Podium Preview: Goodyear 400 at Darlington

By all means, Sunday's Goodyear 400 at Darlington may be a memorable one. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

By all means, Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington may be a memorable one. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Above all else, Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington may be NASCAR’s equivalent to a baseball game at Fenway Park or a football game at Lambeau Field. All things considered, round 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series season certainly proves as a trip to the past.

Unlike most races, The Podium Finish’s panelists do not have an overwhelming favorite. Conversely, while our picks may not be in the majority, our sentiments about “The Lady In Black” prove universal with sentimentalism and love for NASCAR’s heydays.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview each NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race. This weekend, Adam LucasAshley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorStephen Conley, Taylor KitchenTerra Jones and yours truly muse about this year’s throwback liveries and next year’s Next Gen cars.

Podium Preview: Goodyear 400 at Darlington

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Question 1

All in all, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington is this year's edition of NASCAR Halloween. (Photo: Josh Bilicki's Twitter)

All in all, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington is this year’s edition of NASCAR Halloween. (Photo: Josh Bilicki’s Twitter)

NASCAR transferred the throwback weekend at Darlington from the Southern 500 to Sunday’s Goodyear 400. Which of the throwback paint schemes do you look forward to seeing on Sunday?

Lambeth : To be honest, I do not particularly have a favorite throwback paint scheme this year, but we do have quite a number of appealing cars! From the Alan Kulwicki throwbacks being fielded by Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie to Bubba Wallace honoring Wendell Scott, people can remember stories from the past by simply looking at each scheme.

Throwback weekend is always such a fun time to honor the past and enjoy the atmosphere. I like seeing the retro fire suits, drivers growing out mustaches and teams putting in the effort to truly make it feel like an old school NASCAR race weekend.

Raynor : I am looking forward to Corey LaJoie’s throwback to Alan Kulwicki. That car looks so cool and such a beautiful tribute. I am really looking forward to seeing all of them and for me it’s also about the outfits everyone wears and I just love how FOX gets into the throwback weekend. It’s such a cool thing. 

Lucas :  Being a NASCAR 1/64 diecast collector since the rightful age of five, I have always had strong opinions about paint schemes and throwbacks. This year is no different by saying that the Xfinity series as a whole had the best variety of throwbacks. I could literally pull out of my closet all the original cars and make a race on the floor (don’t tempt me, I have made plenty of tracks since last year’s quarantine)!

As for Sunday, I am really looking forward to seeing Justin Haley’s Robert Pressley 77 car from 1998. This scheme has a special place in my heart. This car happened to be the 2nd in my collection. For a few months until my fifth birthday, I had many Jeff Gordon vs Robert Pressley races on the carpet speedways of my parents’ house. Then, the collection grew! Very nostalgic to see someone bring this cool car back to the track.

Jones : I’m so happy you said schemes because I can’t narrow it down to just one! I’m super pumped about Josh Bilicki’s Insurance King/Burger King scheme – right down to the “Best Darn Rates.”

Additionally, both Anthony Alfredo and Michael McDowell (throwbacks to Alan Kulwiki’s Hardee’s car and Bill Elliott’s Coor’s car respectively) have amazing looking cars sponsored by Fr8auctions. I love the attention to detail that teams put into this weekend. And I love that the sponsors are willing to go with something a little different. 

Sisoler :  I’m not really sure I have a particular favorite that I’m gonna be watching. I like a lot of the throwbacks. Josh Bilicki’s Insurance King/Burger King combo, Erik Jones running the tribute to John Andretti, Kevin Harvick’s throwback to his first Cup Series car, the Chase Elliott throwback to Alan Kulwicki and the tribute to Neil Bonnett that William Byron is gonna run are just a few cars that I’m gonna really like seeing on track Sunday.

Hobbs : For me, it’s less about a particular scheme and more about honoring the past in such an awesome way. The teams and drivers put so much thought and care into these throwback schemes, and you can really tell. Heck, some of them are throwbacks but you might think they are not throwbacks at all. What would be the best is an entire field of throwbacks!

Question 2
The future is now. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The future is now. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR revealed the new Next Gen cars on Wednesday. What are your initial thoughts on this next iteration of the Cup Series cars?

Tiongson :  By all means, these Next Gen cars are visually appealing and sleek. I think these cars could connect with those who love cars and those who just care about great on track competition. While the Camry may not be as sporty as the Mustang and Camaro, overall, these new Next Gen cars really shine and may bring back the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” lifestyle we sorely miss in NASCAR and automobile showrooms.

Shoppe : That Mustang looks amazing! The other two seem similar at first glance to what they currently look like. The next gen car as a whole is an awesome step forward for brand identity. After hearing that all cars can have onboards has me even more excited! 

Torres :  Aesthetically speaking, the Next Gen are some boss looking machines, especially the Ford Mustang which genuinely resembles its street car counterpart. As neat as the show was, the biggest takeaway I got was the plan of every Cup car having an in-car camera.

First off, who knows what that’ll look like because it said it’s a way for fans to see more updates and data. They’re not the first to do this as Formula One has an onboard for all 20 cars. Comes to show you NASCAR is finally stepping up their technology game. It’s honestly been overdue and outside from cameras, the car as a whole is unique.

Will it resemble the quality of racing of Supercars in Australia? Time will tell, but on the surface, these changes better lead to a greater tomorrow. The sport needs it. The drivers need it.

Conley :  I think NASCAR and the OEM’s have finally gotten to where they want to be. There are different body styles, ones you could identify even if they were all white and no decals!

I love the design of all three. The new bigger aluminum wheels stand out and scream high performance sports cars. I like the fact that we’ve heard from drivers saying they are tremendous on road courses, but a challenge to drive on the ovals. I don’t want to see drivers having it easy or driving wide open all the time.

