TRACK: Darlington Raceway (1.33 mile oval). DISTANCE: 293 Laps — STAGE 1: 90 Laps, STAGE 2: 95 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 108 Laps, MILES (400.238 Miles)
Favorites – A 1st time winner on the season?
He won NASCAR’s first race back during the pandemic at Darlington on May 17. Harvick, was third in the second race. He then won the Southern 500 for 2 wins in 3 Darlington starts a year ago. He also has nine consecutive top 10 finishes on the track including eight of them being inside of the top five. He led 63 total laps here in 16 starts at Darlington with RCR. He’s already led 719 in 10 starts with SHR. Is this his time to get going on the season? He enters coming off of a runner-up last Sunday in Kansas.
He won the second Darlington race back in May. Hamlin, has six top 10 finishes in his last eight “Lady in Black” starts including five of them being in the top five. He’s a three time Darlington winner and also has three runner-ups there too.
He was runner-up in the second May race at Darlington and has two top three finishes in his last four Darlington starts. Furthermore, he has nine top seven finishes in his last 11 starts on the track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame.” He’s coming off of a win last Sunday.
He also was fourth in the first race at Darlington on May 17 and if not for being wrecked by Kyle Busch on May 20, he likely would have won. He then dominated in leading 114 laps during the Southern 500 but crashed while battling with Martin Truex Jr. for the win with 15 to go.
Keselowski was third, fourth and 11th in the 3 Darlington races last year. Prior to that, he had won two of his previous three starts on the Lady In Black with a fifth place run sandwiched between. That’s five top 5’s in his last six Darlington tries.
We’re back at Darlington on Mothers Day weekend again. It’s the third time though since 2004 that we’ll race on the Lady in Black during the spring. Two of those came last year. But, here we are for the 12th race of the season and so far, we’ve had 10 different winners in the previous 11. The thing is, the favorites for this race, most haven’t won this season so we have a great opportunity to grow this win list for 2021 even further on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick won 2 of the 3 Darlington races last year. Denny Hamlin won the other. Harvick, has led 719 laps in 10 Darlington starts with SHR but had only 63 laps led in his career on the Lady in Black prior.
Hamlin, has two top fives in his last three Darlington tries and if not for an issue on his final pit stop in the Southern 500, it would be 3 straight.
But, you also can’t overlook Hendrick Motorsports either. 3 of their 4 drivers have won this year and they’ve been good recently at Darlington too.
Alex Bowman was sixth in the Southern 500 and has two top sixes in his last three tries. William Byron was fifth last year in the Southern 500 while Kyle Larson with Chip Ganassi Racing had two straight top three results and three in his last four overall.
Then you have Chase Elliott who should have won the second Darlington race last May as well as the Southern 500 too. This could be his opportunity to win this season.
The eventual race winner during the stage era at Darlington has finished in the top 5 in 5 of the 6 races in the second stage. The thing is, they’ve not won a stage either though.