It’s throwback weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series as they head to Darlington Raceway. The track will host their annual throwback weekend for the sixth year in a row. Drivers take part in the event by running special throwback paint schemes. The 1.366-mile egg-shaved oval will host the Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May, 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1. The 400-mile race will be 293 laps with stages consisting of 90-95-108 laps. Brad Keselowski will start on the pole for the second straight race.

Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin Look For Redemption

Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin arguably had the two best cars last week at Kansas Speedway. Unfortunately, all they had to show for it was a 19th and 12th place finish, respectively. Both will have an excellent chance to get back to victory lane at one of their best tracks.

Larson has shown speed just about all season. He has just one win this season but that could easily be three or four had things gone differently. He enters Darlington with high expectations. His average finish of 6.7 in six career starts at the track is second among active drivers. He’s finished top three in three of the last four races here and led over 40 laps in all four of those races. Larson has some work to do, as he starts in 14th but he should waste no time working his way to the front.

Like Larson, Hamlin could already have a few wins this season but things just haven’t gone his way. Nonetheless, he still leads the point standings, has the most top-five finishes, and the most laps led. Hamlin seems to excel everywhere these days, but in terms of average finish, Darlington is Hamlin’s best track. He has three wins at the track, the most among active drivers. He won the second of three races here last season. With a fifth-place starting position, expect Hamlin to be out front early and often.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch Look to Continue Impressive Darlington Run

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have both had tough starts to the 2021 season. Those struggles came to an end last week at Kansas with Busch winning the race and Harvick finishing second.

Harvick is on quite the tear at Darlington. He’s finished top-five in nine of his last 10 Darlington races. That stretch includes three wins, and three races of 150+ laps led. The momentum from Kansas combined with the recent tear could put Harvick in position for his first win of 2021.

While maybe not as impressive as Harvick’s streak, Busch has a good run going of his own at Darlington. In his last 13 starts, he’s finished worse than 11th just once. He doesn’t have any wins in that span but he did win at Darlington earlier in his career in 2008. Busch will roll off third on Sunday and he could be hanging out up front all day.

Don’t Count Out Under-the-Radar Candidates

When you think of top drivers at Darlington, guys like Hamlin, Harvick, and Larson come to mind but Erik Jones has the best average finish among active drivers at the track. In six career races here, he has one win and has never finished worse than eighth. All those starts were for Joe Gibbs Racing, which has superior equipment to Richard Petty Motorsports but Jones clearly knows how to get around the track. Jones could surprise everyone and compete for the win.

Austin Dillon has one of the better average finishes at Darlington and ran runner-up in last year’s playoff race. Dillon has slowly been improving in 2021 with three straight top 10 finishes. He’s working his way towards his first top-five finish since the season-opening race at Daytona.

Final Thoughts for Darlington

It should be a fun weekend at Darlington Raceway with everyone running special throwback schemes. I expect Larson and Hamlin to quickly work their way to the front, but there will be plenty of other challengers on Sunday.

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Nicholas Sterling

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