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Cook Out Southern 500: NASCAR Preview

The playoff field is set following Daytona’s rain-soaked, chaotic race and Kurt Busch rescinding his playoff waiver.

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  • Darlington Raceway

Race Time

  • Sunday, September 4, at 6 p.m. ET

Track Length

  • 1.366-mile

Track Type

  • Intermediate, oval

Last 10 Track Winners

  • Spring 2022: Joey Logano
  • Fall 2021: Denny Hamlin
  • Spring 2021: Martin Truex Jr.
  • Fall 2020: Kevin Harvick
  • Spring 2020: Denny Hamlin
  • 2019: Erik Jones
  • 2018: Brad Keselowski
  • 2017: Denny Hamlin
  • 2016: Martin Truex Jr.

Last 10 Track Winners by Model

  • Toyota: 6
  • Ford: 4

Cook Out Southern 500 Preview

“There’s always a big crash at Daytona.” That’s putting it mildly.

Watching this live, it seemed surreal that Austin Dillon found the only available path to escape the destruction of that mess. When they showed it on replay, it entered the absurd realm.

Before the race, NASCAR announced Kurt Busch had rescinded his playoff waiver because his head injury would prevent him from racing. Therefore, at the start of the Coke Zero Sugar 400, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex both had playoff spots based on points.

When the race entered red flag status, Truex was in, and Blaney was out with no assurance they could get the rest of the race in because of inclement weather. But when it was all said and done, Blaney edged out Truex in points, and Dillon eliminated him with his win.

In case you’re wondering how batty NASCAR DFS can be, the winning lineup in a huge GPP on DraftKings was Austin Dillon, Noah Gragson, David Ragan, Cody Ware, Landon Cassill, and B.J. McLeod. My friends, if I had recommended that lineup to you, I would have been an unappreciated genius because Fantrax would have fired me on the spot for being incompetent. In other sports, a DFS lineup can be submarined by a lousy pitcher or quarterback, and a winning lineup can be bolstered by some random shortstop hitting three home runs and a third-string wide receiver going nuts. But only in NASCAR would you need all of these practically unknowns in one lineup to win.

On Sunday, we head to Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500 and the first round of the playoffs. Just a reminder that all drivers race in the playoffs, so for our DFS purposes, everyone remains available for our lineups. Let’s look at some drivers we should focus on this weekend.

The Contenders

Kevin Harvick (#4 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing)

Harvick sits ninth with 12 playoff points, but that’s not going to matter heading to a track where he sports a 109.5 driver rating. If you rewatch the video with the crash, he was a collapsed pocket away from skirting through the mess and taking the lead. It was there, but it closed too quickly. I love everything about how Harvick has been racing and his chances on Sunday.

Joey Logano (#22 Ford, Team Penske)

Logano enters the playoffs in second place with 25 playoff points. Darlington is a very friendly track for him, where he has racked up a driver rating of 101.6 with four Top 10s, two Top 5s, and one win over his last seven. His average starting spot is also eighth, but I won’t have any trouble rostering him even if he starts in the Top 10 for the Cook Out Southern 500.

Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

Man, for a while this year, Hamlin looked like he might limp into the playoffs at best. In the middle of the season, though, he seemed to get a firm grasp on the NextGen cars and began making his ascent to sixth place in the playoff standings. A 105.1 driver rating is nothing to sneeze at, and I expect he will run very well this weekend.

The Accelerators

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Of course, Elliott is always a contender, but Darlington hasn’t been particularly kind to him in recent years. Over his last seven, he has only three Top 10s and two Top 5s. Other drivers would kill for that kind of “letdown,” but for his salary, I’m not sold on him as an “obvious” contender for the Cook Out Southern 500. However, if he qualifies outside the Top 15, he’ll be in my lineup.

Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Larson actually has the best driver rating at Darlington at 110.1, but this was one of his elusive tracks when he seemed like he was winning every week in 2021. His stats are good – three Top 5s out of his last four – so just like his teammate, he’ll be in the mix on Sunday, but he may not be a perfect DFS play.

Erik Jones (#43 Chevrolet, Petty GMS Motorsports)

If we’re throwing one non-playoff driver in, I’m nominating Erik Jones, who ran exceptionally well before Crashapalooza last weekend. He has one win with four Top 10s in his last seven races at Darlington. He also tends to start around 20th place, leaving us some great positional movement points at a reasonable salary.

Throw the Brakes Down

Austin Dillon (#3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing)

I mostly love the opportunity for chaos in NASCAR’s playoff format, but the same part of me that loves baseball for its length and grind really wishes we had Martin Truex Jr. in this spot instead of Dillon. That said, the No. 3 car has an odd Darlington stat line, with four Top 10s in his last seven races but a paltry 73.5 driver rating. I don’t plan to roster him much for the Cook Out Southern 500, and I think he will most likely be a first-round exit from playoff contention.

That’s all she wrote for today. I’ll be back Sunday morning to look at value changes following qualifying races on Saturday. Until then, you can chat with me on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin. Until then, my friends.

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