This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
Darlington is often referred to as; “The lady in black.” Drivers who lose their focus will end up in the wall. Whatever you call Darlington the one thing everyone agrees upon is that experience matters at Darlington.
This week fantasy NASCAR players will want to use past experience at Darlington as the determining factor for selecting their drivers. Teams are either very good at Darlington, or they will end up with crashed racecars. You do not want the drivers that bounce off the wall during the race.
The Southern 500 is a Saturday night special, so make sure your team is selected early this week.
The strategy for the Fantasy Live game should be to select experienced drivers for your team. If a driver with a lot of success at Darlington qualifies near the back of the field, make sure you select that driver for your team. Most drivers can get around Darlington during qualifying, but when there are 43 others cars on the racetrack, it is totally different.
It is back to normal for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing. Last week fantasy NASCAR teams were able to see two practices before their teams must be selected. That is not the case this week. Teams must be selected by early Friday morning. Fantasy NASCAR teams will not be able to see any practices before their teams are picked. Have no fear, I can help!
Here are my picks for the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing game…
There are many good selections from Group A this week. Some drivers have had a lot of success at the racetrack, while others are currently on a hot streak. My advice is to use past performance more than current results for the determining factor for selecting your drivers.
My sleeper pick for Group A is Tony Stewart. He is off to a horrible start to the 2013 season, but he usually heats up this time of year. Stewart has finished 11 of his 20 career races at Darlington in the top 10. Last season he started No. 17 and finished third.
Jeff Gordon has the best career stats at Darlington, but he has been average in the last two races at the racetrack. Experience matters at Darlington, so Gordon is worth a look. I like his teammates more this week.
Matt Kenseth has not been very good at Darlington. He makes for an interesting pick this week because he has been dominating most of the races this season and Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated Darlington recently. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch should help Kenseth finish up front Saturday night.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career stats at Darlington….
Denny Hamlin will race Saturday night and he is the driver with the best stats in the field. Hamlin has one win, three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes in his seven career races at Darlington.
Hamlin must win races to make the Chase, so it will be Victory Lane or bust for Hamlin Saturday night. He does come with some risk though.
Jimmie Johnson won the last race at Darlington and the way he is running this season he has a good chance to make it back-to-back victories at the racetrack.
Johnson has three wins, seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes in his 14 career races at Darlington. Do not worry about saving starts with Johnson. There is plenty of talent in Group A to get you through the season.
Other good choices: Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne
The best drivers in Group B at Darlington are the drivers who have been used the most this season.
Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have the best stats at Darlington from Group B. Fantasy NASCAR teams must decide if they want to use another allocation with these drivers at Darlington, or save them for later in the season. I am not a big fan of saving starts, because anything can happen in NASCAR.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon their career stats at Darlington….
After struggling in 2012, Edwards seems to be back to the dominant driver his was in 2011. Edwards is the best selection for Group B this week.
Edwards has three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes in his nine career races at Darlington. Roush Fenway Racing has figured out the Gen-6 car. Edwards will finish in the top-10 again at Darlington.
After a streak of five weeks of finishing in the top five, Kyle Busch now has a streak of three races finishing outside the top-20. He will be able to get back on track this week at Darlington.
Busch has one win, two top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in his eight career races at Darlington. Busch has dropped to ninth in the point standings. He will drive the wheels off the car to get a win Saturday night and climb back to the top of the standings.
Greg Biffle won the pole for this race last season. He often brings a fast racecar to Darlington.
Biffle has two wins, two top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes and two poles in his 12 career races at Darlington. Biffle has failed to finish inside the top-15 the last three races, but he will bounce back this week.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. is not the first name that comes to mind when people think of Darlington. He can hold his own against the best drivers at the racetrack Saturday night.
Truex has one top-five and three top-10 finishes in his seven career races at Darlington. He finished the last two races at intermediate racetracks in the top five. He will keep his streak alive in the Southern 500.
Other good choices: Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola and Mark Martin
The race last week at Talladega provided fantasy NASCAR players with many options in Group C. That will not be the case this week.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is always a popular pick, but it will be risky to use him this week at a racetrack where experience means so much. Stenhouse has never raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington.
Bobby Labonte makes for an interesting selection this week. He has the most experience in Group C at Darlington and has some success at the racetrack. He is a risky pick because his best finish this season is 15th.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
Regan Smith will once again drive the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing. A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Dillon and Smith have all had the chance to drive the No. 51 car this season. The three drivers have combined for a 16.5 average finish. Smith has two top-10 finishes in the car this season.
Smith won the 2011 Southern 500 and finished No. 14 in the race last season. He has proved that he knows how to get around the toughest racetrack on the NASCAR schedule. Smith is the best choice for Group C this week.
David Ragan is a good Plan B option this week if Smith does not qualify or practice well. Coming off the victory last week at Talladega, Ragan brings momentum into the race Saturday. It would not be a bad idea to take a chance with Ragan this week.
Other good choices: Casey Mears, Bobby Labonte and Ricky Stenhouse
2012 Darlington Pole Sitter: Greg Biffle 180.257 MPH
2012 Darlington Winner: Jimmie Johnson, Started No. 2
Most Wins at Darlington—Active Drivers: Jeff Gordon (7)
Most Poles at Darlington—Active Drivers: Kasey Kahne (4)
Most Top-Five at Darlington—Active Drivers: Jeff Gordon (18)
Most Top-10 at Darlington—Active Drivers: Mark Martin (26)
Most Wins by Manufacturer: Chevy (39)
Worst Starting Spot to Win: Johnny Mantz 1950, started No. 43
Races Won from the Pole: 19 of 109
Races Won from Top Five: 68 of 109
Races Won from Top 10: 94 of 109
Races Won from Top 15: 103 of 109
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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