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NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Darlington Raceway

The Next Gen car is a collaboration of the brightest engineering minds in racing, with contributions coming from all sides of the NASCAR and automotive industries. The design of the Next Gen car gives the drivers greater control while putting an emphasis back on race strategies, team personnel and vehicle setups. While wind tunnels and computer simulations play an important role in racing, we want the competition to remain focused on the racetrack.

Technology is at the forefront of the Next Gen car. The platform implements new technologies that are more relevant to what NASCAR manufacturers offer in their street cars, as well as technology that will bring fans closer to the sport than ever before. While the current car was designed to give Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota their unique identities on the track, the Next Gen car goes much further in returning the ‘stock car’ look to NASCAR.

The Next Gen car has given manufacturers greater latitude to incorporate features into the race car body that better replicate the look and feel of the street car. A sleek new design has lowered the greenhouse, shortened the deck lid and widened the track width of the car giving it more of a coupe look. The body is fully symmetrical which will reduce aerodynamic forces and put an emphasis back on race car setup and driver control. The new composite material is more durable and will allow more beating and banging without loss of performance. Plus, new 18″ forged aluminum wheels and wider Goodyear tires better replicate what is found on passenger cars and will allow for softer tire compounds.

But it’s not just the styling that been taken to the next level. Upgraded specs to match modern passenger vehicle technology including independent rear suspension, rack and pinion steering and larger brakes were also added. A new transaxle combines the transmission and rear gears into one package with an eye on the future – the ability to incorporate electrification. The bottom of the car is sealed with an underwing and rear diffuser which will help with handling in traffic and reduce “dirty air”. Hood louvers will allow teams to maximize engine performance independent of aerodynamics. And a redesigned chassis features new front and rear bumpers for increased safety. Both the front and rear clips bolt on to the center section for easier serviceability and damage repair. And to top it all off, upgraded car connectivity will allow for an in-car camera in every vehicle, with the ability to bring fans more real-time data in the future.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Goodyear 400

The Place: Darlington Raceway

The Date: Sunday, May 9

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.2 miles (293 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 90),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 293)

Throwback Weekend at the historic Darlington Raceway

Nothing better than honoring the past and paying tribute to the folks that paved the way for what we know as the NASCAR Cup Series today. This weekend at Darlington Raceway the NASCAR heroes of today and yesteryear will come together to celebrate Throwback Weekend at as the series competes in the 12th race of the season, the Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Many of the drivers will be paying tribute to the past this weekend with special paint schemes on their cars. For a full detailed list of the paint schemes and car participating select this link and visit’s 2021 Throwback Weekend Photo Gallery.

Darlington Raceway is the perfect stage for Throwback Weekend. The historic 1.366-mile egg-shaped paved oval has hosted 119 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to 1950. The raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950 and hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950. A total of 75 cars competed in the inaugural event and Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph, and the race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph). The race took 6 hours, 38 minutes, and 40 seconds to complete.

Since then, Darlington Raceway has undergone some changes through the years. In 1953, the track was re-measured to 1.375 miles. Then in 1970, the track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race of that season. The track was repaved in 1995 and then again prior to the 2008 season. Over the years the historic facility has become known amongst its competitors as ‘the track too tough to tame’.

In total, the 119 NASCAR Cup Series races has produced 51 different pole winners and 51 different race winners. Six of the 51 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Darlington Raceway are active this weekend – Kevin Harvick (two poles), Kurt Busch (two), Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and William Byron (each have one pole). NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in poles at Darlington with 12 (1967, ’70, ’72, ’73 sweep, ’75 sweep, ’76 sweep, ’77, ’78 and ’82). Kurt Busch (2001, 2013) and Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) lead all active drivers in poles at Darlington with two each.

Of the 51 Cup winners at Darlington Raceway, six are active this weekend.

RankActive Race WinnersWinsSeasons
1Kevin Harvick32020, 2020, 2014
2Denny Hamlin32020, 2017, 2010
3Erik Jones12019
4Brad Keselowski12018
5Martin Truex Jr12016
6Kyle Busch12008

NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in victories at Darlington with 10 wins (1968, ’70, ’72, ’73, ’74, ’76 sweep, ’77, ’79, 80); followed by Dale Earnhardt with nine and Jeff Gordon with seven. Kevin Harvick (2020, 2020, 2014) and Denny Hamlin (2020, 2017, 2010) lead all active drivers in victories at Darlington with three wins each.

