NASCAR Weekend Preview

Weekend Preview: Darlington Raceway

Hendrick Motorsports Poised to Break 10-year Darlington Drought

On the positive side, Hendrick Motorsports has won five of the 11 NASCAR Cup Series races so far this season.

Further, Hendrick drivers collectively have 14 all-time Cup victories at Darlington Raceway, more than any other organization in the sport.

Here’s the negative, though: Hendrick hasn’t earned a trophy at the Lady in Black since Jimmie Johnson won the spring race in 2012, and no current driver in the Hendrick stable has a victory at the track.

Based on recent performance, however, that decade-long drought has a good chance to end in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

After winning for the first time this season in last Sunday’s race at Dover Motor Speedway, 2020 Cup champion Chase Elliott comes to Darlington looking to go back-to-back. Though winless in the Cup Series at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track, Elliott won at Darlington in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2014, the first time he raced on the track.

This weekend, Elliott will get extra seat time by running the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

“I always look forward to going to Darlington,” Elliott said. “It’s really cool, and I feel like it’s really a driver’s race track. For some reason, I’ve kind of struggled there the last couple of years, so I’m looking forward to getting some practice on Saturday in the Xfinity race.

“Hopefully, that can help me come Sunday. I also feel like there are some things that we learned from Dover that we can take to Darlington. It’ll be interesting with the new car and how things go.”

Teammate William Byron, a two-time winner this year, also has shown speed at Darlington. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won the pole for the 2019 Southern 500 before falling to 21st at the finish. For Throwback Weekend at the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame’, Byron’s Camaro is sporting a paint scheme reminiscent of one his predecessors in the No. 24 car—NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, a seven-time winner at the track.

Recently, though, Darlington has been the nearly exclusive province of Toyota driver Denny Hamlin and Ford driver Kevin Harvick. In the five races since the coronavirus pandemic caused a 10-week hiatus in NASCAR competition, Hamlin and Harvick have won two events each, with Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. taking last year’s spring race.

In fact, a Chevrolet driver hasn’t won at Darlington since Harvick took the checkered flag in the 2014 spring race, the year before Stewart-Haas Racing switched to Ford.

Hamlin has a victory at Richmond to all but ensure a berth in this year’s Playoff, but the rest of his season has been fraught with error—notably an unattached wheel that sabotaged a potential race-winning car last Monday at Dover.

But Hamlin leads all active drivers with four Darlington wins, not to mention his five victories at the track in the Xfinity Series. Hamlin got a feel for the track in the Next Gen car during a March 15 Goodyear tire test that included Harvick and reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson, a Hendrick driver seeking his second win of the season.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend.” Hamlin said. “Darlington has been a great track for us, and we feel like we learned a lot at the tire test, so that gives us confidence going back.

“Like all season, our biggest thing is just eliminating mistakes—whether that’s me or on pit road or something happening with the car. It seems like every week has been something, but our speed has been good most weeks, if we can just put everything together.”

JR Motorsports Looks to Continue Darlington Success on Throwback Weekend

There are four former Darlington winners in the field for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race—and three of them are driving for JR Motorsports.

Xfinity regulars Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson will be joined by double-duty driver Chase Elliott as they try to extend JRM’s winning streak at the Lady in Black in Saturday’s Mahindra ROXOR 200 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

JR Motorsports drivers swept last year’s races at the venerable 1.366-mile speedway, with Allgaier winning last spring and Gragson taking the checkered flag in the fall race. Gragson already has two victories to his credit this season. Allgaier is looking for his first.

“I can’t wait to get to Darlington this weekend,” said Allgaier, who finished a close second to teammate Sam Mayer last Saturday at Dover Motor Speedway. “We have an awesome throwback design for our Hellman’s Chevrolet, and hopefully we can replicate the same kind of success we had last year and get back into Victory Lane.

“I know this team is capable of doing it, and I’m ready to get down there and make it happen.”

As strong as the JRM Camaros have been at Darlington, it would be unwise to ignore the Joe Gibbs Racing contingent. Brandon Jones won the fall race in 2020, and 19-year-old Ty Gibbs already is a series-leading three-time winner this season.

Gibbs’ No. 54 Toyota features an Interstate Batteries paint scheme from the year he was born—2002.

Already qualified for the Xfinity Series Playoffs thanks to a win at Martinsville, Jones won the pole and finished seventh last Saturday at Dover.

Defending NASCAR Truck Series Champ Ben Rhodes Tries to Double-Up at Darlington

There are two former Darlington winners in the field for Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and they’re both driving Toyotas.

But that’s about the only similarity between the two competitors in Friday’s Dead On Tools 200 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Twenty-five-year-old Ben Rhodes is the defending series champion. He won at Darlington in 2020 in the Truck Series’ return to the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame’ after a nine-year hiatus. Rhodes is fresh from an impressive April 16 victory at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track.

