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May 12, 2024

Racing Insights: Kyle Larson to go back-to-back at Darlington


Kyle Larson celebrates win
James Gilbert
Getty Images

Editor’s note: This story has been updated after practice and qualifying on Saturday.

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The advance metrics correctly forecasted Kyle Larson’s triumph last week in Kansas, but who could’ve predicted it would come down to 0.001 seconds to decide it?

Once again, Racing Insights favors Larson in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), but there have been some changes to the projected order after Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions.

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After Larson in the projected order comes Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (unchanged), but Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron has jumped up to third place from sixth. Next comes pole winner Tyler Reddick from 23XI Racing in fourth and JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. to complete the top five.

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski jumps up two spots to sixth, and Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch round out the top 10.

But back to Larson’s Darlington dominance where he won the Southern 500 last September. At Darlington, Larson’s 9.4 average finish ranks third-best all time among drivers with more than two starts. In his six starts with Hendrick Motorsports at Darlington, Larson has posted three top-two finishes and led 270 laps.

His 8.5 average running position overall in 2024 (second) and 10.83 average finish (third) are good indicators of why the metrics continue to favor him. With two wins on the season, it’s not hard to think Larson could soon match Denny Hamlin and William Byron in win totals with three.

After a wild finish at Kansas, who knows what thrills will be in store for a throwback weekend at Darlington?

OTHER DRIVERS TO WATCH

WILLIAM BYRON: Byron hasn’t had a top-10 finish since Talladega, but expect him to find his stride at Darlington. Byron’s 898 laps run in the top five and 1,083 laps in the top 10 both rank first in the Next Gen era. What’s more impressive is that with those good runs, he found ways to finish races at the track “Too Tough to Tame.” His 6.5 average finish at Darlington is also a series-best in the Next Gen era.

TYLER REDDICK: Reddick has become a crafty superspeedway racer with a Duel win at Daytona and a victory at Talladega, but what about a 1.33-mile track? In the Next Gen era at Darlington, Reddick has the second-best average running position (7.84) and second-best average finish (7.25).

CHASE ELLIOTT: The 2020 champ has found some familiar ground so far this year. Over Elliott’s last six races, he’s tallied a win and five top-five finishes. In addition, Elliott owns the best average finish in the Next Gen era with 12.26. Not to mention, Hendrick Motorsports has won the last two races at Darlington.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Keselowski currently has a streak of three top-10 finishes at Darlington. Plus, his career 11.4 average finish there is the eighth-best all-time among drivers with more than two starts. Keselowski was in contention for the win at Talladega a few weeks ago and could very well be in the mix this weekend.

NOAH GRAGSON: While there aren’t many Cup stats to go off of for Gragson, he has cracked the top 10 in each of the last three 2024 races and has started to find his footing at Stewart-Haas Racing. Darlington was a strong track for him in the Xfinity Series and it could click for him again.

RACING INSIGHTS’ PROJECTIONS FOR THE GOODYEAR 400

Racing Insights’ advanced statistical formula includes current track, current track type, recent performance, team data and pit-crew data to arrive at a projected winner and full race results.

FinishCar NumberDriver
15Kyle Larson
211Denny Hamlin
324William Byron
445Tyler Reddick
519Martin Truex Jr.
66Brad Keselowski
722Joey Logano
89Chase Elliott
912Ryan Blaney
108Kyle Busch
1120Christopher Bell
121Ross Chastain
1348Alex Bowman
1417Chris Buescher
1554Ty Gibbs
1614Chase Briscoe
1723Bubba Wallace
1843Erik Jones
1999Daniel Suárez
203Austin Dillon
2177Carson Hocevar
2234Michael McDowell
2338Todd Gilliland
2410Noah Gragson
252Austin Cindric
2641Ryan Preece
274Josh Berry
2847Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2951Justin Haley
3021Harrison Burton
317Corey LaJoie
3242John H Nemechek
3331Daniel Hemric
3471Zane Smith
3516Derek Kraus
3615Kaz Grala

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