The Setup – The Real Heroes 400
By Tyler Miller

NASCAR is back. For the first time since March 8th, NASCAR will race 400 miles at Darlington Raceway and the world will be watching. There is no practice or qualifying for Sunday’s race. The field has been set by a random draw with Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman starting on the front row. I am not clear on how or when the cars will be cleared through technical inspection and whether or not the potential exists for a driver to lose a starting position by failing pre-race inspection, so be sure to double check lineups and follow beat reporters like @BobPockrass on twitter for updates.

Since there is no practice or qualifying, I am doing a hybrid “Setup/Victory Lane” all in one article. Remember, these drivers will be right back in Darlington on Wednesday night for a shorter race under the lights.

A few other notes: Ryan Newman is back in the 6 car and Matt Kenseth replaces Kyle Larson in the 42.

Race Distance: 293 laps (400.2 miles). Modified Competition Caution on lap 30. Stage 1 ends on lap 90, Stage 2 ends on lap 185.
Lineup Lock 3:30 pm eastern Sunday
2019 Winner Erik Jones (Started 15th)
2019 Pole Sitter William Byron (Finished 21st)
Past Winners: (Starting Position)
2018: Brad Keselowski (13th)
2017: Denny Hamlin (9th)
2016: Martin Truex Jr. (8th)
2015: Carl Edwards (13th)

What Vegas thinks (Post-qualifying lines via Penn National Gaming)
Kyle Busch is the favorite to win at 5-1. Kevin Harvick fell to 13-2 after opening at 5-1 due to a 6th place starting position.
Kyle Busch 5-1
Kevin Harvick 13-2
Denny Hamlin 13-2
Brad Keselowski 8-1
Joey Logano 17-2
Martin Truex Jr. 17-2
Chase Elliott 9-1
Alex Bowman 12-1
Erik Jones 16-1
Ryan Blaney 20-1
Kurt Busch 20-1

Driver Ratings Darlington:
1. Erik Jones 110.8
2. Denny Hamlin 106.3
3. Kyle Busch 105.9
4. Kevin Harvick 100.7
5. Brad Keselowski 99.5
6. Martin Truex Jr. 99.2
7. Jimmie Johnson 97.8
8. Matt Kenseth 91.0
9. Ryan Newman 89.9
10. Joey Logano 89.3
11. Kurt Busch 88.6
12. Chase Elliott 83.4
13. Austin Dillon 77.3
14. William Byron 76.3
15. Clint Bowyer 73.4

Average Running Position:
1. Erik Jones 7.550
2. Denny Hamlin 8.219
3. Kyle Busch 8.530
4. Brad Keselowski 11.111
5. Martin Truex Jr. 11.255
6. William Byron 11.502
7. Kevin Harvick 11.648
8. Jimmie Johnson 12.579
9. Ryan Newman 12.792
10. Joey Logano 13.022
11. Kurt Busch 13.097
12. Chase Elliott 14.058
13. Matt Kenseth 14.417
14. Chris Buescher 16.469
15. Austin Dillon 16.567

Laps Led
1. Kyle Busch 716 (13% of laps run)
2. Kevin Harvick 567 (10.3)
3. Denny Hamlin 562 (10.9)
4. Jimmie Johnson 327 (5.9
5. Brad Keselowski 293 (7.2)
6. Martin Truex Jr. 232 (4.5)

2019 Top 10
1. Erik Jones
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Kurt Busch
8. Matt DiBenedetto
9. Paul Menard
10. Austin Dillon

2018 Top 10
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Joey Logano
3. Kyle Larson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Chase Elliott
6. Kurt Busch
7. Kyle Busch
8. Erik Jones
9. Jamie McMurray
10. Denny Hamlin

2017 Top 10
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Busch
3. Kurt Busch
4. Austin Dillon
5. Erik Jones
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Ryan Newman
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Jamie McMurray

Without practice or qualifying there isn’t much to say regarding my favorite picks for Sunday. I’ll keep things short and sweet.

Top End
Erik Jones ($9,800/9,200) I think Erik Jones is going to be an obvious chalk pick, but there is a lot of potential for differential points and a top 10 run. Jones has the best driver rating, the best average finish, and the best average running position of all the drivers in the field at Darlington. In three career races, Jones has finished 5th, 8th, and 1st. Starting 20th, I think Jones is a must play.

Denny Hamlin ($12,500/11,100) I really like Denny Hamlin at Darlington. He has completed every lap in 13 of his 14 career starts at Darlington (all of the races until last year). Hamlin is 2nd in driver rating, 2nd in average running position, and his average finish of 7.8 is better than his average running position of 8.129. That tells me that Hamlin can close the deal and be at the front at the end of the race. I like Hamlin in this spot, starting the race 10th.

Brad Keselowski ($12,000/10,400) I think Keselowski is a solid pick here and I think he will be lower owned because he is starting on the pole. There is plenty of risk with negative differential points, but Keselowski will almost certainly lead some laps and his strong record at Darlington should give you some confidence that he can pull off a top 5 finish. Keselowski is 5th in driver rating, 5th in laps led, and 4th in average running position at Darlington.

Martin Truex Jr. ($11,500/10,400) Starting 15th, I think Truex is underpriced for Darlington on Sunday. Truex has massive upside with the potential for +10 differential and a top 5. Truex is 6th in driver rating, 5th in average running position, and 6th in laps led. In 14 career starts, Truex has completed 99.9% of the laps at Darlington (5,144 of 5,149). I really don’t see any downside to playing Truex on Sunday.

Ryan Newman ($7,000/6,500)
Newman has had a sneaky good career at Darlington over the years. In 21 races he has finished in the top 10 13 times. He is 9th in both driver rating and average running position. I think Newman is a solid play at 7k on Fan Duel and is capable of moving forward into the top 15 from his 21st place starting position.

Matt Kenseth ($7,200/7,900) Overall, I’m not really in on Matt Kenseth, but the 42 team has been excellent at Darlington in recent years. Kyle Larson led 328 laps and finished 2nd in 3rd over the past two Southern 500s. I’m not sold on Matt Kenseth being able to jump into a top 5 car and finish in the top 5 after a prolonged absence from the cup series. I think it is more likely that Kenseth, who starts the race 12th, runs in the mid-teens most of the day and finishes somewhere between 12th-18th place.

Value Plays
Ty Dillon ($5,000/5,600)
If you need a value play, Ty Dillon should be a lock. Dillon drew the 33rd place starting position and will certainly make up positions if he stays out of trouble on Sunday. In 3 races at Darlington, Ty has finishes of 13th, 21st, and 20th. Anything in that ballpark would make him a great DFS play on Sunday.

Daniel Suarez ($4,500/6,200) Starting 37th, Daniel Suarez has very little risk but only minimal upside. If that team does everything right, I think Suarez can finish in the top 25. I like Ty Dillon more because he has top 15 potential, but Suarez could be a solid value play on Sunday, especially on Draft Kings where you get a full point for differential.

My core lineup for both Draft Kings and Fan Duel will be Jones, Hamlin, and Truex. You can round those lineups out with my mid-tier and value plays and be set for an enjoyable race on Sunday afternoon. Good luck!

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