Welcome to my breakdown of this week’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway! This race is set for 147 laps and will be the 2nd time these drivers have raced at the high banked, 1.5 mile egg-shaped oval this season as it was the first race back from the COVID-19 break in May. Let’s get to it!

Race History

2020: 

10 of top 15 finishers started in the top 15. 

3 drivers led over 40 laps (started 1, 11, 26).

4 drivers had over 15 fastest laps (started 1, 10, 11, 26). All 4 finished in the top 5.

2019:

14 of top 15 finishers started in the top 15. 

3 drivers led over 25 laps. (1, 6, 37)

4 drivers had over 15 fastest laps (1, 4, 6, 37).

2018:

11 of top 15 finishers started in the top 15.

2 drivers led over 35 laps. (1, 9)

3 drivers had over 15 fastest laps. (1, 3, 7)

2017:

11 of top 15 finishers started in the top 15.

3 drivers led over 30 laps (1, 2, 10). All 3 finished in the top 3.

2 drivers had over 25 fastest laps (1, 2)

Lineup Construction

There will be a few ways to go, but the main question will be whether or not to roster Denny Hamlin, as we will discuss down below. Darlington is a challenging racetrack to pass on, as evidenced by the success of the top 15 starting positions, usually finishing well. While place differential is important, it may be harder to come by. Having a 2-3 dominator build will be essential in having the optimal lineup this week. Typically, one of those dominators starts on the pole; in 11 of the past 12 Xfinity races at Darlington, the polesitter has been one of the top dominators. However, that was when teams qualified, compared to the format we have this season.

Targets

$10k and Above

Denny Hamlin (16000) – Starting 37th. This price may seem outrageous at first but it’s very fair. Denny has 5 Xfinity series wins at Darlington (6 if you count last year when he failed post-race inspection and was disqualified). Now, he will wheel the #54 car that Kyle Busch drove here in May and racked up 37 fastest laps and 45 laps led. Kyle was priced at 16000 that day, starting 26th, and scored 95.75 DK points. Denny offers even more PD upside and should easily pay off value if he doesn’t wreck. I’m locking him into 3 of 4 lineups.

Chase Briscoe (10000) – Starting 2nd. Briscoe got the win here in May with a late pass of Kyle Busch and had the 3rdfastest car. His average finish at Darlington is 3.5, and he has arguably the best pit crew in the series. Starting on the front row, there’s a high likelihood that he gets the lead early and is able to rack up dom points. 

**Note: Cindric and Allgaier are both playable as well. However, Cindric will have to get around Briscoe and 2 other fast cars to get the lead early before Hamlin makes his way up there, and he doesn’t have the best history here. Allgaier had the 2nd most fastest laps here in the spring, but he needs a 4th place finish to fit 5x value. I’d rather pivot to other potential doms priced cheaper.

$8k to $10k

Justin Haley (9000) – Starting 1st. As we mentioned earlier, the polesitter is in prime position to lead laps and earn dom points. He is not as good or fast here as Briscoe, but he will control the race start and it is tough to pass. The preferred groove here retains position 83% of the time. If you don’t think Briscoe gets the lead, Haley is a strong pivot.

Noah Gragson (8800) – Starting 14th. This price is just laughable. Gragson is usually priced higher, starting in the top 5. In the May race, he led over 40 laps and had 14 fastest laps. He did wear out his tires early, ranking 8th in late run speed, so that is a concern at this abrasive track. However, he dominated at both Homestead races, leading over 80 laps in each, which is another high-banked track where the top line is the best way around the track. In case you’re still on the fence, he only needs a 7th place finish to pay off his salary, and his avg finish here is 6.5.

Ross Chastain (8600) – Starting 5th. If you look at Chastain’s average stats here, they may not pop off the page. However, he has some poor performances in the past in lousy equipment. In 2018, he ran here for Chip Ganassi Racing and led 90 laps before a late run-in with Kevin Harvick. He also finished 8th here in May. At a track that is tough to pass, he will rely on his restarts to gain positionsas he is the best restarter in the series overall, as well as from the non-preferred groove. Risky since he needs a 3rd-place finish to pay off, but still a strong car.

Others to consider: Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, MichaelAnnett

Fades: Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider

$6k to $8k

Ryan Sieg (7300) – Starting 11th. Honestly, I hate this 7k range, but if I’m playing anyone here, it’ll be Sieg. He finished 7th here in the spring and needs 9th to hit value. As long as he stays out of trouble, he can do that, but avoiding wrecks has been a struggle all year for him. I’d rather pivorto the other drivers below.

Austin Hill (6900) – Starting 26th. Austin Hill will be piloting the #61 car, usually driver by Timmy Hill. This is a top 20 car when Timmy drives it. While he is a more accomplished iRacer, Austin is a top driver in the Truck Series. He took this car to a top 15 earlier this year at Fontana and I think he can do it again. He is underpriced and needs a 17th place finish to hit value.

Joe Graf Jr (6700), Jeffrey Earnhardt (6600) – Starting 28th, 25th. These plays are very similar. Earnhardt has run around top 20 all year but has struggled as of late, though likely due to road courses being in the schedule. Graf usually runs around 25th but he did finish 19th here earlier this year, which is what we need from him today.

Others to consider: Riley Herbst, Brandon Brown

Fades: Alex Labbe, Jeremy Clements, Vinnie Miller, Chad Finchum, Colby Howard

$6k and Below

Kyle Weatherman (5700) – Starting 31st. Weatherman ranks 1st in top 15 efficiency this season, meaning he has the most remarkable difference between the percentage of races he finishes top 15 and how often he runs in the top 15. In other words, he’s pulling out good finishes and overachieving in his equipment. Now, he only needs a 23rd place finish for us. Given the sponsorship dollars his team has been receiving for their “Back the Blue” paint schemes, I believe he will run the full race and finish around 20th.

Tommy Joe Martins (4900) – Starting 19th. Earlier this season, I said I wouldn’t play Martins until he showed me some potential due to his frequent mechanical issues. Well, he showed me by finishing top 20 in 6 of his past 7 races. As long as he holds position, he will provide us with the salary relief we need to play Hamlin.

Dexter Bean (4700) – Starting 35th. Bean will be driving the #90 Mario Gosselin car that Alex Labbe drove to a 17thplace finish here in May. Given his low salary, he only needs to finish 27th for us to hit value.

Fades: Matt Mills, Kody Vanderwal, Jesse Little, Josh Williams, BJ McLeod, Stephen Leicht.

**Note: I think a lot of people will play David Starr at 4600. However, TJM and Bean have much higher upside, so I will be fading.

Final Thoughts

Darlington is one of my favorite racetracks, and I’m looking forward to this Labor Day weekend full of throwback paint schemes, tire fall-off, and playoff drama. My cash core will be Hamlin, Gragson, Hill, and Bean, leaving $13,600 to fill the remaining two spots in my lineup.

Best of luck!