NASCAR’s throwback weekend from Darlington Raceway continues! Friday night’s Truck Series race was a profitable night for yours truly. As much as I complained about the payout structures for those contests, I managed to finish fifth in the Happy Hour but could’ve been much better if there had been one more restart. But the weekend pushes forward and we get another great race on Saturday with the Xfinity Series Shriners Children’s 200. It’s a big weekend for NASCAR with Jimmie Johnson officially announced as part of the NASCAR 75 greatest drivers and even Mario Andretti has made an appearance at the track this weekend. Saturday’s race is sure to deliver another exciting race at the Lady in Black with Kyle Larson driving for Kaulig Racing. So let’s check out the NASCAR DFS top picks and plays for Saturday afternoon’s race.
I won’t touch on too much of what was already discussed in yesterday’s Truck Series Playbook. That write-up has the specifics of the track layout, which you can also listen to here in the latest NASCAR DFS Podcast. Saturday’s race will see the same structure as the Truck race with 200 laps on the table so there are plenty of dominator points to target for this race. In each of the last four Xfinity Series races at Darlington there have been at least two drivers in each race to lead at least 35 laps and collect the dominator points. So similar to last night we want to try and nail those 1A and 1B dominators in our builds. Identifying the PD targets could be hard to come by because there are certainly some risky plays for today’s race but I will touch on my favorites below.
Shriner’s Children 200 Practice Notes
NASCAR DFS Driver Pool
Kyle Larson ($13,000; Starting P3)
It’s awfully hard to ignore Kyle Larson at a track like this when it comes to DFS. A bold move would be to fade him because the Kaulig cars, while good, don’t have as much win equity as they did a few years ago. However, this is Kyle Larson. He can get the most out of the car and it’s still good equipment. He loves to run the high line and I do think he’s a stage two and three dominator with win equity. A.J. Allmendinger got a win in this car at COTA, but he’s a road course ringer. Kyle Busch has driven this car twice in the Xfinity Series and he finished fourth at Vegas and ninth at Phoenix. It’s definitely a top ten car but if you’re paying $13K for Larson you need him to really go out and dominate this race with a win.
John Hunter Nemechek ($11,000; Starting P1)
If you’re not playing Larson, there’s a good chance you’re playing JHN. The concern with Larson is obviously that the equipment might be good enough for a top five, but not a win. At least we’ve seen JHN win twice this year including at Auto Club, a similarly high tire wear track. He led 49 laps with 26 fastest laps so you know he can manage tires. He drove in lesser equipment (Sam Hunt Racing) a year ago in this race and still managed a top five in the Spring and another top ten in the Fall. I could go on and on, but this is a track JGR has run well at in the Cup and Xfinity Series. With JHN on the pole, he’s in position to score well with dominator points and a potential top five finish.
Justin Allgaier ($10,200; Starting P17)
Here’s the beauty with Allgaier this week, he’s won the last two Xfinity Spring races at Darlington and he’s offering PD this week. He’s led at least ten laps in four straight races at Darlington and he’s a veteran that understands the importance of managing his tires. You can feasibly play him and either John Hunter Nemechek or Ryan Truex in your builds assuming one of those two collects the stage one dominator points. If you pair Larson and Allgaier together you’re only left with $26,800 for the remaining four drivers so you need to get creative with the rest of your build.
Austin Hill ($9,500; Starting P10)
This is the cheapest Hill has been in almost two months, but he’s still very capable of going out and putting up 45+ fantasy points. Hill posted the fifth-fastest single lap in practice but was just outside the top ten in ten-lap metrics. He finished top ten in both Darlington races last year and he was top ten at Homestead too, and he was top ten at Auto Club and Richmond this year. Obviously at this price tag we probably want a top five finish, which he can certainly deliver. Ownership will be low but there’s a chance he can backdoor a win here.
Ryan Truex ($9,100; Starting P2)
Truex basically picked up right where he left off following his first career win at Dover a couple weeks ago. He was second-fastest in practice only to his teammate, John Hunter Nemechek. This hasn’t been a great track for Truex historically. He was top ten through the first two stages here a year ago but finished 30th. But I expect a bounce back given the speed he’s had lately. I’ll also add that Sammy Smith didn’t show as much speed as JHN or Truex did, but he’s in the same equipment as those two and will likely be much lower owned since he’ll started P9 while the other two are on the front row.