Plus, the safety innovations that have gone in this car through all the crash testing really seem to have to put some ease into the minds of drivers. I can’t wait to see them roll off the hauler in February.

Oh, and Steve O’Donnell said this car may open the discussion of bringing back a preseason test in January again. It’s old school meets new school in design!

Kitchen : These cars have the potential to bring some exciting racing to the fans in 2022.

Visually, these cars are sharp-looking! I love the “street” design they have as it promotes the individuality of these cars, allowing the manufacturers to stand out.

The Next Gen car is made to race on multiple surfaces. They seem better equipped to do so than the current model with their wider build and bigger tires (just to name a few changes). I think the bulkier cars will allow for tougher racing without much consequence, eventually.

Learning these modifications will certainly level out the playing field and create a learning curve. Each driver has to conform their driving style to these new models. Also, these cars seem to drive drastically different than the Gen 6 (as we saw from the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series race).

I found it interesting that Steve Phelps mentioned that these cars “put the stock back in stock car.” These are the words that fans have been waiting to hear for a long time. And I hope that once those wheels hit the track in 2022, we can finally see a car that is able to race the way the fans want them to.

Certainly, two laps around Darlington on a throwback weekend proves quite as entertaining as going back in time! Next, let’s rewind back to last Sunday’s Buschy McBuschy Race 400 at Kansas, race 11 of the NASCAR season with our race and points reports!
Kobe and "The Machine" prospered with Kevin Harvick.

Kobe and “The Machine” prospered with Kevin Harvick.

For now, it's man versus machine.

For now, it’s man versus machine.

Now, Ashley Hobbs crunches the numbers for Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington so you don’t need to be retro.
First, here's how your favorite team fares in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington.

First, here’s how your favorite team fares in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington.

Since 2004, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington winner has an average starting spot of 8.7, led an average of 85.6 laps, started within the top five 23.53% of the time and started within the top 10 64.71% of the time.

Since 2004, the Goodyear 400 at Darlington winner has an average starting spot of 8.7, led an average of 85.6 laps, started within the top five 23.53% of the time and started within the top 10 64.71% of the time.

It could be quite Rowdy at Darlington.

It could be quite Rowdy at Darlington.

Let's look at the trends in the past 10 Goodyear 400 races at Darlington.

Let’s look at the trends in the past 10 Goodyear 400 races at Darlington.

Next, here's our trends in the Goodyear 400 since 2016.

Next, here’s our trends in the Goodyear 400 since 2016.

Seriously.

Seriously.

Lastly, here are our picks for Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington!

Tiongson : It’s been somewhat of a rough stretch for Kyle Larson since his top five at Martinsville. Nevertheless, he’s putting himself in position to contend for wins in 2021. Look for Larson to win Sunday’s Goodyear 400 in grand fashion.

Jones : The “usual suspects” seem to be getting back to their winning ways. On Throwback Weekend, let’s throwback to 2020 when Kevin Harvick won nine times, including twice at Darlington. I expect to see The Closer get it done this weekend.

Sisoler : He’s struggled a bit more this year than people would’ve expected, but Kevin Harvick is still the best driver at the Stewart-Haas camp in this 2021 season. For this throwback weekend, he’s running a throwback to the first car he ever ran in the Cup Series, the white and black Goodwrench No. 29 for Richard Childress back in 2001. And that car was involved in one of the most iconic finishes of the Gen-4 era at Atlanta against Jeff Gordon.

I think that throwback is gonna give him some luck come Sunday. And I think Harvick is gonna take the checkered flag at Darlington Sunday, hopefully this time, not by inches.

Conley : He won at Darlington during our return last year. After coming off that runner-up at Kansas, Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers may just be getting their mojo back!

TPF Stats : The Machine can slice this two ways – keep the 2021 season in the mix, or remove it. The Machine sees current performance as a vital part to the process, therefore Denny Hamlin will be victorious. But The Machine says to keep an eye on Erik Jones.

Shoppe : You can’t come this close to winning all year long without eventually getting one. Denny Hamlin will get his first win of the year today!

Torres : The Lady in Black was cruel to Chase Elliott last year. He has shown he can put the No. 9 Chevy in first. Now can he capitalize and seal the deal this Sunday? I feel it’ll happen and turn his season around on what’s been a rather lackluster title defense.

Kitchen : There are so many drivers I could pick from: Harvick, Elliott, Byron, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Larson…. but having a pretty quiet season so far, Brad Keselowski could get a win this weekend. He has solid stats at this track and is going to be starting this race on the pole. Of course, I think a threat to any driver at an intermediate tracks is Kyle Larson, but I digress… Brad Keselowski is the guy to beat this weekend.

Hobbs : For the driver who has two wins and three top fives on short tracks this year (that’s 100% top five rating), thus the best average finish, I cannot disregard the awesomeness that Martin Truex Jr has been bringing to these tracks this year.

Lucas : Worn out track that provides a high line? Ok cool. Let me take Tyler Reddick, plus that Marty Robbins throwback scheme in a race winning diecast would be insanely cool!

Lambeth : Recently, we received the sad news about his mother’s brain tumor. I think we will see a motivated William Byron give her a special Mother’s Day victory at the track called Too Tough To Tame.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Goodyear 400 at Darlington!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this race? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often. Help yourself, your family, and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine! Also, thanks for reading our content throughout this season.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Also, if you are shopping for NASCAR or racing die-casts, be sure to check out our friends at Circle B Diecast! If your order is $20 or more, be sure to use coupon code TPF2021 for free shipping! Tell them we sent you!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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