StatChat - NASCAR Cup Series @ Darlington

The 12th race of the season brings us the Darlington Throwback Weekend, a tradition that has normally been in the Fall at the Southern 500, but was moved up to Spring this year.  This also marks the last time in the regular season that we will be visiting a track that returns for the playoffs.  Aside from the All-Star Race at Texas, the 14 remaining regular season tracks will not be revisited again this year. 


So what does that mean?  For teams that already have a win and have guaranteed their spot in the playoffs, it might be an opportunity to experiment.  Winning this weekend might not be as important as finding a strategic advantage for the Southern 500 this Fall – the first race of the Playoffs. 


Darlington Raceway is a uniquely-shaped 1.366-mile oval.  It is referred to as “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” due to the challenging nature of its egg-like shape.  With corners 1 and 2 being completely different from 3 and 4, it’s much more difficult than at a standard oval to perfect the setup of the car.  After Martinsville, Darlington is the 2nd oldest track on the NASCAR circuit, having hosted races as early as 1950. 


This weekend’s race will be 293 laps (for a total of 400.2 miles), with stage breaks occurring at 90 – 185 – 293, and a competition caution at lap 30.  The fuel window is approximately 68-72 laps, though tire wear may be more of a factor than fuel.


NASCAR has run 3,972.61 miles so far this year.


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Darlington:

Erik Jones

5.17 over 6 races

Kyle Larson

6.67 over 6 races

Denny Hamlin

7.53 over 17 races

Brad Keselowski

10.43 over 14 races

Kyle Busch

11.17 over 18 races


Bottom 5 Career Average Finishers at Darlington:

Quin Houff

31.00 over 3 races

Corey LaJoie

30.50 over 6 races

Michael McDowell

28.45 over 11 races

Ross Chastain

28.00 over 2 races

Daniel Suarez

25.83 over 6 races


Darlington is an intermediate track.


Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Intermediate Tracks:

Kevin Harvick

11.71 over 363 races

Brad Keselowski

12.61 over 215 races

Kyle Busch

12.67 over 294 races

Denny Hamlin

13.17 over 278 races

Chase Elliott

13.32 over 99 races


David Pearson is the winningest driver at Darlington, having won there 10 times.  Dale Earnhardt is a close second, having won 9 times, with Jeff Gordon in 3rd with 7 wins.  As far as current drivers go, both Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick each have 3 wins.


Notable drivers who have not won at Darlington:

Kurt Busch

(has won at 17 other tracks)

Joey Logano

(has won at 15 other tracks)

Ryan Newman

(has won at 12 other tracks)

Chase Elliott

(has won at 9 other tracks)


Both Erik Jones and Austin Dillon list Darlington as their BEST track, while BJ McLeod is the only one to list it as his WORST.


Based on their point pace, let’s have a look at who’s having a better year than last year.


Drivers Faring Better than in 2020

William Byron

+354 pts

Daniel Suarez

+312 pts

Michael McDowell

+283 pts

Denny Hamlin

+270 pts

Christopher Bell

+240 pts


Drivers Faring Worse than in 2020

Aric Almirola

-466 pts

Erik Jones

-314 pts

Kevin Harvick

-279 pts

Kurt Busch

-217 pts

Alex Bowman

-203 pts


While some drivers may be doing better this year than they did in 2020, how does this year stack up against their entire career?  This statistic does not include rookies, as this is their first full year in the Cup Series.


Drivers Having their BEST Career Year

Denny Hamlin


William Byron


Austin Dillon


Ryan Blaney


Michael McDowell


Chris Buescher



Drivers Having their WORST Career Year

Ross Chastain





In 2017, NASCAR introduced the concept of Stage Racing, which pauses the race at certain intervals and awards bonus points for the top 10 at that moment.  Here are the Top-5 Stage Point earners so far this year:


Stage Point Leaders:

Denny Hamlin

156 pts

Ryan Blaney

88 pts

Brad Keselowski

85 pts

Chase Elliott

79 pts

Kyle Larson

73 pts


For those that aren’t aware, the Manufacturer Standings are calculated by awarding points to the highest finisher for each manufacturer according to their finishing position.  (40 for 1st, 35 for 2nd, 34 for 3rd, etc.)  No stage points or playoff points count.


Manufacturer Standings








Here is the same formula, but used on a team-vs-team basis:


Chartered Team Standings



Joe Gibbs






Richard Childress


Chip Ganassi




Front Row


Roush Fenway


Wood Brothers






Richard Petty




Rick Ware


Live Fast







The race begins Sunday, May 9th at 3:30 pm EST (12:30 pm PST) – Enjoy the race everyone!


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