NASCAR

NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Goodyear 400

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Goodyear 400

If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.

NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!

FanDuel Research is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide.

With all of this in mind, let's preview this weekend's Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

NASCAR DFS Picks

Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

One of NASCAR's most fun weekends of the year is the "throwback" weekend in Darlington, which has shifted to May for the past three seasons.

In addition to the unique paint schemes, this race track is a true throwback to NASCAR's origins. The egg-shaped, 1.33-mile oval in Darlington, South Carolina is hot, slick, and chews up tires like a cheese grater. Many drivers say it's their favorite -- or least favorite -- on the circuit.

From a DFS perspective, I really enjoy it for a variety of reasons, too. Its 293-lap duration leads to 29.3 FanDuel points available for laps led, proving to be a bit of a mix between a 1.5-mile and short-track strategy. Those points are usually valuable and concentrated. Two drivers combined to lead 267 lof 367 laps (72.8%) in last September's race here, and another pair combined to lead 238 of 295 laps (80.2%) in this event one year ago. Oddly, the latter pair both crashed out of the race in a zany overtime finish.

Therefore, my default build will target at least two -- but likely three -- lap-leading candidates. This is a place where you can get a bit creative in the value department behind them, though. "The Lady in Black" has plenty of attrition; of last year's 20 top-10 finishers, 9 of them (45%) started outside the top 15. Last fall's winner, Kyle Larson, started 18th.

The massive tire wear will lead to cars coming and going in the order throughout the race. I'll be looking to buy a few drivers who might be starting further back on Sunday's grid but hold some combination of strong track history, solid speed at other tracks in my median-lap averages, or better times over the course of a longer run in practice.

Driver Rankings

Below are my post-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, starting order, recent form, track history, and overall talent level -- in that order.

Starting Spot is where the drivers will roll off the grid. For potential lap leaders (i.e. high-salaried drivers), closer access to the front is better. For value plays, a lower starting spot gives a higher floor and access to 0.5 points on FanDuel for each position advanced in the order.

Practice Ranks are provided for both 5-lap and 10-lap average data. Those can typically be found at iFantasyRace.com for all times, including different intervals that may be more appropriate for the track type.

Jim's Sims are the win simulations run by FanDuel Research's Jim Sannes. This week's sims were updated after practice and qualifying. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in the sims or a top-15 finish this season were included in the rankings.

MLT Rank, the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar racetracks to this weekend, is a great indicator of overall speed. The prior races in the sample (with weight percentage) this week are:

  • Darlington (Fall 2023) - 30%
  • Darlington (Spring 2023) - 30%
  • Richmond (Spring 2024) - 30%
  • Phoenix (Spring 2024) - 10%

Swaim's Rank
Driver
Salary
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (10-Lap)
Practice Rank (20-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Kyle Larson $14,000 63N/A17.58%1
2Martin Truex, Jr. $12,000 1021265.56%1
3Denny Hamlin $13,500 7172011.30%5
4Tyler Reddick $12,500 11398.88%6
5Chase Elliott $10,500 315N/A3.90%9
6William Byron $13,000 59N/A10.32%3
7Chris Buescher $8,200 3284.20%11
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Kyle Larson ($14,000)

Last September, Kyle Larson reminded the entire field why he's usually the betting favorite at Darlington. Larson (+350) once again holds that title, per the NASCAR odds at FanDuel.

"Yung Money" won that race with its fastest median lap time, backing up a spring race where he had the sixth-best median time before tangling with Ross Chastain in the late stages of the race. He's led at least 25 laps in four of the last five events here.

On throwback weekend, Larson's 2024 form has been a throwback to his 2021 championship season. He's posted six top-five finishes and a pair of wins at 1.5-mile tracks. He's dominating his best circuits, and Darlington certainly qualifies.

After posting the third-best 10-lap average in practice before calling it a session, I don't know how anyone can count Larson out from leading large chunks of Sunday's race. He'll start sixth.

Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,000)

However, Larson is tied in my median-lap-time blend with someone, and it's the same driver he battled for the win at 2024's most similar track to date, Richmond. That is Martin Truex Jr.

The 43-year-old makes a routine habit of playing possum in practice, so I don't want to read too narrowly into his poor times when he still was able to qualify 10th. Plus, Darlington's practice times don't really indicate who is fast when the race is won -- at least 50 laps deep into a run.

