William Byron Survives Wreck Filled Finish to Win at Darlington

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Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC — May 14, 2023

This weekend’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway will be just the 10th time in NASCAR Cup Series history the series has competed on Mother’s Day. So, we want to join in and wish all the moms a Happy Mother’s Day.

The Cup Series is on a blast to the past as NASCAR legends of today and yesteryear come together to celebrate Throwback Weekend. NASCAR hosted its 75 greatest drivers during pre-race.

Members of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers in Attendance at Darlington / NASCAR Photo

Many of today’s drivers will be paying tribute to the past this weekend with special paint schemes on their cars.

The Broadcast Booth

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, 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.’

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).

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

Active Darlington Race Winners Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 4 2021, 2020, 2017, 2010
Kevin Harvick 3 2020, 2020, 2014
Erik Jones 2 2022, 2019
Martin Truex Jr 2 2021, 2016
Joey Logano 1 2022
Brad Keselowski 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2008

 

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 scheduled to run today at Darlington. 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.

Today’s Race

The Goodyear 400 is actually 400.2 miles, given the unusual distance around the speedway. That constitutes 293 laps divided into stages of 90/95/108 laps. Martin Truex Jr. sits on the pole with Bubba Wallace beside him at the start.

Joey Logano is the defending champion of the race, and he commented on the Darlington experience.  “It’s one of the best races of the year. It’s the environment of the throwback and all the cool cars that come out, which I think is fun for the fans and really competitors as well to see that. But the race itself, it’s just fun. You get a lot of tire wear, slipping and sliding hard, and you’re up against the wall. It’s one of the best races we have all year.”

Logano’s throwback paint scheme will honor the American Motors Matador piloted by Mark Donohue to Team Penske’s first NASCAR Cup Series win 50 years ago this season.

Joey Logano’s Team Penske Ford Mustang throwback paint scheme / NASCAR Photo

Today’s race will also feature the return of Ryan Newman driving the #51 Ford Mustang of Rick Ware Racing, substituting for the suspended Cody Ware. It is Newman’s first appearance of the 2023 season after running 725 races in the series over the last 21 years.

Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones won at Darlington last September during the NASCAR playoffs. He starts 28th today.

Stage One

Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Bubba Wallace(23) ran side-by-side for almost three laps before Truex pulled ahead. William Byron(24), Daniel Suarez(99), and Ricky Stenhouse(47) fell into line as cars strung out single file around the race track.

The first caution of the day waved on lap 37 for fluid on the track, giving everyone the opportunity to pit for fresh tires. Tire wear will be a factor all day as the racing surface chews away rubber at a rapid pace.

Truex held the lead off pit road, with Byron edging out Wallace for the second spot on the restart. On the track, Wallace regained the position.

William Byron at Darlington / NASCAR Photo

With 20 laps to go in Stage One, Kyle Busch(8) and Ross Chastain(1) had joined the top five. Truex earned his first Stage win of the year, leading all but one of the first 90 laps.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 24 William Byron 9
3 23 Bubba Wallace 8
4 1 Ross Chastain 7
5 8 Kyle Busch 6
6 6 Brad Keselowski* 5
7 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 4
8 4 Kevin Harvick* 3
9 45 Tyler Reddick 2
10 20 Christopher Bell 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Truex and Byron start on the front row for Stage Two. Running in clean air, Truex is able to put distance between himself and the pack easily. Avoiding mistakes during pit stops and maintaining track position is key when racing on a track where passing is a challenge.

On lap 125, fans in the grandstand waved yellow and white towels to honor the race sponsor, Goodyear, and the company’s 125th anniversary.

With 130 laps on the board, Truex had led 129 of them. The top four remained stable, with Byron, Chastain, and Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski(6) joined the group in the fifth spot.

Green flag pit stops for the leaders began on Lap 137, 48 laps remained in the Stage. Once all stops were complete, Truex was back in the lead, and the top four returned in the same order.  Kyle Larson(5) joined the top five for the first time in the race.

With 35 laps to go in Stage Two, the handle went away on Truex’s race car. For the first time since lap one, someone passed Truex on the track. Ross Chastain became the new leader.

With five laps to go in the Stage, the leaders were in heavy lapped traffic. Truex closed to the rear of Chastain’s car. On the final lap, Truex tried to pass when Chastain encountered his teammate Daniel Suarez about to go a lap down in the middle of turn two. Both got loose, Chastain tapped the wall, Truex spun, and the Stage ended under caution.

Chastain took the Stage win, Treux dropped to 10th, and Suarez stayed on the lead lap.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 1 Ross Chastain 10
2 8 Kyle Busch 9
3 5 Kyle Larson 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 6 Brad Keselowski* 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 4 Kevin Harvick* 4
8 12 Ryan Blaney* 3
9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2
10 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Kyle Larson’s crew put him in the lead with a fast pit stop, Chastain restarts beside Larson for the Final Stage. Coming off the fourth turn on the first lap at full speed, Erik Jones lost the right rear wheel on his race car. His crew failed to tighten the wheel properly, and it was a costly mistake for the team and several other drivers.

Jones turned sideways mid-pack, got hit, and straightened back out, bouncing off the wall. The incident caused havoc at the rear of the field as drivers tried to avoid the crash and swerved wildly. Eight other cars were caught up in the mess, including Austin Cindric(2), Austin Dillon(3), Michael McDowell(34), Todd Gilliland(38), Noah Gragson(42), Ryan Newman(51), Ty Gibbs(54), and Suarez.

McDowell, Suarez, and Dillon were forced to retire from the race with excessive damage to their race cars. The caution brought everyone to pit road for fresh tires and eliminated the strategy of trying to stretch tire wear and eliminate a pit stop before the end of the race.

