NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Goodyear 400 at Darlington

Throwback Weekend is always an entertaining one at Darlington Raceway. As fun as it is to see all those throwback paint schemes, though, the festivities never seems to upstage the competitive racing. We have a couple drivers, namely Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, who have gotten wins in the last couple weeks who are more than capable of showing the field that there's plenty of gas left in the tank. Will Denny or Martin become this season's next repeat winner or will we see a new winner, or better yet a first time winner? Stay tuned.

This Week's Pick Strategy: It's going to be hot and slick for the Goodyear 400. That can only mean one thing -- keep your eye on those drivers who love to run 'oh so close' to the wall. Chief among those drivers are Kyle Larson who took the checkered flag in the Shriners Children's 200 NASCAR XFinity Series race. I wouldn't bet against those Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Just sayin'.

Drivers with the Most Top 10s
By Race (2020 to 2022) 
Kevin Harvick - 4
All with 3 - Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott
All with 2 - Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, and Kyle Busch
Drivers with Most Top 10s
By Track (Last nine races)

Kevin Harvick - 8
All with 6 -  Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones
Both with 5 - Brad Keselowki and Kyle Busch 
All with 4 - Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott
Last Year's Pole Winner:  Joey Logano
Last Year's Race Winner:  Joey Logano

The Likely Suspects: My Darlington elites are are Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer is a tie between the master of the high line, Kyle Larson, and Denny Hamlin. My next picks are Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, and Kevin Harvick. I will complete my team with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Harrison Burton.

My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 

Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick is Erik Jones. Erik is riding a winless streak that dates back to his win at Darlington on September 4, 2022 – 21 races ago. In 2019 he earned
his second career victory in the NASCAR Cup series. Although this season he only has two Top 10s in 12 starts, this is one of Erik's best tracks. In addition to his two wins, he has earned five Top 5s and seven Top 10s for an average finish of 10.7 (third-best among active drivers).

Points to Ponder:
  • The first starting position is the most prolific starting position in the field, producing more winners (21) than any other at Darlington. The outside front row (second place) has produced the second-most wins (18). 
  • Denny Hamlin (2021, 2020, 2017, 2010) leads all active drivers in victories at Darlington with four, followed by Kevin Harvick with three (2020, 2020, 2014) as well as in second-place finishes at Darlington with four (2007, 2012, 2013, 2022).
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active series drivers in Top 5 finishes at Darlington with 13 Top 5s as well as Top 10 finishes at Darlington with 18.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins by an organization at Darlington in the NASCAR Cup Series with 14 victories.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington Raceway with a 7.476 in 21 starts.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, May 14th.

Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Goodyear 400 at Darlington NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Goodyear 400 at Darlington Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Saturday, May 13, 2023 Rating: 5