Sunday’s Goodyear 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) favorites, sleepers, fades and track trends for Darlington


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 5th spring race (2020 has 2 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.
  • Prior to last year, the last eight winners had come from a starting spot outside of the top five. Three of the last four have since come from the top four.
  • Every race winner at Darlington during the stage era have scored stage points. In fact, in eight of the 10 races, the eventual winner finished in the top 5 in the second stage (Logano was 3rd last year and Jones 9th in the Southern 500)
  • What’s odd is, the race winner at Darlington has never won a stage either.
  • Last September, Erik Jones gave Chevrolet their first Darlington win since 2014 (1-for-12).
  • Prior to a last year, Toyota had won 3 of the last 4 including 7 of the last 10 overall. They went 0-for-2 last season.
  • Expect the race to end in regulation. We’ve had no overtimes in the last 12 races there including 13 of the last 14 (since 2013).
  • There’s a reason to why five of the last seven races at Darlington have all been won by a driver who’s now in their 40’s. 13 of the last 15 races all saw veterans win. Erik Jones is the lone exception.
  • Toyota drivers combined to lead 92 of 293 laps in this very race last May and if not for a late race crash that pretty much took out their entire fleet while running in the top five, they like would have won that day. Then, in the Southern 500, both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had problems while leading in the closing laps.
  • Toyota drivers led 213 of 367 laps that night for which combined, they totaled 46.2% (305 of 660) of all laps led here a year ago.
  • Which leads me to wonder if they’ll dominate this weekend. Especially since they’ve won in three of the last five weeks including each of the last two.
  • In the five races to start the season, they had led just 94 laps and 11 combined Top-10 finishes. In the last eight races, they’ve led 687 laps, won four times from four different drivers and taken 20 top-10’s. That’s 88% of their season laps led and 64.5% of their Top-10 finishes in this stretch.
  • On the flipside, The Ford camp’s biggest deficit is being shown right now. They struggle on intermediate tracks. In Las Vegas, they led just 14 laps all day and had only two Top-10 finishers. Last Sunday in Kansas, they had just one car finish in the Top-10 and led nine total laps all afternoon.
  • By comparison, Toyota has led 164 laps on these two tracks while Chevrolet has paced the field for an astounding 351 laps.
  • While Darlington is a tad smaller (1.33 miles) in comparison to Kansas and Las Vegas (1.5-miles each), will they once again struggle?
  • Ford has led 50.8% of all their laps this season on the three superspeedways. They led 122 laps in Daytona, 221 laps in Atlanta and 88 more in Talladega. Take out the 296 laps led in Martinsville, they led just 121 combined laps everywhere else.


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.

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


Kyle Larson (+550)

Yes, he was 36th and 12th last year. But I also can’t ignore three straight runner-up’s prior and two third place finishes in a three race span even before that. He led 45 laps in 2016, 124 laps in 2017, 284 in 2018, 44 in 2019, 156 in the 2021 Southern 500 and 30 in this race last year. All he’s missing is a win…

In the five races that Larson hasn’t had any issues, he’s had a pair of wins, two runner-up finishes and a fourth place run. Plus, Darlington is the fifth track this season that we’ve raced on that we’ll also race at in the playoffs. In the previous four races on these types of tracks this season, Larson has an average finish of 2.25.

Denny Hamlin (+550)

Hamlin has nine top 10 finishes in his last 12 “Lady in Black” starts including eight of them being in the top five. He’s a four-time Darlington winner and also has four runner-ups there too which includes the last time out. Five of his last seven tries have seen him also finish inside of the Top-5 there including three of the last four. 16 overall Top-10 finishes in 21 starts with 792 laps led. He has three Top-5 finishes in the last four weeks. He had none in the previous eight.

Martin Truex Jr. (+700)

He led 248 laps in his dominating Mother’s Day performance in 2021. He backed that up with finishing fourth in that year’s Southern 500. However, a year ago, he finished just 24th and 31st respectively and didn’t see either finish. The thing is, he had a top five car in both races though too. He crashed up front in the closing laps of this race last year while being in the Top-5, then blew a water pump while running in the Top-3 of the Southern 500.

Truex 196 laps in the 2020 Southern 500, those 248 in the 2021 spring race, one lap in the 2021 Southern 500, 28 laps in last year’s spring race and 48 in last year’s Southern 500. He has four Top-8 finishes in the last five weeks. He had just one in the previous seven.

Tyler Reddick (+850)

This track was made for Reddick. Running the high line right up against the wall. Reddick was second and third respectively here a year ago and now is with Toyota power.