On the restart, Larson and Chastain were again on the front row. But this time, Chastain was able to stay even with the leader and, after two laps, took away the top spot. Larson got loose. Kyle Busch and Byron took advantage of the bobble to pass, sending Larson back to the fourth spot.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) spun in turn three, and the race was back under caution for the fifth time.

Restarting with 78 laps to go, the top five were Chastain, Busch, Byron, Larson, and Keselowski. Cars picking up Darlington stripes off the wall were beginning to increase as the “lady in black” began to reach out and grab more drivers. Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs each scrubbed the outside barrier, trying to turn fast laps.

Truex worked his way into the top ten after his incident at the end of Stage Two. Can he get back to the front to see if clean air returns his car to dominance?

With 50 laps to go, crews were beginning to calculate when to make their final pit stop. Larson was the first of the leaders to come in with 45 laps to go. He opened the floodgates, and everyone came to pit road in the next few laps.

Stops shuffled the running order as those drivers that pitted early gained track position. Larson grabbed the top spot back, followed by Christopher Bell(20), Chastain, Busch, and Joey Logano(22).

With 20 laps to go, Larson had stretched his lead to almost two and a half seconds over Bell. Chastain and Busch were each another second back.

The Finish

Ryan Newman spun with 18 laps to go setting a final round of pit stops and a sprint to the finish. Kyle Busch overshot his pit stall, and his crew had to push him back to begin service on his car. Truex picked up four spots in pit road, in part thanks to his selection of the number one pit stall for winning the pole.

Larson and Bell raced down the pit road, with Larson maintaining the lead. But Bell had to return to pit road complaining of a loose lug nut on his car.

The green flag waved with 13 laps to go, and the running order coming to the start/finish line was Larson, Chastian, Truex, Logano, Tyler Reddick(45), and Chase Elliott(9). Both of the front two rows bumped together. Chastain nosed out ahead of Larson.

However, Truex got into Logano, and both crashed into the outside wall in turn one. Reddick, Kevin Harvick(4), Elliott, Keselowski, Aric Almirola(10), and Ryan Blaney(12) were all involved to some degree in the incident.

Restarting with five laps to go, Chastain and Larson, followed by Byron and Elliott, then Harvick and Keselowski. Off into turn one, and it was a repeat of the previous restart. Chastain and Larson got together, with Ross forcing Kyle into the outside wall. Causing severe damage to both cars and sending the race into NASCAR overtime.

The green flag waved with Byron and Harvick in row one, Keselowski and Elliott in row two, then Wallace and Harrison Burton(21) in row three. This time everyone sorted it out, and the field took the white flag. With Byron taking the win, Harvick in second, and Elliott running third. Larson finished 20th and Chastain in 29th.

The win was the 100th of the #24 car of Hendrick Motorsports. The last time a Hendrick car won at Darlington, William Byron was 14 years old.

Ford drivers led nine laps in the race. Yet, five Mustangs finished in the top ten.

Playoff Standing

Ross Chastain retained the points lead, and William Byron became the first three-time winner. Chase Briscoe sits on the bubble just five points ahead of Byron’s teammate Alex Bowman.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 387 In Win (3)
2 Kyle Larson 363 In Win (2)
3 Kyle Busch 353 In Win (2)
4 Christopher Bell 402 In Win
5 Denny Hamlin 393 In Win
6 Martin Truex Jr. 385 In Win
7 Tyler Reddick 371 In Win
8 Joey Logano* 334 In Win
9 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 325 In Win
10 Ross Chastain (Points Leader) 429 +159
11 Kevin Harvick* 400 +130
12 Ryan Blaney* 381 +111
13 Brad Keselowski* 365 +95
14 Chris Buescher* 329 +59
15 Bubba Wallace 293 +23
16 Chase Briscoe* 275 +5
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Alex Bowman 270 -5
18 Daniel Suarez 262 -13
19 Ty Gibbs 260 -15
20 Austin Cindric* 248 -27
21 Michael McDowell* 241 -34
22 Todd Gilliland* 240 -35
23 Corey LaJoie 238 -37
24 Justin Haley 225 -50
25 Erik Jones 221 -54

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Goodyear 400 from Darlington Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 24 William Byron 295
2 4 Kevin Harvick 0.781 295
3 9 Chase Elliott 1.480 295
4 6 Brad Keselowski 1.798 295
5 23 Bubba Wallace 1.948 295
6 21 Harrison Burton 2.009 295
7 8 Kyle Busch 2.225 295
8 31 Justin Haley 2.649 295
9 12 Ryan Blaney 3.233 295
10 17 Chris Buescher 3.243 295
11 38 Todd Gilliland 3.325 295
12 11 Denny Hamlin 3.360 295
13 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3.439 295
14 20 Christopher Bell 3.631 295
15 41 Ryan Preece 3.731 295
16 54 Ty Gibbs 4.104 295
17 14 Chase Briscoe 4.173 295
18 22 Joey Logano 4.815 295
19 2 Austin Cindric 4.931 295
20 5 Kyle Larson 7.412 295
21 10 Aric Almirola 8.966 295
22 45 Tyler Reddick 30.579 295
23 16 AJ Allmendinger -1 294
24 7 Corey LaJoie -2 293
25 43 Erik Jones -2 293
26 42 Noah Gragson -2 293
27 77 Ty Dillon -2 293
28 51 Ryan Newman -4 291
29 1 Ross Chastain -8 287
30 48 Josh Berry -9 286
31 19 Martin Truex Jr. -15 280
32 78 BJ McLeod -69 226
33 34 Michael McDowell -95 200
34 99 Daniel Suarez -96 199
35 3 Austin Dillon -99 196
36 15 Brennan Poole -256 39