The regular season has ended. The Playoffs have been set. The seats for today’s race have been completely out. The infield is at capacity. All eyes are on the Southern 500, including mine and Lisa’s, as we are scheduled to be in attendance this evening! We’ve been soaking up all sorts of sun in Myrtle Beach, Goose Creek, Charleston, and Mt. Pleasant, and later we take our sweet almost-tans farther inland to Darlington.
Here’s what to look for:
–Joey Logano was the man to beat in Qualifying…and nobody could! The be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man, and that didn’t happen on Saturday. Logano had his best run at Darlington this past Spring, starting 1st, leading 107 laps, and the winning the race. Here he is again, starting 1st. Can he do it again tonight?
–Denny Hamlin did almost the same thing at last year’s race, starting 2nd and finishing 1st. He’ll only be 11th today when he starts, so he’ll have some more work to do. He’s got a pretty good average here though; 3 wins in the last ten races here with a 9.0 average finish. Hamlin has the 3rd most points over that span, too, and after not running yesterday’s Xfinity race, he’ll be all dialed in for today.
-In the last ten Darlington races, Kevin Harvick has…ten Top 10s! Wow! It isn’t often that you see that, but he’s done it. In that timeframe, the worst he’s placed is 9th, and his last eight runs have been 6th or better. Pretty awesome average for a guy who has been underperforming for the last two years. Could this be the race that he punches his ticket to the next round? He won this race in 2020; do not sleep on The Closer!
–Austin Dillon did the near-impossible last week; breaking into the Playoffs at Daytona in a must-Win situation and avoiding nearly every incident out there, including the Big One which ensured that over half the field wouldn’t finish that race on the track. Only ten cars were left on the lead lap, and Dillon looked like some divine intervention led him to the Winner’s Circle. I don’t want to get all “whatever” here, but the #3 making it to the Playoffs via Daytona? ..in any event, he bagged a pair of Top 10s at the Darlington races last year. Could he surprise a few by moving on to the Round of 12 today? Austin ran 2nd to Harvick in the 2020 race.
–Erik Jones had a great streak of Darlington finishes (with a worst of 8th)…and then 2021 hit. Since then, things have been “off” a little bit. He’s DNF’d his last two races, and had a stanky 18th in the ’21 Goodyear 500. I have faith in That Jones Boy though. He looked really good in Practice, missed advancing in the Qualifying round, but could find himself in the mix as the race wanes. He starts 15th today, one of three drivers in the Top 16 starting positions NOT in the Playoffs.
Ok, we’ve got some pics to share!
Exciting times! And we’ve still got a race, walking on some piers, all you can eat seafood, and all kinds of other things before we head home late tomorrow night!
Coverage of the race starts on USA at 6:00pm.