The track with perhaps equal history to Daytona International or Indianapolis is hosting the race this week. The “Track Too Tough to Tame” or the “Lady in Black” are the nicknames for Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and the Southern 500 is known as one of the crown jewels of the schedule along with the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600, and the Alabama 500. However just because it’s historic and part of that impressive group of races doesn’t mean it’s anything but a common stop on the schedule.

It is in fact anything but normal. First off it’s a distance all its own at 1.36 mile as a kind of half way between the three 1-mile tracks and the 1.5-mile tracks. Secondly the two sets of turns are banked at different degrees with the first two at 25 degrees and the second two at 23 degrees. Thirdly the turns are two different radii. They combined to form a egg-shaped track that is arguably the hardest track to get around consistently without painting a “Darlington Stripe” on the side of the car.

With that being said however, it does work similar to a short track in terms of laps led totals with a handful of drivers leading the majority of laps in the last four races with 723 being led by four drivers combined and 518 being led by another single driver. Passing can tricky here too as there is usually just one good groove on the track. Seven drivers in the field have a position differential mark of better +6 but about half of those have only been in one or two races in the last four.

Five of the last six winners of the race have come from the top-10 starting spots with the only exception being Carl Edwards who started 13th in 2015. Denny Hamlin is the only repeat winner in the last 11 trips to the track having won in 2017 and 2010, and before the 2007 race (11 races ago) Jimmie Johnson won both 2004 races and Greg Biffle won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006 after the track went to just one race a year.

Toyota has won the last three races and six of the last 10 while Chevy has won the other four with Ford not having won since 2006, although it is slightly misleading because Kevin Harvick won in 2014, the last time Chevy won, because SHR was still a Chevy shop and not yet a Ford shop.

 

Track Breakdown

Last Four Races at Darlington Raceway

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Laps
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Led
Kevin Harvick 4 1.5 3 4.3 1 3 4 4 4 518
Denny Hamlin 4 8 6.5 6.8 1 3 3 3 4 197
Martin Truex Jr 4 7.3 8.3 11.3 1 1 3 3 3 104
Joey Logano 4 4.8 8 15.5 0 2 2 2 3 66
Kyle Larson 4 13.3 10 8.8 0 1 3 4 4 172
Kyle Busch 4 6.8 8.3 6.5 0 1 3 4 4 10
Matt Kenseth 4 15 12.8 9.3 0 1 3 3 3 22
Brad Keselowski 4 3.5 6 10.8 0 1 2 3 4 250
Kurt Busch 4 6.5 9.5 18.5 0 1 2 2 2 14
Austin Dillon 4 18.5 16.8 12.3 0 1 1 3 3 0
Jimmie Johnson 4 18 15.3 16.8 0 1 1 2 3 8
Erik Jones 1 10 10 5 0 1 1 1 1 0
Ryan Newman 4 15.3 14 9.5 0 0 3 4 4 9
Jamie McMurray 4 11 12.8 13.8 0 0 1 3 4 0
Kasey Kahne 4 19.5 17 20 0 0 1 2 2 25
Chase Elliott 3 17.7 17 20.7 0 0 1 2 2 0
Aric Almirola 4 13.8 20.3 21.8 0 0 0 1 2 0
Clint Bowyer 4 21.8 25.3 22.8 0 0 0 1 2 0
Ty Dillon 1 25 17 13 0 0 0 1 1 0
AJ Allmendinger 4 25.5 27 23.8 0 0 0 1 1 0
Ryan Blaney 3 13.7 25.3 24.7 0 0 0 1 1 0
Chris Buescher 2 29 20 17 0 0 0 0 2 0
Paul Menard 4 17 21.5 24.8 0 0 0 0 2 0
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 4 18 24.8 26.3 0 0 0 0 2 0
Landon Cassill 4 31.5 27.8 24 0 0 0 0 1 5
Michael McDowell 2 30 25.5 23 0 0 0 0 1 0
David Ragan 4 27.8 26.3 29.5 0 0 0 0 0 1
Matt DiBenedetto 3 29.3 28 26 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Bowman 2 34.5 32 26.5 0 0 0 0 0 0
Corey LaJoie 1 35 28 28 0 0 0 0 0 0
Derrike Cope 1 38 33 32 0 0 0 0 0 0
JJ Yeley 1 36 36 34 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jeffrey Earnhardt 2 37.5 35 34 0 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Suarez 1 19 31 38 0 0 0 0 0 0
BJ McLeod 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bubba Wallace 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Gase 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Chastain 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Timmy Hill 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
William Byron 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

