Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Halfway Home: Count on Surprises, Familiar Faces in Second Half of NASCAR's Regular Season
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 14, 2024

Kyle Larson, center, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., Sunday, May 5, 2024. (AP/Colin E. Braley)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

DARLINGTON — The first half of NASCAR’s regular season wrapped with a satisfying, drought-busting win by past champion Brad Keselowski at Darlington Raceway.

Keselowski, in his third full season as a driver-owner at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, locked himself into the playoffs and marked himself as a title contender for the fall.

There are several other usual suspects to watch including 2021 Cup Series winner Kyle Larson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing leader Denny Hamlin, who is tied with Byron for the series lead with three victories this season.

Not so fast, said former driver and current NASCAR TV analyst Jeff Burton. Just look at the past two champions in Penske racers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.

“Raise your hand if you had them winning the championships this time of year these past two years,” Burton said. “It’s very hard to know what’s going to happen.”

But it’s not difficult to make a few logically informed predictions as the circuit heads into its All-Star Weekend at North Wilkesboro.

Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing Strong Once More

JGR’s Hamlin has been on a championship quest since coming up short last season and has had one of the strongest cars each week. Along with his three victories, Hamlin has led laps at each race this season and finished fourth at the Goodyear 400 this past Sunday. Christopher Bell, who won at Phoenix, gives JGR two playoff participants so far.

Byron and Larson are leading the Hendrick charge, combining for five wins this season including Byron’s success at the Daytona 500 to start Hendrick’s 40th anniversary season. Chase Elliott’s victory at Texas gives Rick Hendrick three spots in the playoffs with Alex Bowman, who was eighth at Darlington this past week, the only team driver without a win. Bowman sits ninth in the standings.

Byron said at Darlington he needed to be more consistent in this upcoming summer stretch to prepare for the playoffs.

“We have the pace,” Byron said. “I feel like that’s what you’re really striving for, to have pace to win races. We have that, it’s just that we’re not consistently putting the weekends together in terms of balance and execution.”

Ford Charging Forward

Keselowski’s victory at Darlington was the first for a Ford this season, but likely won’t be the last. Keselowski’s RFK Racing driver Chris Buescher, who has won four times since Keselowski became a co-owner in 2022, has come agonizing close to winning again the past two races.

Buescher lost a photo finish to Larson at Kansas two weeks ago by 0.001 second, the closest finish in NASCAR history. At Darlington, Buescher got knocked into the wall by Tyler Reddick while leading with nine laps to go.

Neither Buescher nor Reddick, 1-2 at the time, were contending after their tangle and Buescher angrily confronted Reddick after both got out of their cars.

Those were tough for Buescher to deal with, but it’s likely he won’t disappear in the season’s second half. In fact, there were four Ford drivers among the top seven finishers at Darlington.

Who Else?

Neither of the past two series champs in Logano and Blaney have won a race to assure themselves the postseason, although Blaney is in better position at eighth in the standings while Logano is 17th, first out of the 16-driver field.

Neither one had a strong showing at Darlington. Blaney got squeezed when Byron clipped Martin Truex Jr., who then pushed Blaney into the wall and out of the race.

Logano got a speeding penalty entering the pits late in the race and was sent to the back of the field. He finished 21st.

Josh Berry, who replaced NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 at Stewart-Haas Racing, had his best placing this season in third.

Other winless drivers among the top 16 on points include Truex in second, Ty Gibbs in seventh and Kyle Busch in 13th.

All will be sorted out when the series returns to Darlington for the final regular-season race, the Southern 500, on Sept. 1.

[hubspot type=form portal=8576119 id=f5235c74-daca-46b2-b841-0fec24b5a509] 

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Rejected 4-Story NW Fresno Apartment Complex Will Get a Second Chance

DON'T MISS

Shares in Trump Media Slump After Former President Convicted in Hush Money Trial

DON'T MISS

US and Britain Strike Houthi Rebel Targets in Yemen After Surge in Shipping Attacks

DON'T MISS

Biden Partially Lifts Ban on Ukraine Using US Arms in Strikes on Russian Territory, US Officials Say

DON'T MISS

Guilty as Charged: Trump Is First Former U.S. President Convicted of Felony Crimes

DON'T MISS

Jury in Donald Trump’s Hush Money Trial Reaches Verdict. A Nation Awaits the Outcome.