This weekend’s Goodyear 400 will be 293 laps (400.2 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first stage will be 90 laps, the second stage will be 95 laps and the final stage will be 108 laps.

The starting lineup for this weekend’s Goodyear 400 was determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will start from the pole and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, the defending winner of this race last season, will join Keselowski on the front row.

Mother’s Day rare extravaganza

This weekend’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (May 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be just the eighth time in NASCAR Cup Series history the series has competed on Mother’s Day.

The most recent winner on Mother’s Day in the NASCAR Cup Series will be in the FOX Sports booth this weekend, NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who won the 2007 rain delayed Darlington Raceway race on May 13, 2007.

NASCAR Hall of Famer inductee Buck Baker holds the record for the most wins on Mother’s Day at two (1956, 1954).

Race WinnerDateTrackHoliday
1Jeff GordonSunday, May 13, 2007Darlington RacewayMother’s Day
2Cale YarboroughSunday, May 14, 1978Talladega SuperspeedwayMother’s Day
3Benny ParsonsSunday, May 9, 1971South Boston SpeedwayMother’s Day
4Bob WelbornSunday, May 11, 1958Greensboro FairgroundsMother’s Day
5Buck BakerSunday, May 13, 1956Orange SpeedwayMother’s Day
6Tim FlockSunday, May 8, 1955Arizona State FairgroundsMother’s Day
7Buck BakerSunday, May 9, 1954Wilson SpeedwayMother’s Day

Count ‘Em: Different winners almost every week

Through 11 races the NASCAR Cup Series has seen 10 different winners making 2021 just the third season in the Modern Era (1972-Present) to accomplish the feat; joining the 2000 and 2003 seasons (each with 10 winners). Will we see an 11th winner in 12 races this weekend?

The record in the Modern Era (1972-Present) for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011. Last season the series produced 13 different winners. Since moving to the elimination-style format in the Playoffs in 2014, the most different winners the series has seen in a season is 15 in 2017.

If you anticipate the streak of different winners to keep growing this weekend, you may be right. Of the six former NASCAR Cup Series Darlington Raceway winners entered this weekend three are still looking for their first win of the season; including Denny Hamlin (2010, 2017, 2020), Kevin Harvick (two Darlington wins in 2020, 2014) and Erik Jones (2019). In addition, three other Cup drivers still looking for their first win of 2021 have grabbed wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at 1.366-mile track – Chase Briscoe (2020), Cole Custer (2019) and Chase Elliott (2014).

Of course, we could also possibly see a new first-time NASCAR Cup Series winner this weekend. It has happened before at Darlington. Six drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway: Johnny Mantz (1950), Nelson Stacy (1961), Larry Frank (1962), Terry Labonte (1980), Lake Speed (1988) and Regan Smith (2011).

Hamlin, Elliott, Harvick amongst the winless this season

Three of the biggest names in the NASCAR Cup Series and perennial championship contenders, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, are still looking for their first win of 2021 season and their ticket to the Playoffs.

Last season, Harvick (nine), Hamlin (seven) and Elliott (five) were the three winningest drivers of the year; combining to visit Victory Lane in 21 of the 36 events (58.3%).

But this season, all three are still looking to capture a win 11 races into the year. All three have come close to winning, Elliott has finished runner-up twice (Daytona 500 and Martinsville), both Hamlin (Richmond) and Harvick (Kansas) have finished second once this season.

But looking to Throwback Weekend at Darlington on Sunday, all that longing for a victory could be vanquished for one of the three. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has made 26 starts at Darlington posting two poles, three wins – including two last season, 11 top fives and 15 top 10s. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has also found success at Darlington, in 17 starts he has one pole, three wins, nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Hamlin has also won five times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Darlington. Hendrick Motorsport’s driver and 2020 series champion Chase Elliott has yet to win in the Cup Series at the ‘Lady in Black’ but does have 2014 win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In total, Elliott has made just eight NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington collecting two top fives and three top 10s.