  Fast Top 15 Laps Avg. High Low Pos Laps Led High to Low to
Driver Laps Rate Comp. Rating Rating Rating Diff Pts./Race Avg Rating Avg Rating
Kevin Harvick 179 100% 1474 130.7 148.9 109.3 -2.80 32.38 18.2 21.4
Denny Hamlin 90 98% 1475 113.1 136.9 92.4 1.20 12.31 23.8 20.7
Martin Truex Jr 93 88% 1472 106.9 125.9 70.9 -4.00 6.50 19 36
Joey Logano 45 94% 1459 98.1 118.1 82.4 -10.70 4.13 20 15.7
Kyle Larson 97 80% 1474 100.3 111.1 81.7 4.50 10.75 10.8 18.6
Kyle Busch 34 94% 1475 102.6 116.5 92.3 0.30 0.63 13.9 10.3
Matt Kenseth 35 74% 1475 99.3 114.2 73.6 5.70 1.38 14.9 25.7
Brad Keselowski 101 91% 1474 113.4 137.4 97.1 -7.30 15.63 24 16.3
Kurt Busch 75 90% 1428 92.1 116.4 69.8 -12.00 0.88 24.3 22.3
Austin Dillon 13 38% 1475 79.1 96.2 62.8 6.20 0.00 17.1 16.3
Jimmie Johnson 33 64% 1435 85.7 101.2 76.9 1.20 0.50 15.5 8.8
Erik Jones 8 95% 367 103.1 103.1 103.1 5.00 0.00 0 0
Ryan Newman 10 64% 1475 87.2 95.7 78.3 5.80 0.56 8.5 8.9
Jamie McMurray 3 78% 1474 83.6 86.4 81.3 -2.80 0.00 2.8 2.3
Kasey Kahne 23 47% 1421 79.2 87.1 63.7 -0.50 1.56 7.9 15.5
Chase Elliott 21 54% 960 75.4 97.9 45.4 -3.00 0.00 22.5 30
Aric Almirola 1 22% 1450 66.9 85.2 53 -8.00 0.00 18.3 13.9
Clint Bowyer 21 17% 1124 59.1 85.2 30 -1.00 0.00 26.1 29.1
Ty Dillon 0 35% 366 75.7 75.7 75.7 12.00 0.00 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 3 1% 1446 53.3 72 30.6 1.70 0.00 18.7 22.7
Ryan Blaney 25 9% 1089 63.4 76.8 46.7 -11.00 0.00 13.4 16.7
Chris Buescher 4 8% 733 65.3 65.9 64.7 12.00 0.00 0.6 0.6
Paul Menard 7 19% 1370 64.8 69.6 59.3 -7.80 0.00 4.8 5.5
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 2 15% 1412 58.3 72.2 49.9 -8.30 0.00 13.9 8.4
Landon Cassill 0 3% 1465 51.1 60.7 40.2 7.50 0.31 9.6 10.9
Michael McDowell 2 1% 729 54.6 67 42.1 7.00 0.00 12.4 12.5
David Ragan 21 14% 1371 55.1 73.6 42.7 -1.70 0.06 18.5 12.4
Matt DiBenedetto 3 1% 1093 47.9 50.1 45.2 3.30 0.00 2.2 2.7
Alex Bowman 2 1% 736 44.8 49.9 39.6 8.00 0.00 5.1 5.2
Corey LaJoie 2 0% 360 48.4 48.4 48.4 7.00 0.00 0 0
Derrike Cope 0 1% 351 33.7 33.7 33.7 6.00 0.00 0 0
JJ Yeley 0 0% 348 33.8 33.8 33.8 2.00 0.00 0 0
Jeffrey Earnhardt 5 0% 603 32.3 39.9 24.7 3.50 0.00 7.6 7.6
Daniel Suarez 0 7% 125 49.7 49.7 49.7 -19.00 0.00 0 0
BJ McLeod 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Bubba Wallace 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Joey Gase 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Ross Chastain 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Timmy Hill 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
William Byron 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0

