by a driver who hasn’t yet won in 2015 will complicate matters for Gordon. Maybe it’s sentimentality. Maybe it’s value. But I love Gordon this weekend and expect him to compete for his first win of 2015.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,300) has been carving up tracks that he’s not necessarily known for being dominant at the past couple of seasons. With four Top 5s and nine Top 10s in 20 starts, Darlington falls somewhere in the middle. But with ninth (2013) and second-place (2014) finishes in his last two starts, the fact that Earnhardt Jr. is coming in under the DraftKings average salary is a major boon to Fantasy owners. DFS is the only format worth reaching on Junior, though, I expect a Top 10 performance to be his basement.
Kasey Kahne ($8,000) is in the same boat as last race – he’s absolutely desperate for a win. How likely is that? Not likely, but I’m saying there’s a chance. Kahne’s led at least 23 laps in three of his last four Darlington appearances, including 124 in the 2011 event. He’s been untrustworthy all season, and the real value on Kahne this weekend is in Tiered/Grouping formats. As for DFS, he’s a high-risk-high-reward options.
Ryan Newman ($7,800) isn’t a very sexy DFS pick this weekend, but if it’s safety you covet he’s worth a start. Newman has logged back-to-back 10th place finishes at the site, and in his last six starts has posted two Top 5s and five Top 10s. He hasn’t led a lap since 2011 and his pass-differential is all over the place. There is DFS value here but like Kahne, Newman makes more sense as a Tiered/Grouping format option.
Austin Dillon ($7,500) is an excellent DFS target on a couple of levels this weekend. First, he’s coming in hot. In his last six Cup starts, Dillon has one Top 5 (fourth at Michigan), two Top 10s and four Top 15s. That fourth place at MIS represents a season-best finish. In his only Darlington appearance, Dillon finished 11th with five Fastest Laps Run. Not too shabby.
Greg Biffle’s ($7,400) steady decline has been in full force for a couple of years now. Despite his struggles, once in a while he turns in a quality race. Darlington is one of those quality venues for The Biff. He leads all drivers in Fastest Laps Run (256) and finished fifth with five laps led and a +14 place-differential in the 2014 race. Since 2005, Biffle has led at least 74 laps in this race four times. He’s a top value play across all formats.
Since finishing 38th at Martinsville, Chase Elliott ($6,600) aka Boy Wonder, has finished 18th-or-better in each of his last three races. At this point in his Fantasy career, the focus is more on his floor than his ceiling. And for a young driver at this point in his career, the downside of starting Elliott as a super-value play is not really there. Fantasy owners should get Elliott into any and all lineups, as his low DFS price will supplement top tier talent.
Here are my Fantasy NASCAR lineups for this week:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
NASCAR Fantasy Live
Martin Truex Jr.
|Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing|
|A-List||Jimmie Johnson||Kyle Busch|
|B-List||Greg Biffle||Kasey Kahne||Carl Edwards||Kyle Larson|
|C-List||Chase Elliott||Danica Patrick|