Race Weekend Central

Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Forecast: 2023 Cook Out Southern 500

The NASCAR Cup Series takes on Darlington Raceway for its first race of the 2023 playoffs. Read on for daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings picks for the Cook Out Southern 500, airing Sunday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network.

This is Cup’s second trip of the season to The Track Too Tough to Tame, and fourth in the Next Gen era. The race in May featured lots of storylines, with several major wrecks involving Martin Truex Jr., Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson and others. This was the race in which Rick Hendrick even commented on Chastain’s on-track actions: “If you wreck us, you’re going to get it back.”

Ultimately, William Byron went on to win his third race of the year and first at The Lady in Black.

See also
Through The Gears: Darlington Betting Preview

Last year’s Cook Out Southern 500 was just as exciting and unpredictable as this spring, with both Truex and Kyle Busch retiring early due to engine failures. We also saw Kevin Harvick‘s car catching fire and Chase Elliott crashing. In the end, Erik Jones earned the win for Legacy Motor Club (then Petty GMS Motorsports).

Jones’ win set off a Round of 16 that featured non-playoff winners, indicating that just about anyone could visit victory lane.

Though there’s uncertainty in who can win, you can still see who dominated in past races to help you with your DraftKings rosters. I’d also look at those drivers who appear to have some momentum coming into this weekend, like Chris Buescher.

Here are the results from the race at Daytona International Speedway:

DraftKings SalaryDriverDraftKings Score
$9,900Ryan Blaney-21.1
$9,000Chris Buescher56.4
$8,400Daniel Suarez27.5
$7,800Michael McDowell60.05
$6,700Erik Jones32.35
$6,200Corey LaJoie65.05

Ryan Blaney was leading when he got turned hard into the wall, ending his night. As a result, his DraftKings score was in the negative (as he qualified in the top 10 and finished 36th). But I also picked the winner of the race, Buescher. Additionally, Corey LaJoie earned a top 10, which boosted his fantasy total.

The top score in the $25,000 Happy Hour tournament was 360.45 and had Byron, Brad Keselowski, Buescher, Michael McDowell, Alex Bowman and LaJoie.

Here’s a quick look at the rules for DraftKings:

The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth scores 34, while 11th gets 32 and it decreases by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats from 21st through 30th and again from 31st through 40th.

Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they started the race. For example, if Larson started seventh and won, he would gain six points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 51 fantasy points.

Drivers also can earn 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap they lead.

NASCAR DraftKings Scoring Breakdown

Here are the drivers you should consider for Darlington:

DraftKings Picks: Top Tier

Denny Hamlin ($11,000)
Career at Darlington: 22 starts, 4 wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s
Average finish at Darlington: 7.7

There’s no current driver who has a better average finish at Darlington than Denny Hamlin. He has five top fives there since 2020, including wins in 2020 and fall 2021. In that latter race, Hamlin dominated, leading 146 laps. Last year, he finished second to Jones.

The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver also has done well recently, finishing seventh or better in five of the last seven races. One of those results was a win at Pocono Raceway. Additionally, Hamlin has six races where he scored over 50 fantasy points on DraftKings since June. Based on his record and strength at Darlington and his recent surge of top-five finishes this season, Hamlin should score high on DraftKings once again.

Kevin Harvick ($9,800)
Career at Darlington: 31 starts, 3 wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at Darlington: 12.4

Harvick may not have the best average finish at The Lady in Black, but if you counted just the races since 2013, he does at 5.67. He has just one instance of finishing outside the top nine in the past 15 races there, and that was last year after his car caught fire. All three of his wins came in that span: two in 2020 and a dominating performance in 2014.

Earlier this season, the No. 4 pilot came home second to Byron at Darlington, scoring 64.9 DraftKings points in the effort. It does help that he gained 18 spots in that race, but it showed that Harvick still can wheel it at certain tracks like this one. Look for Harvick to want to start his last playoffs with a good finish and perhaps even a win.

(Also like Byron)

Middle Tier

Brad Keselowski ($8,700)
Career at Darlington: 19 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Darlington: 11.7

Buescher may be the hottest driver in NASCAR right now, but Keselowski is good as well. He tamed Darlington in 2018 after leading 24 laps. He also has four top 10s since 2020: a fourth in 2020 and earlier this year, and seventh in the last two fall races.

Keselowski had a rough stretch after his fourth place at Darlington, failing to earn a top 10 from Charlotte Motor Speedway through the Chicago street race. However, he’s turned things around since then, snagging results of sixth or better in five of the last eight events.

RFK Racing would love nothing more than to see both of its drivers be successful in the playoffs, and Darlington could spark that success. If it does, he’ll have a good score on DraftKings.

Bubba Wallace ($8,200)
Career at Darlington: 10 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Darlington: 20.8

For a long time, Bubba Wallace struggled at The Track Too Tough to Tame. However, it seems his time with 23XI Racing has helped him learn how to navigate this oval-shaped track. In the last two races there, he finished ninth last fall and fifth earlier this season. He even notched 15 fastest laps in this year’s race.

Wallace made his first playoffs last week on points after finishing between 11th and 18th in the last six events. The race prior to that stretch, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he earned an eighth-place result. He also was fourth in the Coca-Cola 600.

I know Wallace would love to get back to victory lane, and if he continues to improve at Darlington, he may just do that this weekend.

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Fire on Fridays: Silly Season Spots Left to Resolve Include SHR, Kaulig

Low Tier

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000)
Career at Darlington: 15 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Darlington: 23.0

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also made the playoffs with his Daytona 500 victory, and while he may not go very far, his JTG Daugherty Racing team has made great strides this year. At Darlington earlier this season, he finished 13th. That would’ve likely made for a good DraftKings score, but since he started third, he only scored 20 fantasy points. Still, it was a good result for the underfunded team.

Last fall at Darlington, Stenhouse crashed out early. However, in the spring 2022 event, he drove from 26th to eighth place. In fact, since 2020, Stenhouse has advanced his position in several races, and while some weren’t top 10s, they still gave him bonus fantasy points on DraftKings. That’s really all you could hope for the No. 47.

Harrison Burton ($5,400)
Career at Darlington: 3 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Darlington: 13.7

This feels more like a dart throw in a tournament on DraftKings, but I like Harrison Burton‘s efforts at Darlington. He earned his first top 10 at this track in May with a sixth-place finish. Last spring, he gained 11 spots en route to 14th. And last fall, though he finished 21st, it was still seven positions further from where he started. Every point matters on DraftKings, especially in this salary range.

At two other racetracks this summer, Pocono and Michigan International Speedway, Burton moved up several spots. He was eighth at Pocono and 17th at Michigan.

Darlington seems to be a good track for the 22-year-old, at least it was in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Burton even finished second in the fall 2021 race. If he can take what he’s learned so far, he should earn at least a top 15, which would be great for DraftKings if he doesn’t start inside the top 10.

About the author

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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