 

Top-15 Drivers at Last 10 Races at Darlington Raceway

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Laps
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Led
Denny Hamlin 10 10.1 8.5 5.8 2 6 8 9 10 372
Kevin Harvick 10 12.2 8.9 11.1 1 4 6 7 9 567
Jimmie Johnson 10 16.2 13.5 13.8 1 4 4 7 8 144
Kyle Busch 10 10.8 7.4 8.9 1 3 7 9 9 597
Matt Kenseth 10 17 13.4 9.8 1 2 7 8 8 58
Martin Truex Jr 10 14 9.8 11.1 1 2 6 8 9 202
Ryan Newman 10 12.9 14.5 12.6 0 2 7 8 8 85
Brad Keselowski 9 11.7 12.2 12.4 0 2 4 7 8 250
Joey Logano 9 11.7 13.6 18.3 0 2 4 4 5 85
Kurt Busch 10 10.4 12 16.7 0 2 3 5 6 84
Jamie McMurray 10 13.8 13.1 14.9 0 1 3 6 8 87
Kasey Kahne 10 14.5 12.9 17.4 0 1 3 4 6 228
Kyle Larson 4 13.3 10 8.8 0 1 3 4 4 172
Austin Dillon 4 18.5 16.8 12.3 0 1 1 3 3 0
David Ragan 10 24.1 25.7 26.3 0 1 1 2 2 3

 

  Fast Top 15 Laps Avg. High Low Pos. Laps Led Rating
Driver Laps Rate Comp. Rating Rating Rating Diff. Pts/Race Range
Denny Hamlin 193 87% 3681 108.5 136.9 73.4 4.30 9.30 63.5
Kevin Harvick 230 87% 3578 107.8 148.9 71.7 1.10 14.18 77.2
Jimmie Johnson 137 65% 603 94.4 141.1 55.8 2.40 3.60 85.3
Kyle Busch 248 91% 3617 110.9 138.6 85.4 1.90 14.93 53.2
Matt Kenseth 102 69% 3677 94 125.6 56.7 7.20 1.45 68.9
Martin Truex Jr 210 80% 3677 102.2 125.9 70.9 2.90 5.05 55
Ryan Newman 35 62% 3608 86.2 115.3 39 0.30 2.13 76.3
Brad Keselowski 128 65% 3304 95.7 137.4 69.6 -0.70 6.94 67.8
Joey Logano 56 68% 3240 86.1 118.1 55 -6.60 2.36 63.1
Kurt Busch 128 76% 3628 89 116.4 53 -6.30 2.10 63.4
Jamie McMurray 50 63% 1275 85.4 121.1 63.7 -1.10 2.18 57.4
Kasey Kahne 185 60% 3624 91.5 135.2 60.3 -2.90 5.70 74.9
Kyle Larson 97 80% 1474 100.3 111.1 81.7 4.50 10.75 29.4
Austin Dillon 13 38% 1475 79.1 96.2 62.8 6.20 0.00 33.4
David Ragan 48 17% 3355 58.7 97.5 38.7 -2.20 0.08 58.8

Momentum

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Pos Avg.
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Diff. Rating
Kevin Harvick 5 13.4 8 5.2 2 3 5 5 5 8.2 118.3
Kyle Busch 5 7.6 8.2 5.8 1 4 4 4 5 1.8 117
Chase Elliott 5 8.4 6.6 5 1 3 5 5 5 3.4 119.7
Kurt Busch 5 13 9.4 6.6 1 1 5 5 5 6.4 104.4
Erik Jones 5 7.4 10.2 8.8 0 3 3 4 5 -1.4 95.5
Martin Truex Jr 5 7.6 9.4 13 0 2 2 4 4 -5.4 100.8
Daniel Suarez 5 18.4 14 11.4 0 2 2 3 4 7 86.5
Ryan Blaney 5 13.4 9 8.6 0 1 3 5 5 4.8 98.8
Joey Logano 5 16.6 17.2 17.2 0 1 3 3 3 -0.6 76.5
Alex Bowman 5 14.4 14.4 11 0 1 2 4 5 3.4 83.3
Kyle Larson 5 15 12.4 12 0 1 2 3 4 3 88.1
Aric Almirola 5 14.6 15.2 17.6 0 1 2 2 2 -3 86.2
Austin Dillon 5 20.2 15.8 15.6 0 1 1 3 3 4.6 74.7
Brad Keselowski 5 11.2 14 21 0 1 1 1 3 -9.8 81.8
Denny Hamlin 5 3 10.6 11.6 0 0 2 5 5 -8.6 91.9

