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Everything That Happened in the Throwback Cup Race at Darlington

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What’s Happening?

The NASCAR Cup Series returned to Darlington Raceway, for the sport’s annual “Throwback Weekend”, and was the first of two trips to the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval in 2024. The track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame” always lives up to its name, giving drivers one of their toughest tests of the year. Tire wear is always a major factor here, and the drivers who are able to manage their tires on the long runs always seem to be in contention at the end.

You Need to Know

  • Darlington is home to some of the most iconic moments in NASCAR history. What was once the closest finish in NASCAR history between Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven in 2003, was only topped just last week by the iconic finish at Kansas Speedway between Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher.
  • 2023 Southern 500 winner Kyle Larson entered as the favorite coming into the weekend. Other names to watch coming in were both RFK Fords, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher, as well as pole-sitter Tyler Reddick in his 23XI Racing Toyota.
  • Friday night’s Truck Series winner Ross Chastain made a milestone 200th career Cup Series start at the same track that he claims changed the trajectory of his racing career.

Tyler Reddick led the field to green, as well as the first 38 laps of the race until green flag stops began. Ty Gibbs was able to cycle to the lead after short pitting, jumping ahead of leaders Reddick, Keselowski, and Larson. In typical Darlington fashion, drivers were seen trying different lines to try and find speed, but ripping the fence was the trend seen most often.

Behind Gibbs, the battle for positions 4-7 between Keselowski, Reddick, Martin Truex, Jr., and Denny Hamlin was tightly contested for the majority of the second half of Stage 1 following green flag stops.

Larson Passes Gibbs Late, Captures Stage 1 Victory

Gibbs was able to lead the field for most of the second half of Stage 1, but after struggling to complete the pass on rookie Carson Hocevar to put him one lap down and getting extremely loose, Larson took full advantage and jumped to the lead late, capturing his Cup Series leading seventh stage win of the season.

Reddick regained the lead after stage break pit stops, with his pit crew flexing their muscles and taking full advantage of the number one pit stall earned by winning the pole on Saturday.

Nemechek Brings Out Caution on Lap 121

John Hunter Nemechek brought out the first caution for cause of the day on lap 121, getting loose out of the exit of turn four and going for a solo spin. This brought out everyone down pit road for a fresh set of Goodyear Eagles, and once again saw Reddick’s number one pit stall prevail, as he came into the pits and left as the leader.

Stack Up on Stage 2 Restart Brings Out Second Caution

Entering turn two after the Stage 2 restart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Blaney, and William Byron went three-wide, with Byron slipping up out of the bottom groove, making contact with the left rear of Truex, Jr., moving him up into Blaney in the outside lane, and sending the #12 car slamming into the SAFER barrier at corner exit. Truex looked to be in the clear of any damage, but after checking up to stay out of the crashing Blaney, he got slammed from behind by the #17 Mustang of Buescher. Blaney’s car saw the most significant damage in the accident, but others to sustain damage included Larson, Hamlin, and Truex, Jr. As reported by the broadcast and Fox Sports reporter Bob Pockrass, Blaney’s day was done after exceeding the DVP clock, his second DNF of the season.

Zane Smith Spins on Lap 164

Zane Smith brought out the third caution of the day with 21 laps to go in Stage 2. Similar to what happened to Nemechek earlier in the stage, Smith spun coming out of turn four, sliding down the front stretch and slamming into the inside wall, causing significant damage to the rookie’s Spire Camaro ZL1. This brought the pack back down pit road for four fresh Goodyear’s and Sonoco fuel, preparing for a short sprint to the finish of Stage 2. Reddick’s crew continued their dominance, getting the #45 Camry off pit road first once again.

Reddick Prevails for Stage 2 Win

Reddick was able to control Stage 2 from start to finish, despite multiple cautions giving others a chance to jump him on pit road. The #45 driver withstood a strong challenge from Keselowski on the final restart of Stage 2 that saw the two side by side for two laps, but ultimately Reddick prevailed and cruised to his second stage win of the 2024 season.

Keselowski Takes the Lead with 68 to go

Keselowski was able to track Reddick for the lead right before green flag stops ensued. Lapped traffic played a major role, with Reddick being slowed up significantly, giving the RFK driver the opportunity he’d been looking for for the majority of the race. Keselowski was able to build a significant gap after getting around Reddick, showing how well his car was able to perform in clean air.

Green Flag Stops Begin

Green flag stops brought varying strategies, as teams looked to set themselves up for the final run to the checkered. Some teams ran long, including Hocevar and Daniel Suarez, while others stopped early to gain the benefit of better track position, like Ross Chastain, who had been mired in traffic all day. The opportunity to implement different strategies gave teams the chance to change their fortunes for the afternoon.

Larson Goes Around Late

With 40 to go, Larson went around after an issue with the left rear tire. This came after the #5 car, which had been strong all day, had started to fall off the pace. This late spin sent everyone to pit road to prepare for a short run to the finish, which saw Reddick’s crew prevail once again, getting the #45 out ahead of Keselowski’s #6 after being passed on track earlier in the stage. Larson was reportedly done for the day after his car was taken to the garage.

Wild Restart Benefits Buescher

After an intense 5+ lap battle between Reddick and Keselowski saw them leaning on each other and not giving an inch, the battle reached a breaking point when the #45 and #6 cars collided on the front stretch, opening the door for Buescher and his #17 to clear both of them going into turn one. Buescher set sail, quickly building a half-second advantage over Reddick with less than 20 to go.

Reddick and Buescher Collide

With 10 to go, Reddick made a move for the lead on Buescher, throwing a slide job going into turn 4. Buescher got into the wall, with Reddick then getting into Buescher. Both drivers sustained damage and had to pit, yielding the lead to Keselowski.

Keselowski wins at Darlington

After the contact late between Reddick and Buescher, Keselowski set sail to win the Goodyear 400 at Darlington, his second win at the Track Too Tough to Tame. This win snapped a three-year, 110-race winless streak dating back to Talladega 2021, and was also Ford’s first win of the 2024 season.

Dust Up on Pit Road

After the conclusion of the race, Buescher confronted Reddick on pit road and was very animated showing his displeasure for the altercation with the 23XI driver. Reddick was remorseful and apologized for the situation.

Larson Wins Best Throwback

Kyle Larson’s throwback to Terry Labonte’s 1996 championship-winning Kellog’s car won the Best in Class vote for the Cup Series on Darlington Throwback Weekend.

Conclusion

What a wild finish to a fantastic Throwback Weekend at Darlington. An action-packed race saw some iconic throwback schemes, door-to-door racing, and the end to a very long winless streak for a Cup Series Champion. What did you think of the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway? Be sure to let us know, and connect with us on all our social channels @thedailydownforce. We always want to hear from you! Stick with us all season for up-to-date NASCAR coverage.

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