Ford Performance NASCAR – Darlington 2 Advance

DARLINGTON RACEWAY NOTES

Saturday, Sept. 2 – NASCAR XFINITY Series, 3:30 p.m. ET (USA)
Sunday, Sept. 3 – NASCAR Cup Series, 6 p.m. ET (USA)

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin with one of the sport’s marquee races as Darlington Raceway hosts the annual Southern 500 on Sunday evening. Six Ford drivers will be vying for this year’s championship, including three who have won it at least once in Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

HOT STREAK CONTINUES

Ford goes into this weekend’s Darlington playoff opener on its best streak of the season having won four of the last five Cup Series races. Chris Buescher has been responsible for three of those victories (Richmond, Michigan and Daytona) while Michael McDowell provided the other in Indianapolis. Joey Logano (Atlanta) and Ryan Blaney (Charlotte) also have Ford victories this season.

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES SINCE 2014

NASCAR began the current 16-driver playoff elimination format in 2014 and this year’s Ford participants vary in terms of postseason experience. Kevin Harvick has been part of the playoff field every year, winning the championship in 2014, and has advanced to the Championship 4 on five occasions. This will be the ninth appearance each for Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski with Logano winning two championships (2018, 2022) under this format. Ryan Blaney is making his seventh appearance while Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell are making their second playoff run.

Kevin Harvick – 10
Brad Keselowski – 9

Joey Logano – 9
Ryan Blaney – 7
Chris Buescher – 2
Michael McDowell – 2

FORD’S ALL-TIME PLAYOFF RECORD

Ford has 50 all-time NASCAR Cup Series playoff victories since the postseason era started in 2004. Kurt Busch won the inaugural race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that year and rode that momentum to the series championship. Since then, a total of 13 drivers have captured at least one playoff event with Joey Logano leading the way with 12. Ford has at least one playoff win at every track on this year’s schedule with Talladega leading the way with nine.

Joey Logano: “The first round is just don’t screw it up. I know that’s easy to say and a little harder to do, considering what’s on the line and obviously as hard as Darlington is with as many laps right next to the wall and as many pit stops as there are. There’s plenty of opportunities to screw it up, so trying to just get through that one is the goal. That’s one of our better racetracks as a team anyway, so just maximize that day. It seems like, to me, the first race of each round is the most important race because it sets you up for the next two and how you would attack those, so if you can get through that day and have thirtysomething points over the cut, you’re in pretty good shape to be smart the next two races and get through. You put yourself a little bit behind the eight ball after Darlington, then you have a little more challenging next two weeks to get through, so, to me, the first race of each round is very important.”

Kevin Harvick: “Darlington has been a good racetrack for us in the past and we’ve had good finishes there and always been one of my favorite places to race, but I think looking at predicting what you’re gonna do is really not in the cards anymore because sometimes you show up and it’s completely different. Hopefully, it goes like it has in the past because Darlington has been a great place for us.”

Ryan Blaney: “Just working hard trying to find pace and speed. You hope you bring your best stuff. Everyone is working really hard to figure out where we need to be, so I feel good going into Darlington. Our cars were OK there in the spring. This race is a little bit different with getting into the night and stuff like that, and in this race a lot of people always seem to have problems in this one. It’s the first race of the playoffs, it’s the 500, it’s a tough race to finish, so there are a lot of mistakes made. I think at Darlington you just have to try to have a mistake-free night, run all 500 miles of it and figure out where you’re at at the end of that thing, but I feel good about Darlington.”

Michael McDowell: “Darlington has been really strong for us the last couple of years. I don’t know if we necessarily have the finishes to show how strong we’ve run. I think we have two top 10’s, but we were running better than that and just lost a little track position on those last stops, so I think Darlington will be a good race for us.”

THE FIRST TIME FORD WON THE SOUTHERN 500

The first time Ford won a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway was when Curtis Turner took the Southern 500 on Sept. 3, 1956. Unlike today, where the field is set at a maximum of 40 cars, there were 70 vehicles in the race that saw Turner lead 224 of the 400 laps. He beat Speedy Thompson to the finish line by more than two laps, and did it in record fashion with an average race speed of 95.167 mph.

