Monday, September 20, 2021

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OPR Staff and Fan Fantasy Picks for NNS and NSCS at Darlington Raceway

As if the challenges that the drivers faced last weekend in Texas weren’t enough, both the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series head to the toughest track on the circuit – Darlington Raceway. The egg-shaped oval will challenge the drivers to their limits as it known for being “too tough to tame”.

Each staff member was requested to submit three Sprint Cup Series picks for the event, while also submitting three Nationwide Series picks (one must be a series regular), which are also due on Thursday night. The double dippers for Darlington are: Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch.

Beyond staff members, we also challenged the fans to get involved and see if they could beat the staff. So with that said, here are the picks that the staff and fans made.


Nationwide Series

Assistant Editor: Ashley McCubbin
Pick #1: Kyle Busch – 
Everytime Busch is in a Nationwide Series race, he is a factor to win. Need I say more?
Pick #2: Kevin Harvick – In each start this year with JR Motorports in the Nationwide Series, Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five and been a factor to win. It’s only a matter of time till it happens.
Pick #3: Chase Elliott – This season, Elliott has driven beyond most rookie’s in ability an finishes with top 10s in every race since Daytona. Coming off of his big win at Texas Motor Speedway, look for this to continue.

Journalist – Tayler Stiles
Pick 1 – Kevin Harvick – This year, in all the races he has run for JR Motorsports, Kevin Harvick has run astoundingly well, and I don’t expect tomorrow to be any different.
Pick 2 – Joey Logano – Coming off a win in the Sprint Cup Series last weekend at Texas, Joey Logano will be returning to the #22 Ford this weekend at Darlington, and as usual, I expect the 22 to either be leading throughout most of the race, or winning it.
Pick 3 – Regan Smith – It was only a few years ago in the Sprint Cup series, when Regan Smith drove to victory at Darlington while Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were duking out. It was a surprise victory, as well as a very well deserved one. Obviously, Smith knows what he is doing at the ‘Track too Tough to Tame.’ Expect him to be consistent, if not winning this race.

Journalist name: Marshall Gabell
Picks: Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson

Photographer: Ron Costigan
Picks: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott

Fan #1: Terry Wagner
Picks: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne

Fan #2: Christina Cordner
Picks: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Brian Scott

Fan #3: Billy Zardo
Picks: Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon

Fan #4: Billy Stiles Jr.
Picks: Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne


Sprint Cup Series

Assistant Editor: Ashley McCubbin
Pick #1: Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch has shown time and time again how strong he is as a driver and Darlington is no exception. Busch took the win last year after getting into the wall 10 times, and expect the same results this year.
Pick #2: Jimmie Johnson – It seems whenever the 48 team faces adversity, they come back twice as strong and looking for vengeance. That’s exactly what will happen following their weekend at Texas.
Pick #3:  Jeff Gordon – In 33 races at Darlington Raceway, Gordon has seven wins and 19 top fives. Being the track that is too tough to tame, look for experience to pay off this weekend.

Journalist: Tayler Stiles
Pick #1 – Jimmie Johnson – After a rough couple of weeks, we are all expecting 6 time to rebound and really start checking out in the wins category. When will that week be? Maybe it will be this week.
Pick 2 – Matt Kenseth – Another big contender in the points and wins category last year, Matt Kenseth has been off to a slow start this year as well. I believe he will have a good week this week, and maybe even be in contention to win it this weekend.
Pick 3 – Denny Hamlin – Fortunately, he hasn’t promised any body he is going to win this race, and that may be for the best. Considering how well that Martinsville bet went, but as good as he is a Darlington (some of the best stats in the field) it is almost guaranteed Denny Hamlin will do well.

Photographer: Ronald Costigan
Pick #1: Matt Kenseth
– Kenseth is a solid driver and his consistency will pay off this weekend in the form of a solid top five finish.
Pick #2: Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Coming off a dismal weekend, Earnhardt Jr. will be looking to put himself back up near the top of the running order. The No. 88 team has shown speed all year so far and their experience at Texas shouldn’t throw them off base.
Pick #3: Jimmie Johnson – Johnson has the second highest average finish of active driver at Darlington with 8.8 to go with his three wins. Look for Johnson to crack victory lane this weekend and put himself in the Chase.

Journalist name: Marshall Gabell
Picks: Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne

Fan #1: Terry Wagner
Picks: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle

Fan #2: Billy Zardo
Picks: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch

Fan #3: Christina Cordner
Picks: Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards

Fan #4: Billy Stiles Jr.
Picks: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.


Think you can beat the journalists? Send your picks to me at and we’ll see how you do.

Current Points
Those who missed Texas, they received an automatic value that is 10 points minus the lowest scored participant.

Nationwide Series Points:

  1. Tayler Styles and Ashley McCubbin – 132
  2. Marshall Gabell – 120
  3. Terry Wagner, Billy Zardo, Christina Cordner, Ronald Costigan, Billy Stiles Jr. – 110
Name Race Participated Wins Top 5 Top 10
Marshall Gabell 1 0 2 3
Tayler Styles 1 1 3 3
Ashley McCubbin 1 1 3 3

Sprint Cup Points:

  1. Marshall Gabell – 94
  2. Ashley McCubbin – 62
  3. Tayler Stiles – 58
  4. Terry Wagner, Billy Zardo, Christina Cordner, Ronald Costigan, Billy Stiles Jr. – 48
Name Race Participated Wins Top 5 Top 10
Marshall Gabell 1 0 0 2
Tayler Styles 1 0 0 1
Ashley McCubbin 1 0 1 1


  1. Marshall Gabell – 120+94=214
  2. Ashley McCubbin – 132+62=194
  3. Tayler Styles – 132+58=190
  4. Terry Wagner, Billy Zardo, Christina Cordner, Ronald Costigan, Billy Stiles Jr. – 180
Name Race Participated Wins Top 5 Top 10
Marshall Gabell 2 0 2 5
Tayler Styles 2 1 3 4
Ashley McCubbin 2 1 4 4


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