NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Darlington Track Trends, Race Preview, etc

Spring Race: 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)

Summer Race: TRACK: Darlington Raceway (1.33 mile oval). DISTANCE: 367 Laps — STAGE 1: 115 Laps, STAGE 2: 115 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 137 Laps, MILES (501 Miles)

One of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR schedule. This year will be the 122nd and 123rd races on the South Carolina race track with the first coming on Sept. 4, 1950.

  • Just the 4th spring race at Darlington since 2005. From 1957 through 2004, NASCAR came to Darlington every year during the spring as well as Labor Day weekend too.
  • Only the third time in 17 years that we’ve had multiple races run on the 1.33-mile South Carolina oval.
  • Prior to last year, the last eight winners had come from a starting spot outside of the top five. Then both came from 4th and 2nd respectively.
  • Every race winner at Darlington during the stage era have scored stage points. In fact, in 7 of the 8 races, the eventual winner finished in the top 5 in the second stage.
  • What’s odd is, the race winner at Darlington has never won a stage either. 3 of the 7 races saw someone sweep both stages, but in neither event did they win the race in the end either.
  • Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 4 of the last 5 at Darlington including 5 of the last 8 overall.
  • The final green flag run to the checkered flag has been at least 34 laps in 6 of the last 8 races at Darlington including 3 of the 8 being 86 laps or longer.

TRACK COMPARISONS

Similar to Homestead and the old Atlanta, but this racing package and not as much room to pass with, makes this race tough to watch. With a less downforce package, cars slip and slide around which in turn allows for passing. The high downforce package makes cars more stable. This is a pit call race with varying strategies like Homestead and Atlanta too.

Prime Sports NASCAR Preview Show



Kyle Larson (+500)

He’s finished runner-up in his last three Darlington starts including four straight top three’s and five in his last six Darlington tries in general. He has 4 top 6 finishes in the last 5 weeks of the season too.

Martin Truex Jr. (+700)

He’s won 4 of the last 6 stages in Darlington including leading 248 laps in his win on Mothers Day weekend last year. He also led 196 laps in the 2020 Southern 500 and nearly won again that year too. Truex, was fourth in last year’s Southern 500 for his fourth top 10 in his last five Darlington tries.

Chase Elliott (+800)

Stats say just 2 top 5’s in 10 Darlington starts. That’s not ideal. But, where he makes my list is, you have to dig deeper. Elliott, was fourth in the first race back at Darlington in 2020 and if not for being wrecked by Kyle Busch a few days later, he likely would have won then too. He also dominated in leading 114 laps during the Southern 500 of that year but crashed while battling with Martin Truex Jr. for the win with 15 to go. He very well could have had 3 top 5’s in his last 5 starts there. Last year, he was 7th and 31st respectively.

Denny Hamlin (+800)

Hamlin, won the last race at Darlington for last year’s Southern 500. He has 8 top 10 finishes in his last 10 “Lady in Black” starts including 7 of them being in the top five. He’s a four time Darlington winner and also has three runner-ups there too.

Kyle Busch (+1000)

He has three top three finishes in his last six Darlington starts. Furthermore, he has 10 top seven finishes in his last 13 starts on the track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame.” On the season, he has 5 straight top 10s.

Sleepers:

Ross Chastain (+1200)

He looked good in a 3rd place finish in last year’s Southern 500. He was also runner-up in the 2020 Xfinity Series race on Labor Day weekend too. Chastain, has 2 straight to 3 finishes and 3 top 5s in the last 5 weeks overall.

William Byron (+1200)

He has 2 top 5’s in his last 3 Darlington starts.

Alex Bowman (+1400)

Bowman had 2 top six finishes in 3 Darlington starts in 2020 but was only 17th and 26th last year to go along with being 23rd and 18th prior. Which one do you get here? He also has a top 10 in all but 1 race the last 6 weeks.

Kevin Harvick (+1600)

He won NASCAR’s first race back during the pandemic at Darlington back on May 17 in 2020. Harvick, was third in the second race that year. He then won the Southern 500 for 2 wins in 3 Darlington starts for the 2020 season. He also had nine consecutive top 10 finishes on the track including eight of them being inside of the top five before last year’s May’s race which saw him finish sixth. He was fifth in the Southern 500 for his 11th straight top 10 finish. Harvick, led 63 total laps here in 16 starts at Darlington with RCR. He’s already led 729 in 13 starts with SHR.

