What to Watch: 2022 Darlington Raceway throwback race



Emilee Chinn | Getty Images

Emilee Chinn | Getty Images

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series throwback race at Darlington Raceway, the 12th regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

Race-day info 📝

Where: Darlington, South Carolina
Approximate start time: 3:30 p.m. ET  | Full weekend schedule
TV/Radio: FS1, TSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
Forecast: Partly sunny, with a high near 67 degrees, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 293 laps | 400.2 miles
Stages: 90 | 185 | 293
Pit-road speed: 45 mph
Caution car speed: 50 mph
The purse: $7,292,599
Darlington 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: Where drivers will start | How qualifying works in 2022
Pit stalls: Where each driver will pit |
 Expert pit analysis

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Eleven races into the season and we have had nine winners, with the only repeat winners being Ross Chastain (Circuit of The Americas and Talladega Superspeedway) and William Byron (Atlanta Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway). The introduction of the Next Gen car has brought a lot of parity to the field with seemingly more comers and goers at the front of the field than in recent years. However, if you look at the breakdown of winners, only three of the nine picked up their first career win in the Cup Series. Nearly one third of the way through the season, will the parity continue? Or will the cream rise to the top? Darlington Raceway is a daunting, high-speed track that has historically favored the seasoned veterans of the sport. Kevin Harvick (three), Martin Truex Jr. (two) and Denny Hamlin (three) have combined to win an astounding eight of the last 11 races at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” There has not been a first-time winner here since Erik Jones’ late-night triumph in 2019. The old, aging surface has historically favored familiar drivers. Sunday’s challenging race may be the ultimate test of proving which teams, and wheelmen, have a solid grip on the Next Gen car and are separating themselves from the pack. | Will Hendrick end its 10-year Darlington drought?

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

Kevin Harvick is beginning to round into the consistent form that we are used to. Back-t0-back top-10 outings have the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver on an upward trend heading to a track he has historically dominated. Still searching to end his winless streak, Harvick has had the hot hand at Darlington Raceway, capturing three wins and 12 straight finishes of ninth or better. He has also led laps in 11 of the last 15 races at the South Carolina track. Throwback Weekend might be the perfect time for Harvick and company to regain their championship-winning form. Trending in the opposite direction is Tyler Reddick. Known for his prowess in the outside lane and ability to run along the wall, Darlington could provide Reddick with a bit more comfort than in recent weeks. The No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team has two consecutive finishes of 30th or worse and is slipping in the standings. In Reddick’s last four races at Darlington, he has finished outside the top 12 each time. Look for the crew to start fast and stay out front in hopes of ending this minor slump.

Driving under the radar

Can Kyle Busch fly under the radar? The two-time Cup Series champion has the talent and the resume, but other names have risen to the top of discussions so far this season. But on paper, Busch has been almost as good as anyone lately, with a win and five top-10 performances in his last seven races. He’s led laps in seven races already and scored stage points in 10 of the 22. So far, he has only finished outside of the top 14 twice, and one was at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver could also have the strongest case for a driver deserving to be in the multi-win category with Ross Chastain and William Byron after a couple of dominant runs. Contract talks and driver conflicts have overshadowed Busch’s impressive performances recently. Seemingly more motivated than in quite some time, look for Busch to put together another championship-worthy campaign. | Trevor Bayne on standby for Busch at Darlington with new child on the way.

Saturday’s sessions

Weather played an important factor in Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions at Darlington Raceway. On a hot, sunny day, sporadic bits of cloud cover provided a different look at how the track may change as the sun starts to wane on Sunday evening. Austin Cindric and Joey Logano were the two fastest in the morning’s lone practice session. But it was Logano who saw that speed translate over to the two-round qualifying session, landing the 23rd pole of his Cup Series career and first since 2019. Kyle Larson starts on the front row alongside Logano, followed by a plethora of Toyota drivers. Christopher Bell, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch each laid down an impressive lap time to guarantee a top-10 starting position. As we have seen throughout the season, drivers struggled to get a hang of the Next Gen car in the weekend’s early laps, leading to a number of spins and minor crashes. Chase Elliott took the worst of the incidents in practice, slamming into the wall and forcing the No. 9 team to a backup. He did not qualify. | Elliott reacts to practice crash.