 

Points Changes at Darlington Raceway

DraftKings

  17 Race Season DK Pts +/-
Driver Total Avg DK Pts. Season AVG
Denny Hamlin 108.5 37.82 70.7
Kyle Larson 77 41.34 35.7
Martin Truex Jr 72 48.05 24.0
Kyle Busch 56 62.96 -7.0
Kurt Busch 54.75 40.65 14.1
Austin Dillon 51 28.24 22.8
Erik Jones 48 32.63 15.4
Ryan Newman 47.5 24.9 22.6
Matt Kenseth 46.5 21.33 25.2
Ty Dillon 46 22.89 23.1
Chase Elliott 45 38.43 6.6
Kevin Harvick 42.5 67.45 -25.0
Chris Buescher 39 26.11 12.9
Jimmie Johnson 38.5 33.16 5.3
Michael McDowell 36 22.81 13.2
Paul Menard 35.5 24.02 11.5
Landon Cassill 34.25 18.86 15.4
Jamie McMurray 29.5 23.36 6.1
David Ragan 28.5 22.79 5.7
Brad Keselowski 26.75 33.14 -6.4
Corey LaJoie 24 13.66 10.3
Jeffrey Earnhardt 23.5 18.7 4.8
Kasey Kahne 22 26.89 -4.9
Aric Almirola 19 38.48 -19.5
Joey Logano 18.5 38.06 -19.6
Matt DiBenedetto 18.5 22.27 -3.8
Derrike Cope 18 10 8.0
AJ Allmendinger 6 24.92 -18.9
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 0.5 25.04 -24.5
Ryan Blaney -1 36.68 -37.7
Daniel Suarez -13 29.62 -42.6
Clint Bowyer -20 45.01 -65.0
    AVG +/- 19.6

 

FanDuel

  17 Race 18 Season FD Pts +/-
Driver Total Avg FD Pts. Season AVG
Denny Hamlin 96.1 54.26 41.84
Austin Dillon 78.2 48.27 29.93
Kyle Busch 77.8 63.67 14.13
Kurt Busch 77.4 54.50 22.90
Ryan Newman 75.7 46.00 29.70
Erik Jones 75.2 51.87 23.33
Martin Truex Jr 74.3 57.47 16.83
Matt Kenseth 74.2 37.99 36.21
Chase Elliott 71.1 53.67 17.43
Kyle Larson 71 54.10 16.90
Ty Dillon 70.6 42.80 27.80
Jimmie Johnson 68.6 50.26 18.34
Kevin Harvick 66.8 63.56 3.24
Chris Buescher 65.6 44.54 21.06
Jamie McMurray 65.1 44.26 20.84
Paul Menard 64.1 43.81 20.29
Michael McDowell 64 38.21 25.79
Landon Cassill 62 37.38 24.62
Brad Keselowski 58.4 48.70 9.70
Aric Almirola 55 53.58 1.42
Joey Logano 54.6 55.77 -1.17
Kasey Kahne 52.9 44.53 8.37
David Ragan 52.8 43.78 9.02
Corey LaJoie 52.5 26.07 26.43
Matt DiBenedetto 50.7 42.10 8.60
Jeffrey Earnhardt 50.1 35.55 14.55
Derrike Cope 47.1 21.05 26.05
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 40.3 45.60 -5.30
AJ Allmendinger 38.5 42.28 -3.78
Ryan Blaney 36.1 49.49 -13.39
Daniel Suarez 6 48.02 -42.02
Clint Bowyer -9.2 58.50 -67.70
       
    AVG. +/- 20.27

 

