Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway
12 May 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
DARLINGTON, SC — 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).
Historic Darlington Raceway a 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.
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.
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.
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.
Heading into this weekend at Darlington Raceway, of the 22 Playoff eligible drivers that have not already earned a spot on 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.
Goodyear 400 Race Predictions:
Top 5: Byron, Truex, Larson, Chastain, Hamlin