THE LAST TIME FORD WON THE SOUTHERN 500

Kevin Harvick capitalized on late-race contact between race-leaders Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. in 2020 to win the Southern 500 and gain an automatic berth into the Round of 12. Even though Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford Mustang led just 32 laps, it took command when Elliott and Truex collided while battling for the lead with 15 laps left. The win was Harvick’s eighth of the season and third at the historic track. It also represented his 57th career Cup Series victory.

KESELOWSKI SWEEPS 2018 SOUTHERN 500 WEEKEND

Brad Keselowski rode a fast pit stop by his crew to register a win in the 2018 Southern 500. Keselowski found himself in a three-way battle with Kyle Larson and teammate Joey Logano in the latter stages. When the caution came out for a spin by Jeffrey Earnhardt with 23 laps to go, Keselowski and his crew were able to win the race off pit road and assume the lead for what proved to be the final restart of the race. Keselowski was able to get out front on the restart with 19 laps to go and eventually win by 1.224 seconds. Logano finished second to make it a 1-2 Ford/Team Penske finish and cap a weekend that also saw him take the NASCAR Xfinity Series race a day earlier.

WOOD BROTHERS LEAD THE WAY

It comes as no surprise that the Wood Brothers are Ford’s all-time winningest team at Darlington Raceway, posting eight career victories. All but one of those triumphs came in a Mercury, which the team ran in the 1960’s and 70’s. David Pearson, who holds the record with 10 career Darlington Cup victories, led the way with six while Cale Yarborough captured the team’s first in 1968. The last Darlington win for Wood Brothers Racing came in 1981 when Neil Bonnett took the Southern 500 in 1981 behind the wheel of a Ford.

DARLINGTON MASTER

David Pearson holds the record for most NASCAR Cup Series wins at Darlington Raceway with 10 and eight of those came in Ford Motor Co. products. He won six times driving the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury (1972,’74,’76-2,’77), winning the Southern 500 twice in that span (1976-77), and two more times in a Holman-Moody Ford (1968 and ’70). Pearson won three Southern 500 titles overall, capturing his third in 1979.

HERBST CHASES PLAYOFFS

Ford’s last series win came in 2020 when Chase Briscoe outdueled Kyle Busch down the stretch to win the series’ first race back following the COVID shut down. One Ford driver who would like to change that statistic is Riley Herbst, who enters the weekend 20 points out of the final playoff spot with two races remaining in the regular season. Herbst has made seven series starts at Darlington and finished a career-best third in the spring event last season.

FORD NASCAR CUP SERIES WINNERS

AT DARLINGTON

1956 – Curtis Turner

1960 – Joe Weatherly (1)

1961 – Fred Lorenzen and Nelson Stacy

1962 – Nelson Stacy and Larry Frank

1963 – Fireball Roberts (2)

1964 – Fred Lorenzen

1965 – Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett

1968 – David Pearson (1)

1969 – Lee Roy Yarbrough (2)

1970 – David Pearson (1)

1981 – Neil Bonnett (2)

1982 – Dale Earnhardt (1)

1985 – Bill Elliott (Sweep)

1988 – Bill Elliott (2)

1992 – Bill Elliott (1)

1993 – Mark Martin (2)

1994 – Bill Elliott (2)

1997 – Dale Jarrett (1)

1998 – Dale Jarrett (1)

1999 – Jeff Burton (Sweep)

2001 – Dale Jarrett (1)

2005 – Greg Biffle

2006 – Greg Biffle

2018 – Brad Keselowski

2020 – Kevin Harvick (1) and (3)

2022 – Joey Logano (1)

FORD NASCAR XFINITY SERIES WINNERS

AT DARLINGTON

1993 – Mark Martin (2)

1994 – Mark Martin (Sweep)

1995 – Mark Martin (2)

1996 – Mark Martin (1) and Terry Labonte (2)

1997 – Jeff Burton (2)

1999 – Mark Martin (2)

2000 – Mark Martin (Sweep)

2001 – Jeff Green (1) and Jeff Burton (2)

2002 – Jeff Burton (Sweep)

2004 – Greg Biffle

2005 – Matt Kenseth

2009 – Matt Kenseth

2018 – Brad Keselowski

2019 – Cole Custer

2020 – Chase Briscoe (1)

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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