Matt DiBenedetto almost did the unthinkable in Bristol last week, the ultimate underdog in an exceptionally challenging week. With 12 laps to go, however, the lead was surrendered to Denny Hamlin and the #11 rode to Victory Lane. Bad feelings or not for Matty D, it was a win for the driver of the FedEx Toyota, and 15 days later we’re ripe for another good one. It is Throwback Weekend, and this..is Darlington.
Here’s what to look for:
–William Byron will start from Pole for tonight’s race, and he’s got a good-looking car for this one. Driving a car modeled after Cole Trickle’s Days of Thunder piece, Byron will have the eyes of Hollywood on him, or something. But seriously, Days of Thunder is a pretty fun movie that people like to reference (heck, Kyle Busch adopted “Rowdy” as a result), and a car harkening back to then is nice to look at. Young William will have the best view at the onset of this race, let’s just hope that Chad Knaus and crew aren’t eating ice cream when he needs to pit for fresh rubber.
–Brad Keselowski took the checkers in last year’s Southern 500, and he’s back driving an awesome Rusty Wallace throwback car again. This time he’s going with the 1996 version of the #2, and if it’s anything like last year’s ride he’ll be hoisting another trophy in no time. Starting P2, Keselowski is already looking good.
–Denny Hamlin has our best average finish over the last ten races here, a 6.1 and a Win as recent as 2017. In that time frame, he’s got seven Top 6s as well. Look for Hamlin and his Darrell Waltrip inspired #11 (complete with chrome numbers!) to dig into the Track Too Tough To Tame.
–Erik Jones has a mighty fine average here as well (6.5), no doubt due in part to his teammates (Hamlin above, Kyle Busch’s 9.5, and new teammate Truex’s 10.8) success with the Lady in Black. Maybe they can’t get all of the credit, no, but it certainly can’t hurt. That Jones Boy will start 15th in the SportClips Throwback.
-We highlighted the Wienermobile last year (finished 19th with Matt Kenseth..), and it is hard not to do it again. Ryan Newman has a great Oscar Mayer paint scheme, looking very much like Mark Martin’s race-winning #6 from the 1993 Southern 500. Those were the days, ya know? Newman has a decent average here over the last ten races, a 10.4 and seven Top 10s across that span.
Coverage of the race starts on NBCSN at 6:00pm, green flag scheduled for 6:15pm. Been looking forward to this one since last year, don’t miss it!