Week 29 GFT NASCAR AI Driver Rankings: Jones wins Darlington, Logano Takes Playoff Points Lead

4 September 2022
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — SEPTEMBER 04: Erik Jones, driver of the famous No. 43 FOCUS factor Chevrolet from PettyGMS, wins the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. In the season’s first NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race, Jones held off Denny Hamlin (№ 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and RCR № 8 Chevrolet of Tyler Reddick in a 20-lap run to the finish. Jones put the vaunted № 43 Chevrolet back in Victory Lane for the first time since 2014. Jones‘ first of the season, the third of his career, and the first for Petty GMS Racing since that organization was formed by merger before the 2022 campaign. The win was № 200 for the 43 car number, which NASCAR Hall of Famer and car owner Richard Petty drove to seven series championships.

Credit: 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)

Major Shakeup in the GFT AI Driver Rankings after Darlington — Race 1 of the Round of 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series 2022 Playoffs.

Week 29 of the NASCAR GFT Top 25 AI Driver Rankings following the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 04, 2022 (Image: GFT Digital / gofullthrottle.net)

Christopher Bell had the power move- up 6 spots to P4, Alex Bowman moves up 4 spots to P10, and Byron up 3 spots to P2. Also moving up 3 spots: Hamlin, Reddick, and Blaney. Having difficult nights at Darlington were: Harvick down 9 spots to P16, Elliott down 7 spots to P8, Chastain down 6 spots to P9. Defending champion Kyle Larson fell 3 spots to P7 and Chase Brisco also fell 3 spots to P15. The Round of 16 moves to Kansas and then the night race at Bristol where the championship contenders are reduced to 12.

Credit: DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — SEPTEMBER 04: A general view from the grandstands of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 04, 2022 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Post-Race Interviews:
“Richard hasn’t been to Victory Lane at Darlington probably since he last won here,” said Jones, referencing Petty‘s 1967 victory in the Southern 500. “It’s just awesome. Just so proud of these guys, Petty GMS and (sponsor) FOCUSFactor crew.

“We’ve been so close all year, and I didn’t think today was going to be the day. It was going to be a tough one to win, I knew, but no better fitting place. I love this track. I love this race. On that trophy twice, man. I was pumped to be on it once, but to have it on there twice — pretty cool.”

“Well, I mean, I never lost any belief in myself through any of it,” Jones said. “I knew I could still do it, and I just knew we needed to grow the program to do it, and we have. We’ve brought on a lot of great people in the last year. Dave Elenz called a great race today. His first Cup win — that’s pretty cool for him.

“I’m excited, man. We’ve been talking about this day a long time, and it is redemption in a lot of ways. Very fitting that it’s here at this race again. I felt like this was the race that saved my job the first time around, and coming back here with this win, I guess it puts you back on the map.”

Next up:
Hollywood Casino 400 Presented by Barstool Sportsbook at the Kansas Speedway

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association