After Kurt Busch broke into the winners circle for the first time this season the series took a week off and now they are back with two races to go before the start of the playoffs. During these two races we will answer some questions. Will someone not in the top sixteen in points win one of these races? Will the Big Three continue to dominate? Will someone not currently in the top sixteen make their way into the playoffs by gaining enough points to move into that top sixteen in these final two races. Stay tuned!
BOJANGLES’ SOUTHERN 500
This week the race will be held at the Darlington Raceway also known as “The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame”. The track has a unique configuration compared to other tracks on the circuit in that it is shaped more like an egg than an oval. This is the reason for the famed “Darlington Stripe” that occurs when a driver comes off the corner and the wall is closer than he thinks. This is the reason I heard Darrell Waltrip on say when talking about the Lady in Black something like she ain’t no lady.
Kevin Harvick: I am picking Kevin to win his eighth race of the season and pick up some more valuable playoff points. He has sat on the pole the last two years here and has one win, four top five and five top ten finishes here in his last five races. He has also led almost five-hundred laps here in the four races he has run while at Stewart-Haas and we have seen how good those teams are this year with 10 victories among those drivers.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin won this race two years ago and has finished in the top ten here in his last three starts. After getting wrecked while in second place at Bristol, this team will be chomping at the bit to get back on the track and try to get into victory lane for the fifth time this season. I figure he will finish somewhere in the top five once again this weekend and have a shot at winning late in the race.
Denny Hamlin: I keep thinking Denny is going to come out and dominate a race, but he fails to do that. He sat on the pole in two of the last three races, but was never really a contender in either of those races. He won this race last season and has finished in the top six in seven of his last eight starts here. The stats say I should be picking Denny to win this weekend, but something is still a bit off with this team.
Matt Kenseth: I had Trevor Bayne on my roster at Bristol and I had a reader tell me there is no reason at all to do that and then he finished eleventh. Not bad for someone I had no reason what so ever to even have him on my roster. By the way, I did start him too :). So, I am going to go out on a limb and hope lightning strikes twice this week. Granted, the Roush teams haven’t shown the speed they need on this type of track, but Matt has one win and has finished in the top six in five of his last six starts here. Good enough reason for me to have him on my roster.
Erik Jones: Erik has been very hot since winning at Daytona in July. In his only start at Darlington he finished fifth. I think he runs well here once again this week and if everything falls into place for him he could find himself in contention late in the race. I don’t know if he has enough experience to beat Harvick, but it seems that the young guns are pretty calm when they are under pressure.
Kyle Larson: Kyle is another driver I thought would have a win by this point of the season when he was in contention for wins early this season, but this team has floundered a bit since then. I don’t know for sure, but maybe his focus isn’t where it really needs to be. He missed driver introductions at Kentucky because he was talking with some friends and that is a rookie mistake. Now, he has 169-laps in his last two starts at Darlington and has three top ten finished in his four races there. I think he will be fine once again this weekend and will be focused after a week off.
Ryan Newman: Ryan is one of those drivers I might have on my roster, but I am hesitant to start him because he doesn’t seem to be very good in practice and then he slowly gets his car better during the race and comes away with a good finish. This is one of those weeks where he will be on my roster. He has seven top ten finishes in his last nine starts here and has only failed to finish one lap in all of those races combined. Maybe it’s the engineer in him that figures out this egg shaped track that helps them make the right changes to the car.
Kyle Busch: Let’s not forget about Kyle, who wrecked on the second lap at Bristol and came back after repairs with a very damaged car and still had one of the fastest cars on the track. Kyle has always been very good at Darlington. He has finished in the top eleven in nine of his last ten starts and led laps in nine of those starts too. He might complain that his car is junk and be mad at other drivers, but one thing for sure is that no matter what adversity he sees during a race he is going to give you everything he has.
Jimmie Johnson: Right now it doesn’t look like this team will really contend for a title this year. Jimmie has been more down than up from week to week this season and it is hard to have him on your roster any week. He has run better on the shorter tracks, but it doesn’t seem like he has the speed to compete on the intermediate tracks. Well, he leads all active drivers with three wins here, but then again he hasn’t finished in the top ten in his last three races at this track. I have to go on the safe side and say Jimmie is going to be so so once again this week.
Brad Keselowski: Brad is another driver I thought would have at least one win by now. They can be running up front early in a race and then it seems like they know they can’t beat the big three unless they make some drastic changes to the car and then they fall back. I guess that’s not a bad strategy when you are in the top sixteen in points and will make the playoffs anyway. Playoff points are much more important and you get those by winning stages and races, not by finishing second. Brad has led over 250-laps in his last four starts here.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR DARLINGTON RACEWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kevin Harvick
- Denny Hamlin
Driver Group Game Group B
- Erik Jones
- Ryan Newman
- Matt Kenseth
- Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game Group C
- Chris Buescher
- William Byron
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY
- Kevin Harvick
- Dwnny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Larson
Dark Horse: Austin Dillon
Stay Away From: Clint Bowyer
Big 18: Ryan Newman