Tyler Reddick (+2000)

This track was made for Reddick. Running the high line right up against the wall. Reddick had a top 10 in the day race of May 2020 at the Lady in Black too.

Austin Dillon (+3000)

2 top 5’s including a runner-up in 2020 as well as 4 top 11’s in his last 6 at Darlington puts him on this list.

Kurt Busch (+3000)

Busch has six top eight finishes in his last eight Darlington starts.

Christopher Bell (+3000)

For some reason he’s struggled on this track. He was 24th, 11th, 34th, 14th and 20th respectively in five tries.

Chase Briscoe (+4000)

Worth a play. He won an Xfinity Series race here in emotional fashion in 2020 as well as being 11th in May of 2021 in the Cup Series.

Cole Custer (+20000)

He’s 0-for-5 in top 10’s at the Lady in Black but he does have 2 top 12’s in his last 3 there including an 11th place run in last year’s Southern 500.

Fades

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

Not a strong suit for him. His 8th place run last May was his 1st and only top 10 finish in 10 Darlington starts.

Joey Logano (+1400)

He has 3 top 8’s in his last 4 tries at Darlington but also Logano only has had two top five finishes in his last eight there too.

Brad Keselowski (+5000)

Just 2 top 5’s in his last 6 at Darlington including 24th and 7th a year ago.

Aric Almirola (+8000)

0 top 5’s in 13 Darlington starts and just 2 top 10’s too.

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 09: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 09, 2021 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Goodyear 400 Race preview

If you base this race on past history, then look no further than Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. To end up in victory lane Sunday. Darlington is a grown-up race in the sense you have to take care of your tires. The veterans have the experience in doing so.

These 3 40+ year old drivers took 3 of the top 4 finishing spots in Richmond, a track surface similar to Darlington last month and have combined to win the last 5 races at Darlington including 7 of the last 9 overall.

However…Harvick has 1 top 5 finish all season. Hamlin has 1 top 10 all year. Truex has no finishes better than 4th in 2022.

Harvick (stats above) is still +1600 so I don’t think you punt on him necessarily but Truex and Hamlin you have to choose carefully. Truex, has won 4 of the last 6 stages in Darlington including leading 248 laps in his win on Mothers Day weekend last year. He led 196 laps in the 2020 Southern 500 and nearly won again that year. Truex, was fourth in last year’s Southern 500 for his fourth top 10 in his last five Darlington tries.

I just keep going back to those lack of finishes this season and think that holds more weight so I avoided him up top.

Harvick, hangs the banner for the Ford camp because Team Penske statistically always struggles here. Toyota has 2 wins all season and looks down in the speed department.

Does this open the door for Chevrolet now?

Kyle Larson has 3 straight runner-ups at Darlington, but is he ready to give Chevrolet their first trip to victory lane on the Lady in Black since 2013. They’re 0-for-10 since. Hendrick Motorsports has all 4 drivers in the playoffs and can experiment now.

That then could open the door to Trackhouse Racing or RCR.

Darlington was the place that started the big break for Ross Chastain (stats above) in 2019. His teammate Daniel Suarez (3rd in 2 straight NXS starts) is good here too.

RCR may find victory lane as well. Austin Dillon (stats above) and Tyler Reddick are great at this track too and have been knocking at the door of victory lane all year. They have combined to score 4 top 5’s in the last 6 races on the season with 3 of the last 4 weeks having one of them finishing 2nd or 3rd.

This is a different Darlington again. This new car you can hang it all out more which means maybe this race favors drivers with dirt racing experience. Larson (5-1), Reddick (20-1) and Dillon (30-1) have that. So does a sleeper like Christopher Bell (stats above).

Of Note

Expect the race to end in regulation. We’ve had no overtimes in the last 10 races there including 11 of the last 12 (since 2013).


Key Stat

Chevrolet hasn’t won a Darlington race since 2014 (0-for-10). Toyota has won 3 of the last 4 including 7 of the last 10 overall there.

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