Playoff Bubble: 15 races to go and just 12 points separate the drivers along the cutline

With 15 races left in the regular season in the NASCAR Cup Series and already 10 different winners banking their spots in the Playoffs with wins, position availability and time are conspiring against the competitors still looking for their ticket to the postseason. Plus, consider the driver standings’ points leader is guaranteed a spot in the Playoffs, that leaves just five positions left on the postseason grid up for grabs as the series heads to Darlington Raceway for Throwback Weekend and the Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May 9 (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin currently holds the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead with a comfortable 87 points up on second place Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin has three wins at Darlington including one last season, and most likely intends to add his name to this season’s wins list this weekend.

But if you look by the Playoff outlook cutline, from Austin Dillon in position 14th to Daniel Suárez in 22nd, just 95 points separate the nine positions with 15 races to go.

The points tighten up considerably between Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto in 16th position – the final Playoff transfer spot – and Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver and 2004 series champion Kurt Busch in the 17th position – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff – with just 12 points separating them. DiBenedetto has been riding a hot streak, posting three consecutive top-10 finishes in his last three starts of the season heading into this weekend at Darlington, but the Grass Valley, California native will have his work cut out for him this weekend as Busch has a slightly better average finish (15.6) than DiBenedetto (21.0).

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Outlook – Drivers Without Wins Following Race No. 11

RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
11Denny Hamlin481055243
12Chase Elliott349011111
13Kevin Harvick348000110
14Austin Dillon29500057
15Chris Buescher25801120
16Matt DiBenedetto25001112
17Kurt Busch238000-12
18Tyler Reddick232000-18
19Ricky Stenhouse Jr.232000-18
20Ryan Newman219000-31
21Bubba Wallace207011-43
22Daniel Suarez200000-50
23* Ryan Preece197000-53
24Ross Chastain196000-54
25Cole Custer191000-59
26Chase Briscoe #172000-78
27Erik Jones169000-81
28Aric Almirola167000-83
29Anthony Alfredo #114000-136
30Corey LaJoie101000-149

Six of the top 10 in average finishing position among active drivers at Darlington are looking for a win this season – Erik Jones (5.2), Denny Hamlin (7.5), Austin Dillon (12.0), Ryan Newman (12.8), Kevin Harvick (12.9) and Tyler Reddick (14.3).

South Carolina’s best in NASCAR

Over the years, a total of 140 different drivers have made at least one NASCAR national series start with their home state recorded as South Carolina.

James Hylton, from Inman, S.C., leads all NASCAR drivers from South Carolina with the most NASCAR national series starts at 607.

Three drivers from South Carolina have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – David Pearson (Spartanburg), Cale Yarborough (Timmonsville), and Cotton Owens (Spartanburg).

In total, 11 drivers from South Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series totaling 239 victories; seven have won in the NASCAR Cup Series.

South Carolina Race WinnersCupXfinityTruckCombined
David Pearson10510106
Cale Yarborough830083
Cotton Owens9009
Tiny Lund5005
James Hylton2002
Johnny Allen1001
Joe Eubanks1001
Larry Pearson015015
Jason Keller010010
Butch Lindley0606
Jeremy Clements0101

Drivers are not the only South Carolinians getting in on the NASCAR national series competition, there are also some great people behind the scenes as well.

NameHometownTeamNumberTeam Duties
Chris JacksonRock Hill, SCStewart-Haas Racing14Rear Tire Changer
Jay MaybryCampobello SCRoush-Fenway17Hauler driver
Marshall M McFaddenDarlington SCStarCom Racing00Jackman
Stan DoolittleNinety-Six, SCStewart-Haas Racing4Jackman
Telvin McClurkinColumbia, SCRoush Fenway Racing34Tire Carrier
Ty NorrisSumter, SCTrackhouse Racing99President

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Sunoco Rookie Update – Well it has been ‘trial by fire’ type season for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year class with no practice or qualifying before the races, but Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe and Front Row Motorsport’s Anthony Alfredo have adapted quickly. Briscoe currently the rookie standings over Alfredo by 58 points. Both drivers have performed similarly this season, they posted their best finishes of the year so far at Talladega – Briscoe (11th) and Alfredo (12th). And both drivers will be making their NASCAR Cup Series debuts at Darlington Raceway this weekend. Briscoe does have a slight edge over Alfredo this weekend though, as he won the in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Darlington last season.

Potential Milestones – Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will be making his 425th NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend at Darlington Raceway. Keselowski ranks 61st on the all-time Cup Series starts list and will become the eighth active driver with 425 or more starts in the series.  … Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick will be making his 50th NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend at Darlington Raceway.

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