1) Denny Hamlin (Starting – 7th)
Darlington Fantasy Spin – Denny Hamlin deserves strong fantasy NASCAR consideration at Darlington. He’s a past champion who’s thrived here throughout his career. Over 10 races his average finish is 6.5. On Sunday he’s starting in 7th, when he’s started in the top 8 here his average finish is 3rd. Recently at Darlington he’s ranked among the best as you’ll read below. On Sunday look for Denny Hamlin to compete for the win and definitely finish in the top six. In five of the last six Darlington races he’s finished in the top six. One aspect you have to like about Hamlin is his momentum. He now has six straight top tens. In practice Denny Hamlin had a great car in both sessions. He was so happy with how it performed he ended happy hour early. His 15 lap average in final practice ranked as the 3rd best.
Darlington Track History – Denny Hamlin has a great track history at Darlington. He’s finished in the top three 50% percent of the time and in the top ten 80% percent of the time. Only once has he finished lower than 13th. Last year Hamlin had a very strong showing. He finished 3rd, earned the 5th best driver rating and led 57 laps. In 2014 he had his worst Darlington race and finished 19th. Near the end of that race he either got into the wall or had a bad restart because he plummeted quickly from 8th to his result. Also from that race it should be noted he had a 9th place average running position and earned the 9th best driver rating. In the two Darlington races prior to that he finished 2nd. In 2010 he led 104 laps and raced his way to victory lane.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,600
2) Jimmie Johnson (Starting – 9th)
Darlington Fantasy Spin – Jimmie Johnson should have a strong showing at Darlington. It’s a “skill track” and he has a tremendous knack for performing well at “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” In his career at Darlington he has 3 wins, has finished in the top five 53% percent of the time and in the top ten 71% percent of the time. Recently at Darlington he’s run well and has performed at a high level. With Hendrick showing more speed in recent weeks I think he’ll likely challenge for a top five from the 9th place starting position. In practice Johnson showed great speed over long runs and short runs. In Happy Hour he had the 3rd fastest overall lap and the best 15 lap average.
Darlington Track History – Darlington is a great track for Jimmie Johnson. In 3 of the last 4 races he’s finished in the top 4. Last year he had his one result outside that range and finished 19th. Performance wise he was top ten good but he spun which put him on a different pit cycle then the rest of the field, and at the end that resulted in him being at a tire disadvantage. In the three Darlington races prior to that he finished in the top 4 and had a 2.7 average finish. In 2014 he had a strong showing. He started deep in the field but raced his way up to a 3rd place finish. He had a great chance to win that race but he struggled during some late restarts. In 2013 he ran extremely well. He finished 4th, had a 3rd place average running position and earned the 3rd best driver rating. In 2012 he got his most recent victory. In that race he earned the best driver rating and led 134 laps.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,300
Further Recommended Reading – Darlington Post Practice Predictions (another fantasy take), Darlington Speed Cheat Sheet, Happy Hour Notes, Happy Hour Speeds, Practice #1 Notes, Practice #1 Speeds, Starting Lineup, PROS Rankings, Asterisk Mark Report
3) Brad Keselowski (Starting – 2nd)
Darlington Fantasy Spin – Look for Brad Keselowski to be a contender at Darlington. Last year he had the best car hands down, if there wasn’t a late caution which got Carl Edwards the lead he would’ve won. On Sunday he’s starting on the front row in 2nd. When he starts at the very front he does a good job finishing there. The last three times he’s started on the front row he’s come home with results of 1st, 2nd and 3rd. One aspect you have to like about Keselowski is how well his team is running at the moment. In 3 of the last 4 races he’s finished in the top 3. In Happy Hour Keselowski had the fastest overall speed and the 6th best 15 lap average.
Darlington Track History – Darlington hasn’t been a bad track for Brad Keselowski. Last year he had the best car but finished 2nd. If it wasn’t for a late caution and a quick Carl Edwards pit stop he would’ve won. In addition to finishing 2nd he earned the best driver rating, had a 2nd place average running position and led 196 laps. In 2014 he had a good car but finished 17th. Late in the race his car was ailing and he had to nurse it home. In that race it should be noted he had a 7th place average running position and earned the 7th best driver rating. In 2013 his crew chief was suspended and he struggled and came home with a 32nd place finish.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $10,200