Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2022 Goodyear 400 at Darlington

What happened?

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Joey Logano bumped William Byron and ran away for his first points race victory of the NASCAR Cup Series season at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 8. Byron fell back to 13th while Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.

This is Logano’s first victory since the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway in April of 2021.

How did it happen?

With a short-track style bump and run — on a 1.3-mile track.

The final stage seemed to be turning out like one of those interesting Formula 1-style tire strategy races. Multiple drivers were looking to make two stop strategies in the closing laps of the race, while others were looking to make only one.

One of those two-stop strategists was the No. 8 of Reddick, who had been hovering near the lower end of the top 10 the whole race. Reddick was leading after he had pitted before much of the rest of the field, including polesitter Logano. The early pit stop allowed Reddick to take advantage of the fresher tires and overtake the leaders when they had finally made their final pit stop. The tradeoff was that the Richard Childress Racing car still had one more stop to make.

Then the caution flew for Alex Bowman after he hit the wall, and suddenly all of those strategies changed. Instead, there was now only one strategy left: pit, and go like hell.

Reddick came to pit road followed by the rest of the field. However, Logano had taken the lead on the race off pit road with Reddick in tow. Byron was close behind.

One lap after the restart on lap 262, the caution flew again. This one far more violent than the last.

It allowed the leader to rerack and try again, but now with fewer laps left and with it fewer opportunities to make passes.

On the final restart, Byron sailed to the inside of Logano to make the pass and finally cleared him for the lead. With only around 25 laps to go and a clear racetrack ahead of him, it seemed as though Byron was on track for his third win of the 2022 season.

Yet with 10 laps to go, it was all too obvious this race was not yet over as Logano’s No. 22 Ford returned to the form it was on early in the race when he led over 100 laps. That, or perhaps Byron’s No. 24 Jeff Gordon throwback Chevrolet was fading.

It was only three laps to go when Logano reached the back bumper of the Hendrick Motorsports driver. And with so little time left, there was little time for the Team Penske driver to make a fair pass on Byron.

See also
William Byron on Joey Logano: 'He's Just an Idiot'

So, he didn’t.

With Byron limping back to finish the race where he could, Logano only had to cruise to an easy victory with Reddick close behind.

Who stood out?

He may be the center of a swirling mass of controversy after an aggressive move for the lead that won him the race, but what wasn’t controversial was the fact that Logano showed speed all day. In fact, he was dominant.

Logano led 107 laps throughout the 293-lap event, the most out of anyone else the whole day.

That might not seem like a surprise for anyone that hasn’t watched a NASCAR race in the last couple of years, but 2022 has not been a great year for the 2018 Cup Series champion, despite his Clash win in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Before Darlington, Logano was rocking an 11.1 average finish for the first 11 races of the year, the lowest of his career since 2017.

After a 29th-place finish at Dover Motor Speedway last week, Logano’s crew got to work to bring the No. 22 team back to its former winning glory. Indeed, at Darlington, it showed.

After not only leading the most laps, Logano picked up 10 points and a playoff point after winning the first stage of the day.

It may have been a day that divided many fanbases, but perhaps Darlington could be the start of a strong run for the 31-year-old.

Who fell flat?

Ross Chastain seemed to have a car that was going to win today.

With 26 laps led that includes a stage two win, Chastain was en route for a third win of the 2022 season which would have been a third for Trackhouse Racing Team.

After the stage two break, Chastain fought Denny Hamlin for the lead at the beginning of the final stage. But when the duo flew off of turn 2 side-by-side, Chastain hit the dreaded patch that had been plaguing drivers all day.

It ruined his day.

The No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. throwback car was forced to go behind the wall after the crash, which meant that Chastain would be tallied for a 30th-place result.

Chastain’s spin on Sunday also meant something else when it came to Darlington and the Next Gen car.

What did this race prove?

There were 13 DNFs on Sunday.

That’s the same amount as the race at Talladega Superspeedway and the most out of all races this season, including the Daytona 500.

It’s been proven this year that the Next Gen car is difficult to handle for the best the stock car racing world has to offer.

But at Darlington on Sunday, it seemed to be even worse.

Out of those 11 cars that weren’t able to finish the 400-miler, only three of them were mechanical failures. The rest were simply the result of a car that was a little too difficult to handle.

See also
Justin Haley Finishes 3rd at Darlington, Best Full-Time Cup Series Finish

The abominable combination of the Next Gen car and The Track Too Tough to Tame claimed the likes of past Cup champions Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.

That’s not including the other four drivers that crashed, which include Chastain and Corey Lajoie.

But to be fair, there was a big crash that claimed most of the aforementioned drivers. That being said, let’s not jump to a kneejerk reaction after this weekend, please? After all, it opened the door for many of the smaller teams to come in and score some solid finishes.

