NASCAR makes its return to racing this weekend with a NASCAR Cup Series race that will serve as the first of seven national series races over an 11-day span at two different tracks throughout May. The race at the historic South Carolina track will be held without fans in attendance and is slated to be NASCAR’s first on-track action in more than two months as the sport and world have been on pause during COVID-19.
Following the initial race back on Sunday, the Cup Series will again visit Darlington for a midweek race under the lights three days later. The May schedule also includes the crown jewel Coca-Cola 600 in its traditional Memorial Day Weekend home for the 60th consecutive season, plus other midweek races in prime time.
Four weeks of NASCAR action were completed prior to the outbreak before races at Atlanta, Homestead, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Dover and Martinsville were later postponed.
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That break though has allowed Ryan Newman to be able to make his return to the seat of his No. 6 Ford. Newman, makes his return to the car this weekend following a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500 in which he was leading coming to the checkered flag. After recovering from the injuries sustained in the crash, Newman was cleared for racing activity on April 28 and granted a playoff waiver from NASCAR after missing three races (Las Vegas, Fontana, Phoenix).
As a result, Newman will make his 22nd Cup Series start at Darlington on Sunday, a track he has 13 top-10s at with seven top-five finishes. He has an average finish of 12.6 – his second best of any track on the circuit behind only Richmond (12.3).
“I’m so excited and thankful to be healthy to get back into the race car,” said Newman prior to Sunday’s race. “I am thankful for all the people and support that have prayed for me and given me a multitude of miracles. I cannot think of a better track to start back at than Darlington, my favorite track and one we feel confident in. I’m excited to get back behind the wheel of the Oscar Mayer Ford.”
Newman has finished top-10 in 62 percent of the races at the 1.366-mile track, including a runner-up finish in is first ever-Southern 500 back in 2002. Dating back seven events, Newman has five finishes of 13th or better including four top-10s.
He also has one career pole at ‘The Lady in Black’, which came back in the 2003 Southern 500. Overall he has an average starting position of 10.6 with 13 top-10 starts, eight of which were inside the top five.
Furthermore, Newman also made five starts at Darlington in the Xfinity Series, earning the pole in each of the first two events in 2001. He went on to finish fourth in the 2001 fall race – his best career Xfinity result – with an overall finish of 13.6 in the series at the famed track.
Newman will be working with his crew chief Scott Graves again. Graves, will call his fifth NCS race at Darlington atop the pit box. In four prior events, Graves has an average finish of 27th (two starts with Daniel Suarez, one each with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Ryan Newman).
In Xfinity Series action, Graves led Suarez to a third-place finish in 2016 after starting fifth. A year prior, he and Chris Buescher paired up for a fifth-place result.