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Good news, bad news for NASCAR Cup teams heading into Darlington weekend

Good news, bad news for NASCAR Cup teams heading into Darlington weekend

The Cup Series will be the centerpiece of the regular season this weekend at Darlington Raceway.

Kyle Larson’s victory in the closest finish in NASCAR history last weekend gives Hendrick Motorsports wins in six of the first 12 races of the season. Joe Gibbs Racing has four wins. Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing have each achieved one victory this season.

Here’s a look at the state of play for each Cup organization heading into the 13th race of the season:

23XI Racing — Good news: Tyler Reddick has three top-three finishes in the last four Darlington races. … Bubba Wallace has three straight top-10 finishes at Darlington.. Bad news: Wallace is outside of a playoff spot. It is four points below the intersection line.

Front Row Motorsports — Good News: Todd Gilliland finished 11th at Darlington last spring. … Michael McDowell has two top 10s in his last four Darlington starts. Bad news: McDowell has failed to complete four top-level races this season.

NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 – Qualifying

Michael McDowell won the 2021 Daytona 500 and last year’s race at the Indy road course with Front Row Motorsports.

Hendrick Motorsports — Good news: Kyle Larson’s victory over Kansas last weekend means the organization has still not gone more than two races without a Cup victory this season. … Larson has scored a series-best 145 stage points this year (an average of 12.1 per race). He has more stage points than teammates Chase Elliott (80) and William Byron (62) combined. …Byron and Alex Bowman each have seven top 10s. That’s the most tied with Martin Truex Jr. this season. and Tyler Reddick. Bad news: Byron finished 33rd (Dover) and 23rd (Kansas) in his last two races. That’s only the third time since early last year that Byron has finished outside the top 20 for consecutive races.

NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400

The weekend in Kansas featured NASCAR’s closest Cup finish.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Good news: Four-time Darlington winner Denny Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in 69.6% of his 23 starts there. Hamlin’s average finish of 8.4 at Darlington is the best of all time for a driver with more than two starts there. … Martin Truex Jr.’s 8.9 average rating this season is the best in the series. …Christopher Bell has started in the top three in three of the last four Darlington races. Bad news: The organization has more Did Not Finishes (five) than top-10 results (three) at Darlington in the Next Gen era. … Ty Gibbs’ average finish in the first six races was 7.8. His average finish over the last six races is 18.7.

JTG Daugherty Racing — Good news: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has finished 16th or better in three of the last four races at Darlington. Bad news: Stenhouse has been caught speeding on pit lane in each of the last two races at Darlington. He suffered two such penalties in this race last spring and one in last year’s Southern 500.

Kaulig Racing — Good news: Derek Kraus is scheduled to make his fourth career Cup start for the organization this weekend. … Daniel Hemric has three top-20 finishes in the last four races. … The organization has had at least one of its cars finish in the top 20 in each of the last four races at Darlington. In that period, Kaulig has twice finished a car in the top 10. Bad news: Kaulig is tied with Trackhouse Racing with six pit road speeding tickets this year. Only Joe Gibbs Racing has more at seven.

NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400

Kansas winner Kyle Larson has had more close Cup finishes than any other driver since 2022.

Legacy Motor Club — Good News: Two-time Darlington winner Erik Jones is back in the No. 43 this weekend after missing the past two races recovering from a compression fracture in a lower vertebra suffered in a crash at Talladega. … Since finishing 33rd or worse three times, John Hunter Nemechek has finished 20th and 13th in the past two races. Bad news: Jones and Nemechek have combined to score 45 stage points. Fifteen drivers have scored more stage points this season.

Richard Childress Racing — Good news: Kyle Busch has started in the top five in each of the last three races – the first time he has done so since 2021. Last week in Kansas he went from 21st to eighth in overtime. Bad news: Busch’s only win at Darlington came in 2008. Five drivers in that race now have sons racing against Busch full-time: Dave Blaney (son Ryan), Jeff Burton (Harrison), David Gilliland (Todd), Bill Elliott (Chase) and Joe Nemechek (John Hunter). Busch is winless in his last 33 Cup races. … Austin Dillon has finished 24th or worse in nine of 12 races this year.

Rick Ware Racing — Good news: Justin Haley’s 18th place finish in Kansas was the best for the organization at that track. Bad news: Only once did the organization manage to finish a car in the top 25 in Darlington. Cody Ware placed 19th at the May 2022 event.

RFK Racing — Good news: Brad Keselowski advanced to a playoff spot after Kansas. Keselowski has had top-10 finishes in each of the last three races at Darlington and in four of the last five races there. Bad news: .001 second ahead of Chris Buescher in Kansas.

NASCAR Cup Series Würth 400 - Practice

Brad Keselowski moves into a playoff spot, while Joey Logano falls below the cut after the Kansas race.

Spire Motorsports — Good News: Carson Hocevar’s second career Cup start came last year in the Southern 500. He started 15th and finished 17th in that event. Bad news: All three team cars finished 24th or worse at Kansas. That is the first time in the last five races that all three cars have finished so deep in the field.

Stewart-Haas Racing — Good news: Three consecutive top-10 finishes have moved Noah Gragson to 19th in points. He was 37th in the standings after a 35-point penalty in Atlanta in late February left him at -6 points. Kansas marked its sixth consecutive top-20 finish. Gragson has two wins and a second-place finish in the Xfinity Series at Darlington. … Chase Briscoe remains in a playoff spot. Bad news: Josh Berry is one of three drivers who have started every race this year without a top-10 finish. His best result this year is 11th place.

NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400

Ford has lost four Cup races this season by a combined lead of less than half a second.

Team Penske — Good news: Ryan Blaney is the only Ford driver in the top 10 in points. He is sixth in the rankings. Bad news: Joey Logano fell out of a playoff spot after last weekend’s race at Kansas. … The last time this organization was winless through 12 races in the Cup was 2013. … The organization’s average finish of 18.7 under Blaney, Logano and Austin Cindric is the worst through 12 races since 2010.

Trackhouse Racing — Good news: According to Racing Insights, Daniel Suarez’s Kansas pit crew had the fastest four-tire pit stop, at 9.343 seconds on lap 254. … Ross Chastain will make his 200th career Cup start this weekend at Darlington. Bad news: The last time a driver won in his 200th Cup start was 2006, when Kevin Harvick did so at Watkins Glen.

Wood Brothers Racing — Good news: Harrison Burton finished sixth in the spring race at Darlington last year. Bad news: Burton has had two top-10 finishes in the 35 races since.