William Byron (+900)

He led laps in both races last year including what was a Top-2 result in this very race before Joey Logano shoved him out of the lead late. Byron has three Top-8 finishes in his last five Darlington starts. Byron has also improved his finishing position in each of the last four weeks (23rd to 7th to 4th to 3rd to…). On playoff tracks that we’ve raced on this season, Byron has two wins and a third place result.

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 04: Erik Jones, driver of the #43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory ane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 04, 2022 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


Christopher Bell (+1000)

Bell had one of the better cars on this track last year. He started third and second respectively while finishing sixth and fifth.

Ross Chastain (+1100)

He wrecked while leading last year. He was third in the 2021 Southern 500. However, what scares me about Chastain is, three of his last four finishes here have seen him finish 15th or worse too. Still, he’s the points leader for good measure and has the capability to win here. Why not take him for these odds?

Joey Logano (+1200)

He won this race last year (107 laps led) to go along with being fourth (64 laps led) in the Southern 500. Logano has five Top-8 finishes in his last six Darlington starts and six career Top-5 finishes there.

Brad Keselowski (+5000)

Worth a look. The former Southern 500 winner (2018) has six Top-11 finishes in his last nine Darlington tries.

Erik Jones (+6500)

He won the Southern 500 for Petty GMS last year for what was his second win in the prestigious race. Seven Top-8 finishes in 10 tries gives me a big reason to take him.

Austin Dillon (+10000)

A pair of top 5’s including a runner-up in 2020 as well as five top 11’s in his last eight at Darlington puts him on this list. He was ninth and 17th last year.

Michael McDowell (+15000)

He was an impressive seventh and sixth respectively on this track a year ago.

Justin Haley (+15000)

Third in this very race last year. While he was 19th in the Southern 500, take a risk.


Kyle Busch (+900)

The bad? Three consecutive sub-30th place finishes. However, he had a Top-5 car in both races last year but crashed after leading 19 laps while running there in this race and had an engine blow while leading late in the Southern 500 in a race that he led 155 laps in. Prior to that was 10 Top-7 finishes in 12 Darlington starts. The only problem is that he’s had just one win in 22 starts and that coming back in 2008. This car finished in the top three in both races last year. Also, Busch has finished 14th or worse in five of the last six weeks on the season including four of the last five being 21st or worse. The only exception is his Talladega win. Also, Busch has finished 14th or worse in five of the last six weeks on the season including four of the last five being 21st or worse. The only exception is his Talladega win.

Chase Elliott (+1200)

Yes he could have won the second race of the 2020 race weekend. Yes, he led 114 laps and was crashed with Martin Truex Jr. while battling for the lead in that year’s Southern 500 with 15 laps remaining. Still, Elliott is 0-for-12 at Darlington in Cup and among his three career Top-5’s, none have seen him finish better than fourth either. Four of his last six finishes there have seen him finish 20th or worse.

Kevin Harvick (+1200)

He won NASCAR’s first race back during the pandemic at Darlington back on May 17th 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. Harvick has 13 Top-10 finishes in his last 14 Darlington starts including eight of his last nine being in the Top-6. Harvick, led 63 total laps here in 17 starts at Darlington with RCR. He’s already led 750 in 13 starts with SHR. The only issue with him is, he has just one Top-5 finish in the last eight weeks and no finish better than fifth all season.

Ryan Blaney (+2200)

Not a strong suit for him. Just one Top-10 finish in 12 tries. He was 17th and 13th respectively last year.

Bubba Wallace (+2800)

Just one Top-10 finish in nine Darlington starts. That came last year (9th in Southern 500). He was 27th in this race a year ago too.

Daniel Suarez (+4500)

10th last year in this very race but that’s his best finish in 10 Darlington tries. Five of his last seven have seen him finish 18th or worse. Eight of his last nine on the season have seen him finish 15th or worse too.

Chris Buescher (+7000)

While he was ninth in both races in 2021, he was only 16th and 26th a year ago giving him five of his last seven Darlington finishes being 16th or worse.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+10000)

Yes he was eighth here last year, but that’s his only Top-10 finish in 14 Darlington starts too. He was also 35th in a crash in last year’s Southern 500.

Chase Briscoe (+10000)

He won an Xfinity Series race here in emotional fashion in 2020 but was 11th, 19th, 20th and 27th respectively in his four career Cup Series starts. He’s finished 30th and 32nd in the last two weeks.

Austin Cindric (+15000)

18th and 16th respectively last year. His last six weeks have seen him finish 19th or worse too including four straight weeks of finishing 26th or worse.

Aric Almirola (+15000)

11th in both races a year ago, but 0 top 5’s in 15 Darlington starts and just 2 top 10’s too.

AJ Allmendinger (+15000)

Last raced a Cup car here in 2018. He was 22nd that night. He has two finishes better than 20th in 11 tries.

Harrison Burton (+50000)

14th and 21st last year.

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