Instead, let’s save all Next Gen car alterations for the short tracks.

Paint scheme of the race

Before you read this, you need to understand that this is a very difficult decision.

Every year the throwback weekend at Darlington produces some of the best paint schemes of the whole year, so to narrow it down to only one livery would simply be a crime.

In fact, there were so many, that we at Frontstretch decided to do a grid walk to give out thoughts on each one:

For the overall winner, there are a few things to consider.

First, is does it have the same colors?

There were plenty of throwbacks this year that matched the design of the original paint scheme they are paying homage to, but there were a few that decided to change the colors for some reason.

We don’t like these.

Second, does it have the same number font?

Many teams love to have the same design on the car with colors and all, but they don’t always change the number font with it if they have to. Penske is guilty of this almost every year.

Finally, does the throwback scheme really, truly look like the original?

Even with all of the above, sometimes there can be a color that’s a little off or a line that simply isn’t straight or curved enough to match the original.

With all of that said, there was one car throughout the weekend that really matched everything it was trying to replicate.

He may have left Darlington upset, but Byron and the No. 24 HMS crew’s throwback paint scheme honoring Jeff Gordon’s 2007 Dupont flames livery hit the spot perfectly. Seaglass blue and all.

Better than last time?

Last year’s Southern 500 at Darlington saw a late race dive from Larson in an attempt to nail the back end of Hamlin for the lead. It didn’t work out for the Californian, but hey, it was still fun to watch.

But on Sunday that late race dive worked, and that alone will make this race an improvement.

Whether you like Logano or not, a bump and run ending to any race is an interesting one to watch that will keep people talking around the water cooler on Monday at the office. For the next week — maybe even weeks — everybody that watches NASCAR will be having the same debate:

Was it justified?

It even has Hall of Famers with their feathers ruffled.

Albeit one of those Hall of Famers may have an ownership stake in the car that was wrecked, so maybe there will be a little bit of bias with what he has to say.

So, with controversy aside, how was the actual racing itself?

Well, in last year’s Southern 500, there were seven unscheduled caution flags matching Sunday’s amount. However, remember last September’s race was 100 miles longer, so, in terms of caution lap and green flag ratio, Sunday’s race spent more time under the yellow banner.

In terms of competition, Sunday’s Goodyear 400 seems to win again. Sunday’s race edges out the 2021 Southern 500 again with 24 lead changes over 13 drivers. In September, there were only 19 changes with 10 different leaders, and remember, that was a longer race.

In all? Darlington is pretty fun again.

What’s next?

NASCAR returns to the Midwest.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway for the series’ first visit to the 1.5-mile track. Cup qualifying begins on Saturday, May 14 at 5 p.m. ET, while the Advent Health 400 will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. ET.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021 after writing for IMSA. A race fan since he was three years old, he began freelance writing in 2018 and graduated with a B.S. in Communications from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

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Ann

OF COURSE Jeff G. is going to act as if this was a sin against HMS. And Wee Lil’ Willy was just an innocent bystander. Oh the narrative is a riot. Just racing.

Jeff is just another in the long line of HMS retirees working for Fox/HMS retirement home. Always conflicting interests regarding bias with their financial bread and butter on the track. Don’t blame them, but their is a very strong bias in comments. Who doesn’t see it, is not paying attention.

What do people think Jeff was going to say, Just racin’? “MR H” is still signing the checks. And Wee Lil’ Willy leaving his car and storming off. My goodness! Priceless! What a show! Maybe Jeff can tell Wee Willy not to act like Kyle Busch. You know, mentor him? He is Wee Lil’ Willy’s boss of some sort after all.

This happens often. Racing. But when Logano does it, it is a crime against humanity. And the media promotes it! Hypocrites.

Bill B

Well said and absolutely no bias in your comment.

DoninAjax

Bubba’s interview:

“Just trying to figure out what I did to piss off the racing Gods.”

stubbscupseriesdotcom

What does this have to do with the article you’re reading? This is what people mean when they say Bubba lives rent free in y’all’s heads. He’s not in this article at all except in a Pockrass tweet. If you don’t want him talked about, shut up about him yourself.

Bill B

I said it before “live rent free your head” is the most idiotic saying I have ever heard. Tell me one thing that doesn’t live rent free in your head? Or, better yet, tell me how I collect rent for anything in my head.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

the phrase itself is weird (english language-wise) but what I’m saying is if you want the media to stop talking about something or someone you dislike, maybe YOU should be quiet yourself. Bubba’s name isn’t mentioned in the article yet people still find it necessary to bring him up for no reason because they’re still butthurt and offended by something that happened almost two years ago. Grow up and get over it already.

