Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Darlington: Making a Mistake or Returning the Favor?

What Happened?

A 110-race winless streak ended when Brad Keselowski survived a clash between Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick to take the victory in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Buescher and Reddick came together with 10 laps to go. 

The contact left both drivers with flat tires, and Keselowski drove to the lead. Ty Gibbs and Josh Berry finished second and third, respectively.

The win marks a few big numbers for Keselowski. Not only did he snap his extended winless streak, Keselowski earned his first win in RFK Racing equipment, his first win as a driver-owner, and his first win in the Next Gen car.

See also
Brad Keselowski Breaks 110-Race Winless Streak at Darlington, Earns 1st 2024 Win for Ford

The Ford Mustang Dark Horse finally got to victory lane, and Ford recorded its first win of the 2024 season in any of NASCAR’s top three series.

What Really Happened?

A series of incredible, desperate racing moments escalated between the top three until Reddick took himself and Buescher out of contention for the race win. After the race, Reddick shared a checkers-or-wreckers mentality, though he showed remorse for taking Buescher with him.

“If it would have just took myself out of it, I had a flat, it’s a different story,” Reddick told Frontstretch after the race. “He was going to win that race had I not tried that.”

During their confrontation, Reddick also told Buescher, “The last thing I wanted to do was wreck your car. I could care less about mine.”

While Reddick seemed apologetic in his post-race interviews, he had every right to step out and hold his ground. Reddick said he completely understood where Buescher was coming from, because Buescher’s teammate did the same thing to the No. 45 car just a handful of laps earlier. 

All afternoon, Reddick’s pit crew and pit stall put him out front for the restarts. Every time, he prevailed over Keselowski, and it took the No. 6 an entire run to finally get back to Reddick.

On the final restart, Keselowski raced Reddick extremely hard — and understandably so. It’s been a long time since Keselowski had a car this fast, and he laid it all on the line, doing everything he could to take the lead.

After an extended battle, Keselowski finally tried to use up Reddick, squeezing him into the turn 4 wall and allowing Buescher to blow by on the inside.

This moment gave Reddick the green light to go for it as he chased down the No. 17. Sure, Reddick made contact with Keselowski, not Buescher. But Buescher played a role in keeping Keselowski beside Reddick, and one RFK car might as well be the other.

For a fleeting moment, Reddick must have considered the way he was raced by Keselowski when he ultimately lost the lead. I think he hit full send on his controller and didn’t care what happened to him or Buescher — until he saw Keselowski go by both of them.

Buescher was the unlucky bystander in a short-lived feud with Reddick and RFK Racing. And while Reddick backed off after the race, he could and should have made a point about how he was raced the same way just after the final restart.

Who Stood Out?

How about the Fords? About this time every year, Ford drivers seem to finally piece it together. They struggled early last year but finally started showing up around Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Blue Ovals probably should have won last week, and they showed strong speed across the board at Darlington. 

For much of the afternoon, Ford held eight positions inside the top 15. While Buescher and Ryan Blaney ran into troubles, Keselowski ran top three all day. Just behind, Berry seemed to grow stronger as the day progressed.

Chase Briscoe also moved forward all day, climbing into the top five at the finish, and Justin Haley impressed yet again, earning a ninth-place finish when all was said and done.

Who Fell Flat?

After a strong two-week stretch, Kyle Busch absolutely disappeared.

Busch had a tough weekend from the time he got to the track. He earned his first last-place finish in the Truck Series by crashing out on lap 2. In the Cup race, he hit the wall multiple times and made a lot of mistakes, finishing 27th, just ahead of teammate Austin Dillon.

Credit to Chase Elliott for fighting through a long day to finish 12th. Still, he struggled all race, spending most of the afternoon outside the top 20 until attrition came into play.

Better Than Last Time?

Absolutely.

The Keselowski-Reddick battle became what everyone hoped the Kyle LarsonRoss Chastain battle would have been last year.

See also
Chris Buescher Confronts Tyler Reddick After Late-Race Contact at Darlington

Instead, that race quickly devolved into an ugly crashfest that left a lot of people angry.

Sure, this weekend left a lot of people mad as well, but the side-by-side, door-banging, wall-scraping action this weekend was quintessential NASCAR. Epic battles like we saw this weekend with this durable car is what sets NASCAR apart as a tremendously entertaining racing series.

Maybe we didn’t get a photo finish, but the final stretch of this race was equally as exciting.

Paint Scheme of the Race

Like trick-or-treating as a middle schooler, we’ve reached a point in time where more and more teams have stopped wearing a costume for Halloween. It could be sponsors ending the fun, or it might just be a lack of inspiration. But throwback weekend still delivers some incredible schemes and memories.

The best of the throwback bunch this year belongs to Larson’s Terry Labonte scheme. Hendrick Motorsports has tons of amazing looks to pull from the archives, but this Texas Terry scheme was the most iconic one that still hadn’t been done.

Hendrick for sure won ‘best dressed’ for the weekend.

What’s Next?

The stars will shine when the NASCAR Cup Series returns to a repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway. The NASCAR All-Star Race begins Sunday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET on FS1. 

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janice

the allstar race starts sunday night at 8 pm?!!!

Bill B

Yeah, it’s stupid to have it on Sunday night, but it’s a farce of a “race” anyway. Does anyone even care about the AS race anymore?

Daytona-520

Maybe they would if last year’s race wasn’t the worst race of the century. Maybe the new payment can make North Wilkesboro provide actual racing but I doubt it.

Shayne

Please, stop it with the throwback deception. There never was a Terry Labonte paint scheme. The car was sponsored by Kellogg’s. Without Corelius “Corny” Rooster on the hood, it’s counterfeit.

Why wasn’t the Kellogg’s brand on the car? Were they not willing to pay to play?

Lying about NASCAR history is a pathetic way to make a dollar. 50% of the truth is a damn lie.

Bill B

“Why wasn’t the Kellogg’s brand on the car? Were they not willing to pay to play?”

I’m sure that was the reason. Why, what do you expect? Them to give free sponsorship to the past sponsor while taking money from the current sponsor? Pretty much all the throwback schemes have to rely on using the paint scheme while honoring the current sponsorship commitments. In the end, it is what it is.

Steve

Then its not really a throwback, in my opinion. If you can’t get the sponsors on board for a throw back weekend race, maybe it needs to be done less frequently or only once in a while. Some of the paint schemes this weekend look nothing like their supposed throwback cars.

Kevin in SoCal

I see your point, but its more in the spirit of the theme. Some old sponsors don’t exist anymore, and if they do, they may not want to spend the advertising money. Treat it as a gimmick rather than something set in stone.

Kevin in SoCal

Terry Labonte explained it during his time in the booth. Bill B also explained it.

Bill B

So happy to see Brad finally prevail and end up in victory lane again. Glad to see Ford finally break through. Glad to see someone else besides JGR or HMS win.

This may have not been the best race of the season, but for me, it was the best “feel good” race of the season.

Johnny Cuda

Happy to see Brad K. from Rochester Hills, MI get his first win as an owner/driver. We drive Plymouths and Dodges at our house going back to when the Keselowski family drove for the Mopar team!

Old School

Brad and Reddick were racing. That’s totally different than getting “Gibbsed” by Reddick.. Think Denise, and the rest of Joe’s boys.

DoninAjax

If Reddick had won he would have said it was just hard racing!

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