Todd Bodine, 58, will make his 796th career start in NASCAR’s three national series combined when he takes the green flag. Bodine is driving the No. 62 Tundra for Halmar Friesen Racing.

Series regulars with hopes of winning and securing a Playoff berth will have to deal with a formidable obstacle. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner Ross Chastain will drive a fifth Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports.

Chastain began his rise to prominence at Darlington in 2018, when he won the pole and the first two stages in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.


Weekend Preview: Dover Motor Speedway


  • DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne
  • Dover Motor Speedway
  • Sunday, May 1. 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Purse: $7,205,230
  • TV: FS1, 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 400 miles (400 Laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 120)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 250)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

Top drivers still looking for their first win of 2022 at the Monster Mile.

As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover Motor Speedway for Sunday’s DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the top drivers in the championship points standings are still looking for their first win of the 2022 season.

Chase Elliott

NASCAR Cup Series standings leader Chase Elliott is also the only member of the four-car Hendrick Motorsports team without a race trophy, but his consistency and ability to “be there” at the end has kept him atop the standings for the last three races. And Elliott is a former winner on Dover’s famed “Monster Mile” track.

Heading into the race, Elliott leads Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney by 21 points in the championship. Unlike Blaney, who has only two top-10 finishes in 11 Dover starts, Elliott has fared well on the concrete high-banks. He has eight top-five finishes – including that 2018 victory – in 11 starts.

And a win this weekend would go a long way toward solidifying Elliott’s run toward a second championship. The last time he hoisted a trophy was July 4 of last year at the Road America road course – 26 races ago.

“I want to win just as much as everyone else, if not more,” said Elliott, who drivers the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “I always want to win, and I always have an expectation of myself to want to go and perform.

“That expectation is the only one that matters to me, and I want to do the job to the best of my ability always, whether you have a win in the bank or not. For me, that doesn’t make me try any harder.”

Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports team goes into Sunday’s race as an absolute favorite having finished 1-2-3-4 in the race last year – won by Elliott’s teammate Alex Bowman. The four Hendrick drivers led a remarkable 382 of the 400 laps (95.5 percent). And it marked only the third time in NASCAR history a team swept the top four finishing positions in a race. The last time it happened was November 2005 when Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing did it at the Homestead, Fla. season finale.

Largely thanks to Jimmie Johnson’s record 11 victories at Dover, Hendrick is the winningest team at the track with 21 victories. Since 2013 – a span of 17 races – only three teams have won on the Monster Mile, with Hendrick’s eight trophies the most in that time, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing (five wins) and Stewart-Haas Racing (four wins).

That certainly bodes well for a Hendrick team which has all four drivers – Elliott, William Byron (third), Alex Bowman (fifth) and reigning series champion Kyle Larson (eighth) ranked among the top-10 in the series driver standings. Byron and last week’s Talladega race winner Ross Chastain are the only drivers in the series with multiple wins (two each) so far this season.

Not only is Elliott among the favorites to score a season first win at Dover – he’s joined by three other former NASCAR Cup Series champions, who are also good at this track and also looking for their first trophies of the year.

Past series champs Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. boast the most NASCAR Cup Series wins among active drivers at Dover – all with three victories each. Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is the most recent winner among the trio with a trophy in 2020.

Kevin Harvick

Harvick, 46, the 2014 series champion is ranked 11th in the standings with only a single top five (runner-up at Richmond, Va.) and 12 laps led right now. He’s finished sixth or better (including two wins) in the last seven Dover races.

Martin Truex Jr

Truex, 41, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, broke an uncharacteristic run of back-to-back sub-20th-place finishes with a fifth place showing at Talladega last week. He’s ranked eighth in the standings with a best finish of fourth place at Richmond, Va. earlier this month. The 2017 series champion scored his career first NASCAR Cup Series win at Dover, Del. in 2007. He answered a 2019 win there with three consecutive runner-up finishes before a 19th-place run last Spring.

This will be the first test for the new Next Gen car on Dover’s concrete high-banks and while drivers aren’t sure exactly what to expect, they say they are looking forward to the Dover test.

“It’s a hard track to get right anyways but throw in a new car and limited track time, it’s going to be difficult,” Truex said. “I love going there though, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

The NASCAR Cup Series will have a 45-minute practice session Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 11:15 a.m. – both televised live on FS1.


  • A-GAME 200
  • Dover Motor Speedway
  • Saturday, April 30, 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Purse: $1,419,713
  • TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 200 miles (200 Laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

Dover offers monster of a good time for Xfinity Series

Following Noah Gragson’s victory in a dramatic overtime finish at the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ biggest track last weekend (Talladega Superspeedway), the series moves to the always exciting Dover Motor Speedway for a test on the “Monster Mile” this week.

