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NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Darlington Raceway

The NASCAR Cup Series is on a blast to the past this weekend at Darlington Raceway, as NASCAR legends of today and yesteryear come together to celebrate Throwback Weekend and the series competes in the 13th race of the 2023 season, the Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May 14 at 3 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 cars participating, plus the opportunity to vote on your favorite paint scheme, select this link and visit NASCAR.com’s 2023 Throwback Weekend Gallery.

In addition, to cars on-track having a distinctive look with their paint schemes this weekend, the FOX Sports booth will have some special guests join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer to call portions of the Goodyear 400. NASCAR Hall of Famer ‘The King’ Richard Petty and his son former driver Kyle Petty will be first up bringing their vast knowledge of the series. The Pettys will be in the booth during Stage 1 of the race, followed by retired driver Carl Edwards, who was recently named to NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list, during the second stage and NASCAR Hall of Famer ‘Awesome Bill from Dawsonville’, Bill Elliott, will close out the race in the final stage.

All three of the four special guests in the FOX Sports booth this weekend have won at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Bill Elliott with five victories (1985 sweep, 1988, 1992, 1994), then Richard Petty with three (1966, 1967 sweep) and Carl Edwards has one (2015).

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Goodyear 400

The Place: Darlington Raceway

The Date: Sunday, May 14

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

The Purse: $7,722,261

TV: FS1, 1:30 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)


Historic Darlington Raceway a perfect stage for Throwback Weekend

The industry and fans alike all agree Darlington Raceway is the perfect stage for Throwback Weekend.

The historic 1.366-mile egg-shaped paved oval, known as Darlington Raceway, has hosted 123 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to 1950. The raceway was originally 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 September 4, 1950. A total of 75 cars competed in the inaugural event and Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph. The race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph), and 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 123 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 52 different pole winners and 52 different race winners. Six of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light pole winners at Darlington Raceway are active this weekend.

Active Darlington Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
Joey Logano22022 sweep
Kevin Harvick22017, 2014
William Byron12019
Denny Hamlin12018
Brad Keselowski12015
Ryan Newman12003

NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Darlington Raceway with 12 (1967, ’70, ’72, ’73 sweep, ’75 sweep, ’76 sweep, ’77, ’78 and ’82). Joey Logano (2022 sweep) and Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) lead all active drivers in poles at Darlington with two each.

Of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Darlington Raceway, seven are active this weekend.

Active Darlington Race WinnersWinsSeasons
Denny Hamlin42021, 2020, 2017, 2010
Kevin Harvick32020, 2020, 2014
Erik Jones22022, 2019
Martin Truex Jr22021, 2016
Joey Logano12022
Brad Keselowski12018
Kyle Busch12008

NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in victories at Darlington Raceway with 10 wins (1968, ’70, ’72, ’73, ’74, ’76 sweep, ’77, ’79, 80); followed by Dale Earnhardt with nine and Jeff Gordon with seven. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in victories at Darlington with four (2010, 2017, 2020, 2021).

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.

On-track activity for the NASCAR Cup Series is set to start with practice and Busch Light Pole qualifying, and both events will be televised on FS1 starting at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Let NASCAR help you celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend

This weekend’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (May 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be just the 10th-time in NASCAR Cup Series history the series has competed on Mother’s Day.

The 2021 season was the first time since 2007 the NASCAR Cup Series had competed on Mother’s Day. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. took the win on May 9, 2021 becoming the seventh different driver to win on Mother’s Day in the series.

Then last season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano joined in the Mother’s Day festivities grabbing his first win on the special holiday on May 8, 2022, becoming the eighth different driver to win on Mother’s Day.

Prior to the 2021 season race, the most recent winner on Mother’s Day in the NASCAR Cup Series was NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who won the 2007 rain delayed Darlington Raceway race on May 13, 2007.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker holds the record for the most wins on Mother’s Day in the NASCAR Cup Series with two victories on the holiday (1956, 1954).

