I hope you enjoyed the weekend off because we’re now racing for 12 weeks straight, right up to the NASCAR Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. This week we’re at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Nicknamed “The Track Too Tough To Tame,” Darlington really tests the talent of a driver, and the cream always rises to the top when we race here. The pole sitter has led the most laps here at Darlington in each of the last three races, and there’s a good chance that is what’s going to happen on Sunday night as well.
There were two practice sessions here at “The Lady in Black” on Friday, following by qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Kevin Harvick will lead the field to the green on Sunday night–his third Southern 500 pole in the last four years–with Martin Truex, Jr. alongside, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here. The practice speeds from those two sessions can be found here: Practice #1 — Happy Hour, and, as always, our in-depth practice notes can be found here: Practice #1 — Happy Hour.
Final Top 25 Ranking For The 2017 Southern 500
1. Kevin Harvick – Starts 1st – DraftKings Price: $9,700 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Kevin Harvick is currently on a four-race streak of top 5 finishes here at Darlington Raceway, and should be able to make it five in a row here on Sunday night. The #4 Ford was 5th-fastest in the opening practice session this weekend and ranked 2nd-fastest in Happy Hour. In terms of ten-lap average, Harvick wasn’t stellar (13th and 10th-best) but that’s not overly concerning. He led 214 laps here at Darlington last season but finished 2nd, and that was almost a repeat performance of the 2014 Southern 500, where Harvick won from the pole after leading 238 of the 374 laps. As far as recent Cup Series races, Harvick hasn’t led any laps since the Daytona race in early July, but that is going to change at Darlington this weekend, since Harvick dominated qualifying and will lead the field to the green on Sunday night. I have him as the driver leading the most laps as well. Additionally, Harvick’s average running position of 3.8 over the last four races at this track is just absurd (Hamlin is 2nd-best at 7.8).
2. Kyle Larson – Starts 4th – DraftKings Price: $10,300 – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
It’s hard to find much to not like about Kyle Larson this weekend. The #42 Chevrolet has been a rocket ship since the team unloaded it on Friday, and Larson showed that speed off on Saturday when he qualified 4th for this year’s Southern 500–his first starting spot better than 16th in this race. In the practice session, Kyle ranked 2nd and 1st in ten-lap average and was 1st- and 16th-fastest for a single lap. This will be Larson fourth Cup Series start at Darlington Raceway, and in his first three attempts here, he has never finished worse than 10th. Last year was Larson’s best showing at “The Track Too Tough To Tame,” when he qualified 16th but ended up leading 45 laps en route to a 3rd-place finish. This #42 team went through a rough patch during the month of July but they seem to be back where they were before then: as legitimate contenders to win on a near-weekly basis.
3. Denny Hamlin – Starts 9th – DraftKings Price: $9,900 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Denny Hamlin is knocking off top 5 after top 5 right now, so if for some reason you’re still staying away from him with your Fantasy NASCAR teams, you might want to jump on the bandwagon. Denny finished 3rd at Bristol a couple of weeks ago and has now wound up 4th or better in seven of the last ten Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. And as far as his record here at Darlington? It’s the best. Hamlin has made eleven career starts here at “The Lady in Black” and owns a series-best 6.3 average finish with one win, six top 5s, and nine top 10s. He’s also led in seven of his eleven starts here. This weekend, the #11 Toyota looks stout, posting top 5 single-lap times in both practice sessions on Friday along with top 5 rankings in ten-lap average as well. Hamlin is probably one of the safest picks in the field this weekend.