Saturday afternoon’s A-GAME 200 at Dover (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) presents a unique challenge to the Xfinity Series championship with only one of the series’ fulltime competitors having ever won this race previously.

Two-time Dover winner Justin Allgaier is hopeful that his track record will push him forward in the points and into an already tightly grouped trio atop the championship.

Veteran A.J. Allmendinger, who finished third last weekend in a typically frantic Talladega (Ala). Superspeedway rush to the checkered flag, leads the Xfinity Series championship by 40 points over Gragson and 45 points over Ty Gibbs – the two swapping positions in the standings following Gragson’s win and Gibbs’ rough superspeedway outing.

AJ Allmendinger

Allmendinger has top-10 finishes in every race this season topped with a victory at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin last month. The driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet has only a pair of Xfinity starts at Dover – with a best finish of fourth-place last year – and has never led a lap there.

Noah Gragson

Gragson’s Talladega victory was his second of the season. His first came at the other one-mile track, Phoenix Raceway, which gives him plenty of momentum as the series arrives in Dover.

Gragson has never won on the Monster Mile, but the driver of the JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet does have four top-10 finishes in six starts with a best showing of fourth place in 2020. He’s led only 38 laps at Dover during that time – but neither of his other closest championship challengers – Allmendinger or Gibbs – have led even a single lap at the track.

Ty Gibbs

This will be only the second Dover start for Gibbs, who will be looking to regain momentum after a tough Talladega race. Involved in an accident on the big track, Gibbs finished 35th suffering only the second DNF in 27 career Xfinity Series races to date. Gibbs’ three wins and 330 laps led in 2022 are most in the series. The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished fifth in his only Dover race, last year.

Justin Allgaier

Which brings us to Allgaier, who boasts a top-five finish in half of his 21 Dover starts, including wins in 2018 and 2020 and three runner-up showings. In the last 12 Dover races, the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet has 11 top-10 and nine top-five finishes – including the two victories. His 447 career laps led is most among Xfinity Series regulars and twice he’s led 100 or more laps in a Dover race.

It all speaks well for a potential Dover rebound to Allgaier’s 2022 season. He’s currently ranked sixth in the championship, 121-points behind Allmendinger, but has finished 22nd or worse in four of the last five races. His best finish of the year is fifth (at Daytona and Las Vegas). His last win came almost exactly a year ago – May 8 at Darlington, S.C.

“I can’t wait to get to Dover this weekend with our No. 7 team,” Allgaier said. “We’ve been really strong there the last couple of years and I feel extremely confident that we are going to pick up right where we left off when we hit the track for practice on Friday. Hopefully, we can have a solid, smooth weekend and be right where we need to be, come race time, to right for the win.

“I’m ready to go.”


The Dover race marks the Dash 4 Cash program’s 2022 finale. Gragson, Landon Cassill, Allmendinger and Ryan Sieg are qualified to win the $100,000 bonus check this week following their work last week at Talladega. The highest finisher among them earns the bonus cash from sponsor Comcast Xfinity. Allmendinger has won two of the three Dash 4 Cash prizes to date.


Weekend Preview: Talladega Superspeedway


  • GEICO 500
  • Talladega Superspeedway
  • Sunday, April 24, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Purse: $7,420,008
  • TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 500 miles (188 laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

The famed Talladega Superspeedway is a track beloved for its high-action and unpredictability. And those are apt adjectives for NASCAR’s Cup Series competition this season as well – with eight different winners through the first nine races.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway high banks for Sunday’s GEICO 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) which is traditionally a sure-bet season highlight.

Four Different Winners – Last Four Races

There have been four different winners in the last four races there, including a career first NASCAR Cup Series trophy earned by 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace last Fall (October). Former series champion Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this Spring race and with six career Talladega victories is the winningest driver in the field. He actually boasts an impressive double the number of victories there as any other active driver.

Brad Keselowski

A win would definitely be a huge boost for Keselowski, whose only top-10 finish of this season was a ninth place in the season-opening Daytona 500. The new owner-driver for RFK Racing was penalized after the Atlanta race when NASCAR inspectors found the team modified a “single source” supplied part on the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford. Keselowski lost 100 driver points and 10 Playoff points and crew chief Matt McCall was suspended for four races. And now Keselowski shows up at one of his career-best tracks ranked 30th in the driver standings.

A solid run – a victory this weekend – would go a long way toward turning the season around for the new driver-owner. He scored a win and a runner-up finish in his two Talladega starts last year.

Chase Elliott

Perennial crowd favorite Chase Elliott has led the championship standings for four of the last five weeks, the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet currently holds a slim three-point edge on Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney and a 21-point advantage over Blaney’s Penske teammate Joey Logano heading to Talladega.