Mother’s Day Race WinnersDateTrackHoliday
Joey LoganoSunday, May 8, 2022Darlington RacewayMother’s Day
Martin Truex Jr.Sunday, May 9, 2021Darlington RacewayMother’s Day
Jeff GordonSunday, May 13, 2007Darlington RacewayMother’s Day
Cale YarboroughSunday, May 14, 1978Talladega SuperspeedwayMother’s Day
Benny ParsonsSunday, May 9, 1971South Boston SpeedwayMother’s Day
Bob WelbornSunday, May 11, 1958Greensboro FairgroundsMother’s Day
Buck BakerSunday, May 13, 1956Orange SpeedwayMother’s Day
Tim FlockSunday, May 8, 1955Arizona State FairgroundsMother’s Day
Buck BakerSunday, May 9, 1954Wilson SpeedwayMother’s Day

Joe Gibbs Racing is getting hot for the Summer stretch

Back-to-back wins for Joe Gibbs Racing at Dover and Kansas has the organization heating up as the NASCAR Cup Series prepares for the Summer stretch of the 2023 schedule. Virginia native, Denny Hamlin is the most recent winner from the JGR camp to visit Victory Lane and secure his spot in not only the Playoffs but the NASCAR All-Star Race that will take place next weekend at the historically famous North Wilkesboro Speedway.

This is the 17th-time Hamlin has qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the series-most. This season, Hamlin has put up one win (Kansas), three top fives and five top 10s in 12 starts. He is currently ranked fourth in the driver standings just 36 points behind Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain in the series lead.

With Hamlin’s win last weekend, three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have qualified for the postseason on wins (Christopher Bell, Bristol Dirt and Martin Truex Jr., Dover) leaving just Ty Gibbs the lone man out. In his rookie season, Ty Gibbs is currently ranked 18th in the driver standings just seven points back from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe in the 16th and final Playoff transfer spot.

Looking to Darlington this weekend, don’t expect the JGR contingent to slow down any. Joe Gibbs Racing has the second-most wins by an active organization at Darlington with 10 victories (2021 sweep, ‘20, ’19, ’17, ’15, ’13, ’10, ’08, ’00), the most recent was when the organization swept the 2021 season’s races with Martin Truex Jr. winning in May and Denny Hamlin taking the win in September of that year. Plus, Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in wins at Darlington Raceway with four (2021, 2020, 2017, 2010).

“It’s a tough track mentally and physically,” said Denny Hamlin. “It’s a driver’s track because the driver can make a difference at Darlington. You can manipulate the way your car is handling based on the line you choose to run. There’s something about it that has always matched my style of driving no matter what type of car we’re racing, so I anticipate we’ll have a really good shot at contending this weekend.”

Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers at Darlington: 

Denny Hamlin – In 21 starts he has put up four wins, 12 top fives and 16 top 10s. His average finish is 7.4 and he has led 792 laps at the 1.366-mile track.

Martin Truex Jr. – In 21 starts he has posted two wins, four top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish is 12.3 and he has led 769 laps at the 1.366-mile track.

Christopher Bell – In seven starts has put up one top fives and two top 10s. His average finish is 16.2 and he has led 16 laps at the 1.366-mile facility.

Ty Gibbs – Made his series track debut last September and he started 21st and finished 15th.

Regular Season Midway Point: Playoff spots are disappearing

The NASCAR Cup Series has reached its midway point of the regular season with the 13th race of 2023 schedule, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 14 at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. At the halfway point of the regular season, Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain is the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings point leader and nine other drivers have won already this season bringing the total of Playoff spots already occupied to 10. That leaves just six positions still available to make the postseason.

The 10 drivers that have currently earned a spot in the Playoffs are Kyle Larson (two wins), William Byron (two wins), Kyle Busch (two wins), Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (each have one win) and Ross Chastain (currently winless but is the points leader).

Of the six drivers currently in Playoff contention on points, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has the biggest points cushion (+98) between himself and the postseason cutoff. Just behind Harvick in the Playoff outlook is Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney with +89 points on the postseason cutoff, and RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski with +75 and Chris Buescher with +49. Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez is currently ranked 15th in the Playoff outlook just 22 points up on 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace in 17th – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff.