MuGrad85

Extremely well stated
. People like Bill B can’t accept the fact that because people keep bringing bubba up, the media will continue to talk about him


Bill B

How so? Please reread my post s-l-o-w-l-y. The only thing I said was that the phrase “living rent free in your head” is idiotic. I never said anything about whatshisname whatsoever.
Comprehension issues?

MuGrad85

No, I comprehend just fine
 people who find a very simple idiom too hard to understand just says a lot


Bill B

The idiom is stupid. Just admit it and be done with it. It is totally nonsensical.
You just don’t like that I am not supporting the narrative you want to promote. Well bite me.

MuGrad85

No, I just don’t tolerate people who think they are the be all and end all authority on everything
 you know, like YOU

Bill B

It’s been nice renting space in your head for free.

MuGrad85

And, somehow in that pea brain of yours, that’s different than saying someone is living rent free in your head
. I get it
 it’s only ok if you say so

Bill B

It’s no different.
I was just pointing out that you are doing the same thing stubbscupseriesdotcom criticized DoninAjax (the original commentor) for doing. I guess that went over your head. The arrogant are so easy to eff with.

MuGrad85

Speaking of arrogant
 and there you are. Your self importance is not impressive. Your self righteousness is pathetic

Bill B

OK, that I understand and it makes sense.

Echo

Impersonation of a racer.

WJW Motorsports

I’ve been enjoying that Mt. Rushmore style graphic Fox has been using thus far. You look at the group and see multiple D500s, multiple Cup championships and a guy with one rain shortened win across two series going on who knows 5-6 years now? Which of these things is not like the other indeed.

Bill B

I can’t believe Joey didn’t at least try to make a clean pass before resorting to the bump tactic. From the looks of Byron’s car in those last few laps, I think he could have passed him cleanly without too many issues. I guess he didn’t learn anything from the lesson Kenseth gave him in 2015. This could come back to haunt him at some pivotal moment later in the year.

As for Byron, with 2 wins already, I was surprised he even let Logano get to his bumper. I would have done whatever it took to make sure that didn’t happen, even if it meant spinning myself out. Once you have 2 wins it’s time to push it to the limit.

Overall the race was decent. I didn’t think it was better with the new car but it wasn’t any worse either. Refreshing to have such a high attrition rate. It’s what has been missing for the last 10 years.

johndawgchapman

I liked Matt a lot before. But I’ve loved him after he did the tit for tat move.

wildcats2016

Agree, Bill B. Logano didn’t bother to try and pass cleanly. He opted for the drive through the car option as his first choice.

WJW Motorsports

I like what you said about him getting to the bumper. Like everyone, when my guy is the bumpee i’m furious, but when he is the bumper – it’s all good, just racing. So rather than be a hypocrite – my feeling is simply if you are faster pull away so he can’t touch you – if not – rubbing is racing.

Big picture though – a third of the way through the season, the Fords are clearly a step behind, and Penske has not looked very good (Super Bowl crap-shoot aside) with the 22 now the flagship not looking good at all. In that context – he would drive through anyone at anytime for a win – and most guys in the series would do the same. Probably safe too – because the season is shaping up to the 24 being the favorite – he’ll have more to lose in the fall than the 22 in any kind of wrecking feud.

Echo

I must have missed the rubbing part. Seems most everyone did too.

WJW Motorsports

Ha – yes, admit I’m using the phrase liberally (and I really wanted that movie to be great – but never liked it).

Bill B

Regarding that last sentence, with the crapshoot nature of the current playoff format, it could just as well be Logano in the final four as Byron. Making enemies during the season has never been more dangerous to someone’s championship hopes.

Mike

The reason logano hit byron in the rear was a payback for the last restart when byron decided 8 tires are better than four, byron gased it up and pushed joey into the wall and pissed him off. So it wasnt the fact that joey could have got around byron clean, joey had no intention to do it clean joey paid byron back for the restart. And im sure logano dont care what mr h or gordon thinks, joey drives for penske and like logano has said many times before his job is to win races and he does not care about making friends.

Bill B

I guess I missed Joey hitting the wall. I will have to try to catch a replay on FS2.

johndawgchapman

I was really happy there for about 5 seconds, when I thought Reddick had beaten the 22 off pit road on the $$ stop. Even the guys in the booth agreed with me.
Then NASCAR ruled otherwise, & I’m sure they were correct. Must have just been an optical illusion due to the way the camera picked it up.

JD in NC

Yeah, and when Logano punted Byron into the wall, I was hoping the 24 might jerk the wheel hard left, hook the 22, and give Reddick a win in the same way he lost Bristol.

Mike

I would like to see reddick win one too and he did get screwed at bristol. It wasnt a good move for briscoe he just wrecked reddick. Briscoe might have apologized but i think briscoe had a ass whipping coming.

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