That's typically where the veteran shines, which is how he's won twice here. Surprisingly, incidents and mechanical failures have kept Truex Jr. outside the top 15 in four straight Darlington events, but leading 213 combined laps in those is a better indication of how fast the #19 was.

Truex is a master of saving tires and keeping the car's pace where it needs to be, contending regularly at Richmond, Darlington, and Homestead-Miami. I'm expecting him to be a factor again on Mother's Day.

Others to Consider

  • Denny Hamlin ($13,500)
  • Tyler Reddick ($12,500)

Mid-Range Threats

Chase Elliott ($10,500)

With plenty of attrition on deck, we can be extremely open to place-differential plays that didn't qualify well. Chase Elliott is the very best of those.

While Elliott has yet to win at this unique oval, he's posted three top-eight finishes in his last four efforts. As a team car to Larson, he posted the 12th-best median time in both Darlington events last season, but Elliott's general speed has been significantly better in 2024. He's already won at Texas, which was amidst this current stretch of five top-five finishes in his last six.

I'd consider him in a modest starting position, but that drama was taken away by qualifying 31st on Saturday. He's got huge place-differential upside with a car that appears fast and ready to pass; it had the fifth-best 10-lap average in practice before he, like his teammate, was happy enough to not even run 20 consecutive circuits.

Elliott should be among the most popular DFS plays in the field, but he'll undoubtedly make the perfect lineup should he avoid mayhem en route to a top 10.

Chris Buescher ($8,200)

Chris Buescher did me dirty last week.

In a rare week where the RFK Racing driver wasn't quick in practice, Buescher capitalized on his speed to be quite literally the closest runner-up in NASCAR history (-0.00 seconds). That sort of breakout week was gurgling to the surface, but he kept a strong poker face in practice.

This week, I'm not going to let him sneak up on me. Buescher had the second-fastest time on the 10-lap average charts, and that held to a decent eighth-place result on the 20-lap charts. It wasn't really a surprise when C.B. had the 11th-best median blend entering the weekend.

From third, there is some risk with Buescher starting so high in the field. However, he went toe-to-toe with Larson last week, and this is one of his better tracks on paper. The Texan has four top-10 finishes in his last six races here.

It's not crazy to think Buescher could also lead a good chunk of Sunday's event. Luckily for us, his salary suggests that isn't the case.

Others to Consider

  • Ross Chastain ($11,000)
  • Brad Keselowski ($9,500)
  • Joey Logano ($8,000)

Value Plays

Noah Gragson ($7,000)

Larson, Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin are clear favorites to win Sunday, and polesitter Tyler Reddick tossed his hat into the ring with a strong Saturday. We'll need salary, but the value tier is loaded this week.

That starts with Noah Gragson, who won at Darlington in his final full Xfinity Series season in 2022 -- besting Larson in the process. The Stewart-Haas driver has already developed a reputation as a speed demon that can squeeze every ounce of a car's might out of it right around the wall. That's a natural fit for "The Lady in Black".

Gragson didn't have a great qualifying session and starts 36th, but we'll benefit from that. He had a top-seven time on the 10-lap and 20-lap charts. I'd have considered him starting in the top 15, but that qualifier is no longer necessary.

Don't be surprised if #10 contends for his fifth top-10 finish of the season.

Austin Cindric ($5,000)

There are drivers that routinely draw me in with quick practice or median times, but they just can't race well. Weighing the risk, I'm still willing to take the plunge with Austin Cindric this weekend.

Cindric was on the shortlist at $5,000 with the 17th-best median blend of the weekend before we got cars on track, but he dominated the entire field during Saturday's practice session. Cindric had the fastest 10-lap average in town before ranking second on the 20-lap charts.

Teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have had plenty of success here; Logano has even won as recently as 2022. It's possible that's finally carried over to Cindric after an up-and-down Xfinity Series career here. He posted two top-five finishes in his last four efforts in that series but crashed out of the other two.

Luckily, Cindric's starting spot is an extremely palatable 25th for a machine that appears quick. He's scored top-20 finishes in three of the last four Cup Series events here, and that result would be just fine at his salary.

Others to Consider

  • Alex Bowman ($7,500)
  • Erik Jones ($7,200)
  • Josh Berry ($6,800)
  • Chase Briscoe ($6,200)
  • Michael McDowell ($6,000)

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.