Currently in the Playoff hot seat is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, who is grasping ahold of his 16th and final Playoff spot by a mere three points over Bubba Wallace in 17th and seven points over Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ty Gibbs in 18th.

2023 NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 12 – Drivers Not Locked In
RankDriversPointsStartsWinsStagesPlayoff PtsPoints From Cutoff
11Kevin Harvick*3581201198
12Ryan Blaney*3501200089
13Brad Keselowski*3211201175
14Chris Buescher*3021200049
15Daniel Suarez*2591200022
16Chase Briscoe*255120003
17Bubba Wallace25312000-3
18Ty Gibbs #23912000-7
19Michael McDowell*23712000-14
20Austin Cindric*23012011-15
21Corey LaJoie22512000-23
22Todd Gilliland21412000-30
23Erik Jones*20912000-45
24Aric Almirola*20512011-50
25AJ Allmendinger*20012000-54
26Justin Haley19612000-60
27Ryan Preece17912011-62
28Chase Elliott*178^6011-83
29Austin Dillon*1641200-5-93
30Harrison Burton14512000-98
31Noah Gragson #12712000-120
32Ty Dillon10012000-149
Note: Must compete in every race of the season to be eligible for the Playoffs or be granted a waiver by NASCAR (^).

Heading into this weekend at Darlington Raceway, of the 22 Playoff eligible drivers that have not already earned a spot in the postseason this year, 13 have made the Playoffs previously in their careers and seven of them made the Playoffs last season – Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suárez, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon all made the postseason in 2022. The other six drivers looking for a spot in the 2023 Playoffs that have made the postseason prior to last year are Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger.

Three former Darlington winners without victories this season

A total of seven former NASCAR Cup Series Darlington Raceway winners are active this weekend in the Goodyear 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and three of them are still looking for their first win of the 2023 season.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has three NASCAR Cup Series victories at Darlington Raceway (2014, May 2020, Sept. 2020) and hopes to make it four this weekend. Harvick is currently riding a winless streak that dates back to August 14, 2022 at Richmond Raceway – 24 races ago. This season, Harvick has announced this will be his final fulltime season in the series and in 12 starts has put up three top fives, five top 10 and an average finish of 13.5. Harvick has made 30 series starts at Darlington collecting two poles, three wins, 13 top fives and 18 top 10s. His average finish is 12.7 (eighth-best among active drivers). He finished fourth in this event last season.

LEGACY MOTOR CLUB’s Erik Jones won at Darlington Raceway in 2019, just his second career victory in the series, and then did it again last September to become the most recent winner at the famous Darlington Raceway. Jones is currently wrestling a winless streak that dates back to his win at Darlington on September 4, 2022 – 21 races ago. This season, Jones is ranked 24th in the driver standings and has put up two top 10s in 12 starts. Looking ahead to this weekend, Darlington Raceway is one of Jones’ best tracks on the schedule. The Byron, Michigan native has made 10 starts at the ‘Lady In Black’ posting two wins (2019, 2022), five top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at 1.366-mile track is 10.7 (third-best among active drivers).

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski has just a single victory at Darlington Raceway (2018) but don’t count him out this weekend. Keselowski made the jump to invest in RFK Racing and become an owner/driver last season and in his second year with organization the Michigan native has put up two top fives and five top 10s in 12 starts. Keselowski is straddling a winless streak that dates back to April 25, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway – 74 races ago. Keselowski has made 18 series starts at Darlington putting up one pole, one win, five top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish is 12.1.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch named Honorary Starters for Goodyear 400 – Twenty years after their side-by-side battle at Darlington Raceway produced the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch are teaming up to produce an exhilarating start to the Goodyear 400.

Darlington Raceway announced that the legendary NASCAR drivers will serve as the Goodyear 400’s Honorary Starters on May 14. They will also serve as Grand Marshals for the annual Darlington Throwback Parade on Saturday, May 13, adding yet another historic connection to The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR.

“I still get excited watching replays of that incredible finish,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “The fact that it is still widely talked about 20 years later is a testament to the legendary racers who made it happen. The way Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch raced to the checkered flag, and the way they handled themselves afterwards, is the finest example of good, hard, competitive racing that I can remember. We’re honored to have them serve in these dignitary roles for our upcoming Throwback Weekend.”

Darlington Raceway Throwback Parade to showcase NASCAR history – Grand Marshals Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven will lead the cavalcade through downtown Darlington at 4:45 p.m. ET following the NASCAR Xfinity Series Shriners Children’s 200. The parade will begin on Edwards Street and proceed down Pearl Street before turning left onto Race Track Road and entering Gate 32 into the track’s midway.

This annual parade will feature the Lamar High School Marching Band, historic stockcars, beauty queens, the Goodyear Earth Roamer with NASCAR legend Dave Marcis aboard, and Shriners Children’s Hospital representatives. A group of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers including Dale Jarrett, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Ernie Irvan and the Labonte brothers, Terry and Bobby will ride the route in the back of Ford F-150s.

“The Throwback Parade is such an appropriate way to celebrate the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR and NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “Each legendary driver in this tradition-rich parade has put their mark on NASCAR history in some way.”

Dale Jarrett Named Honorary Pace Car Driver for Goodyear 400 – One of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers will lead its current stars to the green flag on Sunday, May 14. Darlington Raceway announced that NASCAR Hall of Famer and 1999 NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett will serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver for the Goodyear 400. He joins an illustrious list of living legends who will be on hand for the culmination of The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR and the pinnacle of NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary celebration.

“Dale Jarrett is more than just a legendary driver and broadcaster, he’s an incredible ambassador for NASCAR,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “Not only does he provide a powerful connection to our past, he also promotes our present and serves as a shining example for our future. We’re thrilled he’ll lead the field to green for the Goodyear 400.”

A year before winning his NASCAR Cup Series championship, Jarrett was named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of All Time. He was enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014 following a 24-year career that included three DAYTONA 500 triumphs and two Brickyard 400 wins.

“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Darlington Raceway,” said Jarrett, who now serves a NASCAR on NBC broadcaster. “The track is challenging, the fans are passionate and the racing is always fantastic. It was a major achievement to win races there, and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to drive the pace car on this historic day for our sport.”

Next Gen puts up impressive numbers at Kansas – The Next Gen car in the NASCAR Cup Series continues to provide some of the best racing the NASCAR Cup Series has ever produced.

This season’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway set a new track record in lead changes with 37; up +29.7% from the previous Kansas track record of 26 lead changes set in 2009.

The 2023 Kansas Speedway NASCAR Cup Series race with 65 Green Flag Passes for the Lead, set a new track record and saw an increase of +58.5% in Green Flag Passes for the Lead compared to the 2022 Kansas event with 41 Green Flag Passes for the Lead.

The 2023 Kansas Speedway NASCAR Cup Series race (3,632 GFP) saw an increase of +67.6% in Total Green Flag Passes compared to the 2022 Kansas-1 event with 2,167 Total Green Flag Passes.

Milestone Watch: Burton, Dillon, Gilliland and Keselowski – Over the next several weeks a few NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be making milestone starts in their careers.

This week at Darlington Raceway, Harrison Burton is expected to make his 50th NASCAR Cup Series career start.

Then in a couple of weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Austin Dillon is expected to make his 350th NASCAR Cup Series career start.

Front Row Motorsport’s Todd Gilliland will also be making his 50th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a few weeks. Plus, this weekend Todd Gilliland and FRM will honor former driver and current Senior Vice President of Competition at NASCAR, Elton Sawyer with a throwback paint scheme on his No. 38 Ford to help celebrate NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary and its annual throwback weekend. Gilliland’s car will have a similar paint scheme to what Sawyer ran in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Then at World Wide Technology Raceway, RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski is expected to become the 46th different driver all-time to eclipse the 500 starts mark in the NASCAR Cup Series.

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