DON'T MISS

Fresno, Selma Districts Get Big Federal Grants to Buy ‘Clean’ School Buses

DON'T MISS

Oklahoma Pursues Record 4th Straight National Title at Women’s College World Series

DON'T MISS

NRA Can Sue Ex-NY Official It Says Tried to Blacklist It After Parkland Shooting, Supreme Court Says

DON'T MISS

Roberts Rejects Senate Democrats’ Request to Discuss Supreme Court Ethics and Alito Flag Controversy

UP NEXT

Shares in Trump Media Slump After Former President Convicted in Hush Money Trial

UP NEXT

US and Britain Strike Houthi Rebel Targets in Yemen After Surge in Shipping Attacks

UP NEXT

Biden Partially Lifts Ban on Ukraine Using US Arms in Strikes on Russian Territory, US Officials Say

UP NEXT

Guilty as Charged: Trump Is First Former U.S. President Convicted of Felony Crimes

UP NEXT

Jury in Donald Trump’s Hush Money Trial Reaches Verdict. A Nation Awaits the Outcome.

UP NEXT

Fresno, Selma Districts Get Big Federal Grants to Buy ‘Clean’ School Buses

UP NEXT

Oklahoma Pursues Record 4th Straight National Title at Women’s College World Series

UP NEXT

NRA Can Sue Ex-NY Official It Says Tried to Blacklist It After Parkland Shooting, Supreme Court Says

UP NEXT

Roberts Rejects Senate Democrats’ Request to Discuss Supreme Court Ethics and Alito Flag Controversy

UP NEXT

Your Guide to California’s Minimum Wage: Surviving in an Expensive State

Biden Partially Lifts Ban on Ukraine Using US Arms in Strikes on Russian Territory, US Officials Say

1 hour ago

Guilty as Charged: Trump Is First Former U.S. President Convicted of Felony Crimes

2 hours ago

Jury in Donald Trump’s Hush Money Trial Reaches Verdict. A Nation Awaits the Outcome.

2 hours ago

Fresno, Selma Districts Get Big Federal Grants to Buy ‘Clean’ School Buses

3 hours ago

Oklahoma Pursues Record 4th Straight National Title at Women’s College World Series

4 hours ago

NRA Can Sue Ex-NY Official It Says Tried to Blacklist It After Parkland Shooting, Supreme Court Says

4 hours ago

Roberts Rejects Senate Democrats’ Request to Discuss Supreme Court Ethics and Alito Flag Controversy

4 hours ago

Your Guide to California’s Minimum Wage: Surviving in an Expensive State

4 hours ago

Turns Out, Golf Superstar Nelly Korda Is Human After All

4 hours ago

Boeing Tells Federal Regulators How It Plans to Fix Aircraft Safety and Quality Problems

4 hours ago

Rejected 4-Story NW Fresno Apartment Complex Will Get a Second Chance

Days after an apartment builder asked Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer to have the city council examine his project, Dyer and the area’s counci...

11 mins ago

11 mins ago

Rejected 4-Story NW Fresno Apartment Complex Will Get a Second Chance

53 mins ago

Shares in Trump Media Slump After Former President Convicted in Hush Money Trial

1 hour ago

US and Britain Strike Houthi Rebel Targets in Yemen After Surge in Shipping Attacks

1 hour ago

Biden Partially Lifts Ban on Ukraine Using US Arms in Strikes on Russian Territory, US Officials Say

2 hours ago

Guilty as Charged: Trump Is First Former U.S. President Convicted of Felony Crimes

2 hours ago

Jury in Donald Trump’s Hush Money Trial Reaches Verdict. A Nation Awaits the Outcome.

3 hours ago

Fresno, Selma Districts Get Big Federal Grants to Buy ‘Clean’ School Buses

4 hours ago

Oklahoma Pursues Record 4th Straight National Title at Women’s College World Series

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend