I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission.
Last race’s results: Played $4 Brake Pad contest. Won $0.
Season results: $76 wagered, $80 won in 19 contests.
This week’s contest: $4 Brake Pad game (single entry).
— Kyle Larson ($10,300): As you’ll see with these picks, I’m leaning heavily on 10-lap averages from Darlington practice. Single-lap speed doesn’t tell us much here — since the tires fall off so dramatically — so I want to pick cars that are good on the long run. Even though Larson hits the wall a lot at Darlington, he was fastest in 10-lap average for final practice (out of 26 cars), which I will take as a good sign.
— Denny Hamlin ($9,900): Hamlin was fastest in 10-lap average for the first practice and then dropped to fifth in final practice — but it was notable that his fastest run was from laps 21-30 during that session. That shows his team made positive changes and was getting faster. Hamlin also happens to be excellent at Darlington: His average finish is 6.3, which is the best of any driver and his personal best at any track.
— Jamie McMurray ($8,500): McMurray was eighth-fastest in 10-lap average for final practice and has been a pretty consistent top-10 car all season long. He looks like a solid choice for another good run on Sunday. This was a tough call, as Clint Bowyer ($8,400) also seems like a solid pick at this price range (Bowyer was ninth-fastest in 10-lap average and starts 16th, which is 11 spots further back than McMurray).
— Kurt Busch ($8,200): Aside from winning the Daytona 500, it hasn’t been a very good season for Busch (only two top-five finishes since then). So why would Darlington be any different? Well, Busch had two solid practices — he was third-fastest in 10-lap average for both sessions — before qualifying seventh. That could translate into a good Southern 500 performance.
— Kasey Kahne ($7,500): I’m not sure if I’m talking myself into this one or it’s really true, but the Hendrick Motorsports cars looked pretty decent in practice despite a poor team-wide qualifying effort (the top qualifier was Jimmie Johnson in 18th). So although Kahne starts 23rd, he was the fastest Hendrick car in final practice (ninth in single-lap speed) after being sixth in the first practice. That’s good speed for this price, although Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($7,600) is another viable option in this range if you’re willing to gamble that his slump will suddenly end.
— David Ragan ($5,600): If you’re looking for a bargain, I’m going with Ragan this week. Ragan’s 10-lap average was 16th of 26 cars in final practice, which puts him just behind Joey Logano and ahead of drivers like Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon. He starts 26th, which is three spots higher than his season average. Compared to other options in this price range, Ragan’s prospects appear pretty decent.