NASCAR Picks: Bristol Motor Speedway

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After a week of rest and relaxation the drivers of the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series will head down south to race one of the last two races before the playoffs begin. There are basically two playoff spots left that are up for grabs as it looks like Chase Elliott is pretty safe as he is nestled into the 14th position in the standings with 711 points. Matt Kenseth (703 points) and Jamie McMurray (700 points) hold down the final two playoffs spots while Clint Bowyer and his 642 points are on the outside looking in.

Bowyer almost needs a win to get in as the 58 points difference to the 16th and final transfer spot seems to be a long road to hoe to get in just on points alone.  With just two races left it is Kenseth and McMurray who are in danger of getting bumped from the playoffs if we get a first time winner in either of the next two races. Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with the aforementioned Bowyer are all below the cut line and have not won a race this season. Any one of these drivers are capable of winning one of the nest two races and push their way into the 16 driver playoff field.

If you are going to watch the 68th Annual Bojangles’ Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway you may think you are watching a replay from the early 1990’s as it is ‘Throwback Weekend’ in which a few cars will have the cars painted up from years past. I was not a big Rusty Wallace fan back in the day but it will be cool to see Brad Kesolowski don the tributary colors of the Miller Genuine Draft Ford. Both Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon will honor the late Dale Earnhardt as both of those cars will have the ‘Wrangler’ paint scheme that he had used to capture rookie of the year honors back in 1979. There are plenty of others so hopefully one of your favorite drivers from the past will be honored in that way this weekend.

The car I will be rooting for however will be the #23 Corey Lajoie as he will don the colors that Davey Allison used back in his ‘Busch Series’ days. Every Nascar fan has ‘their guy’ that they root for and mine was the driver of the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford Thunderbird before his untimely death back in July of 1993.

Another car that isn’t being represented is the one of ‘Handsome’ Harry Gant who happens to be the driver that one the Southern 500 that I was in attendance for back on September 1st 1991. Little did I know that while walking out of the grandstands that day that I would bear witness to one of the most amazing feats in Nascar history over the next three weeks. Gant had gone on to win the next three race as well as two Busch races to give him an astonishing six wins in four weeks. As luck would have it, that was the only time I attended four races in four weeks and I consider myself lucky to have witnessed the birth of ‘Mr. September’.

It seems that these days every racetrack has a nickname, but Darlington Raceway is lucky enough to have two of them. ‘The Lady in Black’ and ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’ both allude to the fact that it is very difficult to maneuver around the one and a third mile oval. It will take at least 367 laps to complete the race which means we need to look at the top of the grid to get our extra bonus points. I guess that’s enough rambling for now so let’s get down to the business.

As with any weekend on the Nascar circuit selecting either Martin Truex Jr ($10,700), Kyle Busch ($10,600) or Kyle Larson ($10,300) over on DraftKings is always a good idea and if you can fit two of them onto your roster, all the better. There is a reason why these three drivers are the only three whose salary is up over the 10k mark as they seem to put up big points more often than not. Busch has six top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts here in Darlington while Truex clocks in with five but the most interesting stat here is that Larson has started just three races here and has finished thid, 10th and eighth respectively. Truex also leads the circuit with 16 top 10 so far this season. It’s no wonder that all thgree drivers will start the race in the first two rows.

Denny Hamlin ($9,900) is the next in line where salary is concerned and for all intents and purposes should find his way onto a few of your rosters this weekend. He not only posted top five speeds in both practices he also won the pole for the Xfinity race and has accumulated eight top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts here at Darlington. The driver of the #11 Sports Clips Toyota will start from the ninth position for Sunday night’s race.

Kevin Harvick ($9,700) has won the pole for the 68th Annual Bojangle’s Southern 500 and should be one of the favorites to win the race as well as rack up a few bonus points. The driver of the #4 Busch Beer Throwback Ford has finished in the top five in his last four starts here in South Carolina which includes taking the checkered flag back in 2014.

Joey Logano ($8,600) is one of the few drivers that could possibly win his way into the playoffs. As I have mentioned many times before, he already had won a race earlier in the year at Richmond but was stripped of the win after failing post-race inspection. In his eight starts here at Darlington he hadn’t chalked up a top five finish until the last two starts where he finished in fifth place last year and fourth place the year before. His practice times were nothing to write home about but was able to qualify the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford in the fourth row and will start the race from the eighth position on the grid.

Jamie McMurray ($8,500) is in quite a predicament as he seemingly has to dodge two bullets to squeeze into the playoffs. Those bullets would of course be a first time winner over the next two races. If that that would happen to transpire that would knock him right into 17th place and out of the playoffs. Now of course he could win a race and make this a moot point but has not even cracked the top 10 in his last five starts here. He has however finished in the mid-teens in his last four starts here at Darlington and will need to do that today to assure that he stays in the point race. The driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet will start fifth when the green flag drops tomorrow night at 6pm.

Ryan Newman ($8,100) will start from the 17th position as both he and Matt Kenseth ($9,500) each have seven top 10 finishes in the last 10 races here in the Southern 500.

Here is the section where we usually try to find a cheap driver or two that will help us get the drivers who will lead a lot of laps onto our roster. A lot of folks like Danica Patrick ($6,200) on a weekly basis because of her salary but I think I’d stay away here as she is sure to be a few laps down as she starts from the 33rd spot on the grid on Sunday night.

The question becomes, who is the ‘safest play’ and who is the ‘riskiest’ play. The safest play may just be Michael McDowell ($6,100) as he has been able to put together four top 20 finishes in his last five races this season. Furthermore he has finished 27th and 28th in the two of the five races he hasn’t crashed in here in Darlington. He will start from the 30th position when the green flag drops on Sunday.

As far as a ‘high risk’ pick we have to set our gaze toward the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet of Austin Dillon ($7,400). He has finished outside the top 20 in four of the last five races this season and will start from the 13th position on Sunday night. He has a lot of spots to lose but could pay off dividends if he can keep it together for 367 laps.

That will about do it until next week. Give me a follow on twitter @elctrceye and as always, good luck in your contests this weekend. ~ Tom aka @elctrceye on Twitter