The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are finally here! It’s been an absolute marathon of a season to get to this point. 16 drivers compete for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship. We kick it all off from Darlington Raceway on Sunday night. Darlington carries many nicknames. She’s the Lady in Black. Or perhaps you prefer the Track Too Tough to Tame. Or maybe you keep it simple with “The Egg.” Either way, we’re given a crown jewel racetrack to kick off the postseason. Definitely refer back to the Cook Out Southern 500 Preview published earlier this week. It highlights several drivers for their track history at Darlington that can still be included in your driver pool. Without further ado, let’s sink our teeth into the Cook Out Southern 500 picks on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Cook Out Southern 500 Picks: The Top Ten
- Christopher Bell (#20 Joe Gibbs Racing)
- Denny Hamlin (#11 Joe Gibbs Racing)
- Tyler Reddick (#45 23XI Racing)
- Ryan Blaney (#12 Team Penske)
- Brad Keselowski (#6 RFK Racing)
- Joey Logano (#22 Team Penske)
- Kevin Harvick (#4 Stewart-Haas Racing)
- Chris Buescher (#17 RFK Racing)
- Michael McDowell (#34 Front Row Motorsports)
- Aric Almirola (#10 Stewart-Haas Racing)
This has to be one of the more surprising top tens we’ve seen in a while following qualifying. There are ZERO Chevrolets in the top ten. It’s difficult to recall the last time that happened. The top three are all Toyotas and the remaining seven spots at Fords. This tracks with the narrative we’ve seen all year with the Toyotas and Fords catching up to Chevrolet in terms of nailing the setup each week. There’s certainly win equity here. Denny Hamlin has won here plenty of times, including the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. Christopher Bell looked fast in practice and inherited Ty Gibbs’ pit crew for the playoffs. But we do have some incredible place differential options to consider as well.
Which Value-Priced Cook Out Southern 500 Picks Got A Points Movement Bump?
- Alex Bowman – P24, $7,600
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – P25, $7,000
- Austin Dillon – P28, $6,800
- Ryan Preece – P34, $5,900
- Harrison Burton – P32, $5,400
- Todd Gilliland – P30, $5,200
- Alex Bowman – P24, $7,500
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – P25, $6,500
- Austin Dillon – P28, $5,800
- Ryan Preece – P34, $5,200
- Todd Gilliland – P30, $3,500
- Harrison Burton – P30, $3,000
These are the most notable value options offering position differential. And truthfully, not all of these guys are on the table. There are drivers here whose teammates made the playoffs, while they didn’t. Alex Bowman has had a rough season and two of his teammates made the playoffs. So, research and resources will likely go to them. The same can be said for Austin Dillon and Todd Gilliland. Ryan Preece is a “play at your own risk” kind of play. He had this wild wreck at Daytona just last Saturday and was surprisingly cleared to race this week. Harrison Burton didn’t make the playoffs, but he strangely has a good track history here. Ricky Stenhouse is the most interesting value option in my opinion. He’s in the playoffs and the car looked fast in practice. He just didn’t happen to qualify well.
Which Higher-Priced Picks Got A Similar Bump?
- Martin Truex Jr. – P31
- Kyle Larson – P18
- William Byron – P23
- Ross Chastain – P27
Martin Truex Jr. is such an easy play in Cash games. Just eat the chalk and play him in that format. It feels weird because Chastain is starting so deep in the field. But he might just be a pivot in this range. He’s been awful since winning at Nashville and his speed in practice wasn’t great, but he didn’t have much tire fall off in the longer runs. Larson and Byron, the two playoff drivers for Hendrick Motorsports, are also in play. Byron won here in the Spring. Larson should be good here when you consider this is a track you can run along the wall. All four drivers are viable for Sunday night’s race, but Ross Chastain might be providing the most leverage.
Cook Out Southern 500 Picks
- Martin Truex Jr. – $10,800; Starting P31
- William Byron – $10,200; Starting P23
- Christopher Bell – $9,400; Starting P1
- Ty Gibbs – $7,200; Starting P17
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – $7,000; Starting P25
- Harrison Burton – $5,400; Starting P32
This could be a fairly popular lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it entered in Cash games tomorrow. But we have arguably three drivers with win equity. Four of them may have top ten upside. Ideally, Christopher Bell would lead the first stage of this race and finish top five. Then later on William Byron or Martin Truex Jr. would lead laps and potentially win. That’s the narrative this lineup needs. I’m very high on Stenhouse for this race given the playoff narrative. I do think Harrison Burton feels like a trap. But even if he only finishes 22nd he’s returning 30+ fantasy points on DraftKings. Overall, it’s a sound build with dominators and finishing position drivers.
- Martin Truex Jr. – $14,000; Starting P31
- Kyle Larson – $13,000; Starting P18
- Denny Hamlin – $12,500; Starting P2
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – $6,500; Starting P25
- Corey LaJoie – $4,000; Starting P22
I took a slightly different approach with this one. I expanded the driver exposure by pivoting off Byron for Larson and moving off Bell for Hamlin. This lineup, similar to the last one, uses every dollar of your salary. We get exposure to three potential dominators. Sure, the value of laps led is diminished on FanDuel. But we have a healthy amount of laps on Sunday where we’ll want to get those points if we can. We have PD and win equity with Truex and Larson. Stenhouse is a value play that maybe has top ten upside. LaJoie is a pivot off the chalkier Harrison Burton. Burton has shown he can finish top 15 here, but I would’ve preferred that he start higher to lower his ownership. LaJoie is a good pivot that you hope can stay on the lead lap and move up gradually as the race progresses.
White Flag Thoughts Before You Go
As you construct your NASCAR DFS lineups for the Cook Out Southern 500 picks, please consult this chart from Ryan with iFantasyRace. It’s a chart that breaks down who had more tire fall-off on the longer runs. It’s great that the playoffs are now here, but we’re also taking a hit with our beloved NASCAR DFS contests. NFL season is on the horizon and the payout structures dwindle from here on out. If you’re a pure racing fan you’re in for a great show. Darlington is one of the best races each and every year and it absolutely deserves two races on the schedule every season. Take the expensive PD that’s available to you this week and get those dominator points. Best of luck and I hope to see your lineups in victory lane!