Sheldon Creed ($8,600; Starting P7)
Creed has started to show signs of life in the Xfinity Series and I’m a believer once again. He finished second at Talladega a few weeks back and while he finished 11th at Dover he did lead 41 laps. He finished 23rd at Auto Club, but did have an average running position of tenth and led 15 laps as well. Creed only ran three races at Darlington in the Truck Series, but he did win both of them and he finished second in the Xfinity Fall race at this track. There’s still concern because he could have a disastrous day. But he does seem to be piecing everything together of late and has flirted with a win. Creed was fourth-fastest in single lap and ten-lap metrics in practice. There’s sneaky dominator potential here so he’s very live for Tournaments/GPP’s but I would not play him in Cash games.
Riley Herbst ($8,200; Starting P18)
Herbst reminds me of Carson Hocevar from last night’s Truck Series race. Pricing and starting spot are fairly similar. Both were coming in with relatively poor form. And Hocevar went on to grab a top five finish. Herbst started the year in great form and looked like a solid contender. He finished eighth or better in the first five races of the season, but has finished outside the top 20 in the last four races so the price tag has dropped a bit. He can still get it done here and provide a good performance. He’s returning value with a top ten finish and we saw earlier in the year he could finish seventh at a high tire wear track like Auto Club. His results at Darlington are all over the place but he did finish third here last Spring and he’s historically run well at Homestead so I love this play for Tournaments.
Ty Dillon ($8,000; Starting P30)
Ty Dillon gets into a decent car starting pretty far back. He has been known to want to make a name for himself, but here he is driving for his grandfather’s team and he gets the distinguished honor of driving the 3-car for RCR. This car should be good enough to finish top ten, but even Ty Dillon should be able to get value out of this ride and finish 15th. He’s a fairly easy lock in Cash games, but I might encourage you to get creative in Tournaments and go underweight.
Corey Heim ($7,700; Starting P24)
Heim was actually having a great race on Friday night in the Truck Series. It was easily a top five truck and he led plenty of laps before finishing eighth. His crew chief made the boneheaded move with about 35 laps to go to stay out while everyone else pit for tires and on the restart he immediately fell back. But with a couple extra cautions he was able to take fresh tires and be among the fastest in the field with less than ten laps to go. And if the caution on the second-to-last lap comes a few seconds earlier then another restart may have propelled Heim back to the lead. I’m a little bitter because I did bet him to win at +1800 but overall, I was pleased with how he looked. Now his engine blew up at his Xfinity Series debut two weeks ago at Dover, but he was still having a top 20 day despite starting very far back. The price tag is higher, as is the starting spot, so he’ll need to do a lot more to pay it off but he has the talent to potentially finish in the top 12. For DFS purposes he can hit value with a top 15.
Parker Kligerman ($7,500; Starting P23)
I’m losing faith in Kligerman by the week, but I’ll give him another chance this week since his price is dropping and he’s still offering PD. Not everybody can drive this car to a win like Tyler Reddick did last year at Texas, but I thought we’d get more consistency out of Kligerman. That hasn’t been the case. In last night’s race his truck was fast, but he had smoke coming out of the back and they eventually had to take it to the garage for the night. He had a poor showing at Dover a couple weeks ago, but I’m buying into him this week. He finished tenth at Auto Club earlier in the year and was eighth at Richmond which requires tire management. That’s really the only recent sample size we have for him on tire wear tracks so we make do with what we can. Still think he has potential for a top 12 here which would possibly make him optimal.
Carson Hocevar ($7,200; Starting P25)
Pretty interesting play here. He’s been great at Darlington in the Truck Series and was supposed to run Dover a couple weeks ago but the team didn’t want to risk not qualifying for the race with the bad weather so they pushed back to Darlington. Hocevar logged a top five last night in the Truck race and seems very comfortable on this track. I would lean on the side of caution here though. The Spire truck that Corey Lajoie drove last night was okay, but was mostly running outside the top 15 for most of the race and Hocevar’s Spire car in practice wasn’t top 15 in any metric. There’s PD here but it would take a lot for him to repeat last night’s performance in today’s race.
Ryan Sieg ($7,000; Starting P16)
It’s a high tire wear track and Sieg has plenty of experience here. He has an average finish of 9.9 in his last six races at Darlington and he’s a great Tournament play because he will hit 6X value if he finishes ninth with no dominator points. This could be a low ownership play, and I wouldn’t go here in Cash games. Sieg doesn’t have the luster of top ten’s as he has in years past, but the experience and equipment can get him to a top ten this week.
