This article is part of our DraftKings NASCAR series.
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Course: Darlington Raceway
Format: 1.36-mile oval
The NASCAR Cup series made its return to racing Sunday at Darlington Raceway and Kevin Harvick seized the opportunity to add his name to the 2020 winner's list. The race took place with relatively few incidents considering the many unknowns teams and drivers were facing. The race went off successfully, fortunately, and now the teams are eyeing another chance to tame Darlington in Wednesday's Toyota 500, the second race at the track in a week, before moving on to the traditional Memorial Day weekend 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday's race, and his ability to get off of pit road was a big part of that success. Drivers like Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have some adjustments to make to mount a challenge to Harvick Wednesday night. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect a carbon copy of Sunday's proceedings, however. Wednesday's race should have a bit more rubber embedded in the rough surface, and the cooler temperature of a night race should ease some of the tire wear teams might expect. Darlington is still a rough surface, though. Also, Wednesday's starting lineup will feature an inversion of the top 20 finishers from Sunday. That puts Ryan Preece on pole and Harvick in 20th for the start. Lastly, Wednesday's race will be roughly 90 miles shorter than we saw on Sunday. Teams will not have as much runway to adjust their settings to be at the fastest for the finish.
Key Stats at Darlington Raceway
- Number of races: 117
- Winners from pole: 20
- Winners from top-5 starters: 70
- Winners from top-10 starters: 99
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 6
- Fastest race: 141.383 mph
Previous 10 Darlington Winners
The key to winning Wednesday's race could be getting off of pit road first. Teams that were quick in the opening segments will have some work to do to make sure the adjustments they make this time keep them in contention until the end. Hendrick Motorsports had cars that could potentially challenge the Ford contingent, but they will have to avoid making mistakes like Jimmie Johnson's crash while cruising toward a rare stage victory. Harvick and the other top finishers will have to navigate traffic to get to the front. The inversion of the top finishers to set the starting grid for Wednesday will give those top finishers extra work but could play into the hands of those cars that were fast but fell backward at the finish.
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Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Hamlin grabbed a fifth-place finish on Sunday and will chase his third career Darlington win Wednesday night. Elliott took advantage of Hendrick's power early in the race Sunday and was able to make it to the finish. He was behind teammate Bowman at the end but does have an Xfinity win here. Fantasy owners should see Keselowski's price for Wednesday as a bargain considering he was one of the few cars able to challenge Harvick last weekend. A win Wednesday night would be his second Darlington victory in the Cup series. Wood Bros. Racing's DiBenedetto was climbing the standings prior to the stoppage and finished 14th on Sunday. Keep in mind that he was eighth at Darlington last season, too. Newman's remarkable return to the driver's seat also went off without a hitch. He started 21st and finished 15th. Dillion will start Wednesday's race from the front row. He isn't expected to win, but a quick start could give him some laps led to go along with a top-15 result if all goes to plan.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Harvick may have dominated Sunday's Darlington outing, but Wednesday's challenge will be a bit different. Most importantly, he will start from 20th position. His car worked well in clean air, and he made it off pit road first just about every time, but that is a tough job to do again with a shorter race distance and starting deeper in the pack. Kurt Busch had a tremendous drive from 22nd to finish third on Sunday. He is used to starting deeper in the field and has been excellent at this track recently. He has five top-10 finishes in his last six Darlington visits. Jones won last the 2019 Darlington race and was able to work his way to eighth for his fourth Darlington top-10 in as many tries. Fantasy owners shouldn't have expected much from Kenseth on his return, but his gritty run to 10th was a great reward for those brave enough to choose him. With teammate Kurt Busch, he could be a good sleeper choice for Wednesday's race, too. Bowyer was more of a midpack runner in Sunday's race, and his price for Wednesday reflects that. He should be a confident top-15 finisher, however. Some may have missed rookie Nemechek's top-10 finish Sunday. What makes that even more impressive at such a tough track is that he did that from the 34th starting position. This is a driver for the future, and he makes a good play for Wednesday, too.