Top 10 and Bottom 10 Value Drivers

DraftKings

Rank Driver Value Rank Driver Value
1 Kevin Harvick 5.92 40 BJ McLeod 2.18
2 Kyle Busch 5.08 39 Derrike Cope 2.22
3 Clint Bowyer 5.06 38 Corey Lajoie 2.73
4 Kurt Busch 4.78 37 Timmy Hill 2.82
5 Aric Almirola 4.75 36 Matt Kenseth 3.14
6 Joey Gase 4.65 35 Jamie McMurray 3.16
7 Martin Truex Jr 4.41 34 William Byron 3.18
8 Chris Buescher 4.28 33 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 3.25
9 Austin Dillon 4.28 32 Kyle Larson 3.42
10 Kasey Kahne 4.27 31 JJ Yeley 3.42

 

FanDuel

Rank Driver Value Rank Driver Value
1 Ross Chastain 9.86 40 Kyle Busch 4.55
2 Joey Gase 9.14 39 Kyle Larson 4.58
3 Jeffrey Earnhardt 8.89 38 Denny Hamlin 4.68
4 David Ragan 8.26 37 Matt Kenseth 4.69
5 Matt DiBenedetto 8.10 36 Martin Truex Jr. 4.71
6 Reed Sorenson 7.62 35 Kevin Harvick 4.74
7 Timmy Hill 7.60 34 Kurt Busch 4.87
8 Landon Cassill 7.48 33 Chase Elliott 4.88
9 Chris Buescher 7.42 32 Brad Keselowski 4.92
10 Bubba Wallace 7.42 31 Ryan Newman 4.95

 

Drivers To Watch This Week:

Kevin Harvick - Harvick has a win, three top-fives, four top-10s, 518 laps led, 179 fastest laps, a 100% top-15 rate, and a 130.7 average rating in the last four races. I don’t usually list all of that stats in one big list, but I make an exception here because he is at the top of the list in all of those stats. He’s the only one with four top-10s, has more than double the next closest guy in laps led, and just under twice as much in fastest laps and we haven’t even gotten to the most surprising stat total. I went through and averaged the DraftKings points for the last four races here total in the off-week and Harvick AVERAGES 30 more points a race here than the next closest guy. Harvick averages 92.5 points in that span and the next guy in this section is the closest at 62.8 in the same span. And to boot he’s $1,000 cheaper on DK and $600 less on FD than the most-expensive guy.

Denny Hamlin - As mentioned above, Hamlin is the only driver to win twice in here in this decade and he is the defending race winner. Aside from the win he has three top-fives, three top-10s, 197 laps led (good for third on the list) and 90 fastest laps (fourth on the list) in the last four. Hamlin is still looking for a win this year to clinch his spot in the playoffs with only two races left until they start and this is his best chance to do that. His price tag is really good for a guy with that level of success at this track and is far cheaper than the top guys cost.

Kyle Larson - Larson, like Harvick, is locked into the playoffs by virtue of points but has yet to win this season. He could change that this week at Darlington given his record here of a top-five, three top-10s, 172 laps, 97 fastest laps, and a 100.3 driver rating in the last four races. Another things to boost his profile is the near +6 PD he’s posted in the last four races here which makes him one of the best in the field at moving up during the race. The price is better on FanDuel than DraftKings as he’s the second-most expensive on DK just a few hundred below Kyle Busch.

Brad Keselowski - Keselowski doesn’t have a win in the last four or last nine races here, but he does have nice finishes with two top-10s in the last four and four top-10s in the last nine. He also runs up front. A lot. He has 250 laps led and 101 fastest laps in recent history here which are both second only to Kevin Harvick. No win this season hasn’t stopped him from making the playoffs already with a high point total but he would sure like to straighten things out before the playoffs start in two weeks.

Landon Cassill, Ty Dillon, Michael McDowell - An unusual track means a slightly different turn on this section for this week. These three drivers are all between $5K-$6K on both sites this week and all possess a nice part of their stat line in their respective position differential marks at this track. Cassill has raced in the last four and moved up +7.5, Dillon has one race but a +12 mark, and McDowell has two races and a +7 mark. There are one top-15 and two top-20s between them so again nothing that jumps off the sheet but at a track that’s hard to pass on, these three have figured it out and make nice budget plays to counterbalance the higher than normal price tags for the top drivers this week.