Interestingly, these three drivers ranked highest in the series driver standings are all still winless on the season. But they are all former Talladega winners and race favorites this weekend.

Elliott, who is from nearby Dawsonville, Ga. and considered a “hometown” favorite at Talladega, dramatically won the 2019 October Playoff race at the track, but has only a single top-five finish in the five races since. When it comes to superspeedways (at Daytona and Talladega), however, Elliott has collected six top-five and nine finishes on his career.

Ryan Blaney

Blaney has two victories – in Fall, 2019 and Spring, 2020 – and is the first driver to score back-to-back wins at Talladega since NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon swept the 2007 races. However, as with Elliott, Blaney has had a rough go otherwise, with only three top-10 finishes (including those two victories) in the last 11 Talladega races despite leading laps in eight of those 11 outings.

Joey Logano

Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, trails only Keselowski in the victory count with three wins, the last coming in the Spring, 2018 race. He also has struggled recently with only a single top 10 (third place in Fall 2020) in the last five races. He does boast nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in his 26 career starts, however, and has led laps in 12 of the last 13 races.

Any of these drivers has a compelling case to win this Sunday – past Talladega performance plus a desire to score that first 2022 victory.

William Byron

And not to be overlooked is the season’s only multiple-winner, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron. He was runner-up to Keselowski in this race last year and has top-five finishes in two of the last three Talladega races. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win on the series’ other superspeedway in Daytona Beach in August 2020.

“Talladega is one of those places where you just don’t know how your day is going to end up,” Byron said. “I think that’s why driving smart and just doing what you can to make it to the checkered flag is the main focus. Your race can change so fast if you’re in the wrong lane or you get caught up in someone else’s mistake.

“I think if you can avoid those things and finish the race, you’re going to have a decent result.”

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 is schedule for Saturday morning at 11 a.m. ET on FS1.


  • Ag-Pro 300
  • Talladega Superspeedway
  • Saturday, April 23, 4:00p.m. ET
  • Purse: $1,475,583
  • TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • 300.58 miles (113 Laps)
  • Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25)
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50)
  • Final Stage (Ends on Lap 113)

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns after a week off to compete in the Ag-Pro 300 this Saturday, April 23 at Talladega Superspeedway (4 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Jeb Burton

Jeb Burton earned his career first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in this race last year, leading the final nine laps and ultimately holding off Austin Cindric, current series points leader A.J. Allmendinger, Riley Herbst, Ryan Sieg and Noah Gragson.

Burton, who now drives the No. 27 Our Motorsports Chevrolet, would love to back up his victory with his first top-10 finish of the year – and first for his new team – at Talladega this weekend. However, he can expect typically tight competition, among multiple drivers and the kind of last lap drama that has long characterized the speedway and made this one of the most thrilling races of the season.

AJ Allmendinger

Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger is in the midst of a stellar season start, earning his first victory of the year at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas road course and is the only driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with top-10 finishes in all eight races. Last year’s third place effort at Talladega is his best showing in four Xfinity Series starts there.

Ty Gibbs

Nineteen-year-old Ty Gibb, who will be making his Xfinity Series Talladega debut, is currently second in the Xfinity Series driver standings trailing Allmendinger by 20 points, with a series-best three victories. His only superspeedway experience-to-date, however, is an 11th-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona. The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has a series-best 325 laps led on the season and has won pole position in the last three races.

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson sits just behind Gibbs in the standings and the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet has been good on the Talladega high banks earning top-10 finishes in four of his six starts there with a best showing of third-place in 2020. Gragson was third in the first superspeedway race of 2022 – at Daytona. And his four-race run atop the championship standings mid-season is the longest time a driver has led the points consecutively so far.

Brandon Brown – Ryan Sieg – Brandon Jones

Brandon Brown, Ryan Sieg and the most recent Xfinity Series race winner Brandon Jones (at Martinsville, Va.) all have good cases as race favorites too. Brown won the series last race at Talladega in October of 2021 – his only win in the series. He’s finished top-10 in the last three races at the track.

Sieg, who has five top-10 finishes in 2022, has finished 11th-place or better in the last three Talladega races, including a runner-up finish in 2020. Jones, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has three top-five finishes and was runner-up to Brown in the Fall race last year

Dash 4 Cash

Saturday’s race marks the third round of the Dash 4 Cash incentive with $100,000 on the line to the top finishing driver Saturday among these four: Brandon Jones, Landon Cassill, Allmendinger and Austin Hill.

The top-four finishing eligible drivers at Talladega will then race for the final $100,000 courtesy of Xfinity – when the series competes at the “Monster Mile,” Dover (Del.) International Speedway next week. Allmendinger and Jones each pocketed one of the two $100,000 bonuses already awarded this season.