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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Posted by chadmusselman on May 1, 2011

Darlington Raceway is known as the track “Too Tough to Tame”, and “The Lady in Black”.  It’s unique egg shaped design can make it tough for the drivers to get around the track without brushing up against the retaining wall.  Up until a few years ago, the Southern 500 was always held on Labor Day, and was one of the big-ticket races for NASCAR. 

This track earned Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon $1 Million bonuses when they won the Winston Million which ran from 1985 – 1997.  To win the Million a driver had to win 3 of the following 4 races; Daytona 500, Winston 500 (at Talladega in the spring), Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500 (at Darlington on Labor Day weekend).  Elliott won the prize the first year it was offered, in 1985 and Gordon collected his in 1997.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Denny Hamlin
So far 2011 has not treated Hamlin very well.  He’s down to 17 in points, only has two top ten finishes this season and is averaging an 18.1 place finish.  Definitely not the numbers you would expect to see from someone who gave Jimmie Johnson all he could handle in the Chase for the Cup last season.  If he’s going to get things turned around Darlington could be the place he does it.  His 6.6 place average finish is best among active drivers, and he won here last year, so he should have plenty of confidence coming into the race.  We all know Hamlin is too good of a driver to be sitting in the middle of the pack.  It’s time for him to start showing how good he is and make a run at the top ten in points.

Alternate Chaser: Jeff Gordon
Gordon has great statistics at almost every track on the circuit.  The problem is that most of that success was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  That’s not necessarily the case for Darlington.  Jeff did dominate the track in his early years, but he still is dominating at Darlington today.  Don’t believe me?  Well, he has 7 consecutive finishes in the top five with one win.  That’s domination in my book.  For his career Gordon has 7 wins, 18 top five and 21 top ten finishes in 30 career races.  The man is money at this track.  Gordon will get your fantasy NASCAR team a lot of points this weekend.

Ryan Newman
Newman has been pretty hot at Darlington in recent years as well.  He’s collected 5 top ten finishes in the last 6 races here with 3 of them being top five finishes.  In his 12 career races at Darlington Newman has 6 top five and 8 top ten finishes.  He doesn’t have a win yet, but has been close with a second and third place finish.  Newman has missed the chase in 4 of the last 5 seasons.  He’s driving like he did 6 – 9 years ago and could get his “Rocket Man” nickname back if he keeps it up.  He’s looked good and it seems he will all season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I don’t think there’s a driver that has surprised me more this season than Dale Earnhardt Jr.  (Yes, A.J. Allmendinger is a close 2nd.)  I wrote Earnhardt off as someone who would fall into mediocrity and not be a contender.  Boy, has he proven me wrong on that!  4th in the point standings and going to a track that he has some success; Jr. looks to be in a good position.  Earnhardt has also been one of the hotter drivers over the last five races, averaging a 9.2 place finish (5th best among all drivers).  Close to 61.5% of you had Jr. on your fantasy NASCAR team last week, and I don’t see a reason to take him off now.

Dark Horse: Martin Truex Jr.
After making the chase in 2007 Truex finished 15 in the standings in 2008, which wasn’t too bad.  Then starting in 2009 things started to get worse.  He finished 23rd in points, and followed that up with a 22nd place finish in 2010.  So far 2011 is following the same trend as he finds himself 22nd in points again.  Truex definitely qualifies as a dark horse for this race.  The good news is that he is averaging a 12.8 place finish at Darlington and has 4 top 15 finishes in 5 career races.  He probably won’t contend for the win, but should challenge for a top ten and probably finish around the top 15.

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One Response to “Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway”

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