Darlington Sunsettrackview
Jared East | Getty Images

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: Throwback schemes for Darlington Throwback weekend | See them here
• Power Rankings:
Christopher Bell heating up with summer stretch on the horizon | Updated driver rankings
• Fantasy Fastlane: 
Will Denny Hamlin end his 2022 slump at Darlington? | Top plays, sleepers
• NASCAR betting:
Odds for Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington | See the favorites, underdogs
• Backseat Drivers: 
Can anyone stop Hendrick Motorsports? | Hear the debate

Catch the pack 💨

Andrew Coppley
Andrew Coppley

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Signed, sealed: William Byron inks three-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports | More details | Byron, Fugle focused on championship
• Drought:
Will Hendrick Motorsports end its 10-year winless streak at Darlington? | Full analysis
• Patiently waiting:
Trevor Bayne on standby for Kyle Busch at Darlington | Learn more
• Hall of Fame:
New trio elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023 | See the new Hall class | Voter Zack Albert’s ballot
• Hall of Fame videos: Matt Kenseth | Kirk Shelmerdine | Hershel McGriff
• Mission 600:
Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick train alongside U.S. paratroopers | Read more
• Honoring heroes:
Kyle Larson, Jeff Gordon lay wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier | Pictures, details
• Penalty report:
JGR No. 11, Kaulig No. 16 teams fined for lost wheels | Full report | JGR set to appeal
• Next Gen:
Expert analyzes the loose wheel issues seen at Dover Motor Speedway | Technical breakdown
• NASCAR Salutes:
Annual military appreciation program returns for 2022 | Learn more
• Where are they now?:
Catching up with Tim Brewer | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.Fantasy Preview Video

• Backseat Bets: Can Buescher beat Stenhouse head-to-head at Darlington? | Hear the debate
• The Action Network:
Different drivers to bet at Darlington | Betting analysis
• Sunday’s picks:
Ride with Ross Chastain at Darlington | Experts break it down
• Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
NASCAR betting: 2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Lessons from the ‘Lady in Black’ 👩‍⚖️

Before the series returns to the track “Too Tough to Tame,” look back at some track history and previous winners.

• By the numbers: An in-depth, statistical look at Darlington’s annual Throwback Weekend | Read more
• Mother’s Day:
Every NASCAR race held on Mother’s Day and the winners of the races | See them here
• Previous paint:
Comparing throwback schemes from 2015-22 | Which is your favorite? | Only 2022 schemes
• Last year:
Martin Truex Jr. holds off a late charge from Kyle Larson to win 2021 spring race | Race recap, highlights
• Finish for the ages:
Relive the famous Busch-Craven finish at Darlington Raceway in 2003 | Watch it here

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Sunday will be the 122nd race at Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.
The last six races at Darlington were won by only two organizations: Joe Gibbs Racing (four wins) and Stewart-Haas Racing (two wins).
Twelve of the last 13 races at Darlington were won by drivers over the age of 30 years old.
Five times a driver has swept both stages at Darlington but only once have they gone on to win.
The final green-flag stretch last spring at Darlington was 100 laps; the longest in the past seven races there.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

James Gilbert | Getty Images
James Gilbert | Getty Images

“We have a lot of momentum as a team heading to Darlington this weekend. We had a great weekend in Dover after starting in the back with 70 laps to go at a place that is tough to pass, so I think it only helps myself and the rest of the team know that we are firing on all cylinders right now. I am looking forward to taking the No. 48 Ally Throwback Chevy to Darlington and making Mark (Martin) proud and try to get the car back in Victory Lane.” — Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

“Darlington is going to be tough. My teammate Denny Hamlin did a tire test there and lost grip over the course of the run. As we know it’s been the name of the game trying to keep your car balanced and handling well over the course of a tire run is very difficult and with these new cars, it’s become even more difficult. It’s going to be a battle for sure and to see whoever can get their car to drive the best on old tires.”  — Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“It’s been a lot of fun to have been able to win there a few times now. Darlington is one of those historic racetracks that everybody loves going to because of the fact that it’s forever tied to the guys that used to race there with the same shape of the race track. It may be a different surface, but it’s the same racetrack that they raced on in the 1950s. It’s a unique place to go race and a place that has so much history in our sport.” — Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford


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