Kaz Grala ($6,800; Starting P26)
Look at that. The 26-car is starting P26. It was meant to be. The $6K range is largely unplayable this week with the exception of Grala. If I had to guess I’d say Anthony Alfredo maybe finishes a couple spots ahead of where he starts. Parker Retzlaff qualifies too damn high to justify playing him. Just once I would like him to qualify outside the top 20. Jeb Burton has some appeal given that he has plenty of experience and knows the importance of managing tires. But like his teammate, Parker Retzlaff, he qualified pretty well. And to round out this range I don’t have a ton of faith in the equipment for Jeremy Clements or Sage Karam, but I might still mix Karam into two or three Tournament builds. So the $6K range is awful. I will get some exposure to Grala though. I don’t like playing drivers making their track debut and I’m fairly certain this is Grala’s first time at Darlington. But he’s shown he can manage tires this year. He started P29 and finished 13th at Auto Club then started P21 at Richmond and finished fourth. That’s incredibly impressive. If he can make it three-for-three on these high tire wear tracks then he could be optimal. But Darlington is a very difficult track and it can be brutal on those making their debut here.
Ryan Ellis ($5,800; Starting P32)
Alas, the price tag on Ryan Ellis has started to drop again. I wrote him up a few weeks ago for Dover, but it was more of a brief mention because he was $6,500. He managed a top 25 finish but only 21 fantasy points so DraftKings’ formula drops his salary $700 so I’m on board with the savings. Ellis has traditionally driven for under-funded teams, but in last year’s Darlington playoff race he did start P31 and finished 22nd which is good enough for 29 points. He might have a top 20 in him on Saturday if he runs a clean race, but keep expectations in check and don’t go too heavy on any one value play.
Blaine Perkins ($5,700; Starting P38)
It’s a little too difficult to gauge Perkins’ potential with Our Motorsports since we’ve only seen him run three races and one of them was Talladega where he was in a horrific wreck and had to miss Dover’s race. But he did pilot this car to a top 15 finish at Martinsville, which has almost no comparison to Darlington, but still speaks to his talent and what this car can do. Perkins starts dead last and is running a scheme paying tribute to Kevin Harvick. He can’t get you negative points so I imagine he’ll be fairly owned in Cash games and he’s returning value if he finishes 25th.
Kyle Sieg ($5,100; Starting P29)
Sieg isn’t a home run by any means and he’s been very inconsistent the last few races. His ceiling might be a top 20 finish but that’s probably enough to get some value out of him. He finished 15th at Auto Club earlier in the year and he was 20th at Richmond, which is a shorter track but one that requires tire management. He started P38 in the Darlington Fall race and managed to finish 23rd but last Spring he finished 32nd so you’re obviously hoping for the more optimistic result. But it’s not all doom and gloom on this style of track and the equipment is better than the $5,100 price tag.
Joe Graf Jr. ($4,900; Starting P37)
He can’t really kill you with negative points since he’s starting second-to-last and by no means has Graf had a good season. Truthfully, he started the year with three top 15 results, but one of those races was Daytona and in the other two races he magically landed a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing. This week he’ll be racing with RSS Racing so the equipment should be on par with Ryan Sieg and Kyle Sieg, or so you would think. Graf has not had great results in his last few races when driving for RSS, but he wasn’t on our radar to begin with because he was starting much higher than he is this week. Graf did manage to post top 20 speed in practice on Friday. At this price tag I’d be satisfied if he just finished the race in 29th because that would return 21 fantasy points. But if he finishes 27th or 28th he’ll return value. Gray Gaulding is another driver maybe worth pivoting to for leverage in this range for $100 less and he’s starting just one spot ahead of Graf.
NASCAR DFS Core Drivers
|Cash Games||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|John Hunter Nemechek ($11,000; Starting P1)||Ty Dillon ($8,000; Starting P30)||Blaine Perkins ($5,700; Starting P38)|
|Justin Allgaier ($10,200; Starting P17)|
|Tournament Pivots||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|Kyle Larson ($13,000; Starting P3)||Sheldon Creed ($8,600; Starting P7)||Ryan Sieg ($7,000; Starting P16)|
|Austin Hill ($9,500; Starting P10)||Riley Herbst ($8,200; Starting P18)||Kyle Sieg ($5,100; Starting P29)|
|Ryan Truex ($9,100; Starting P2)||Joe Graf Jr. ($4,900; Starting P37)|