Next Gen vs. Old School: New car gets 1st Darlington test

May 7, 2022, 1:20 AM | Updated: 1:21 pm
Ross Chastain looks at data on a computer during a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race practice at Dove...

Ross Chastain looks at data on a computer during a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race practice at Dover Motor Speedway, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Jason Minto)

(AP Photo/Jason Minto)

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — It’s Next Gen vs. Old School when NASCAR’s new racer takes on its oldest superspeedway at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.

“It kept me up this week thinking about that,” said Ross Chastain, who has won twice this season. “The Cup car right now is just so volatile to drive, especially the first few laps of practice, and I don’t expect Darlington to be easy.”

It rarely is over 72 years of racing.

The adage is that only the most experienced pilots succeed at the track called “Too Tough To Tame.” Only a handful of racers — Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson — took part in a tire test here last month, according to track president Kerry Tharp.

Tire falloff seemed as severe as always, Tharp said, although defending Cup champ Larson had some difficulty finding a balance at the test.

“Kyle spunt and hit wall a couple of times,” Tharp said.

Erik Jones, who won here in 2019, believes things can’t be much different from always. Darlington is always a handful as drivers are forced to run close to the wall — and avoid the dreaded “Darlington Stripe” — to compete.

Turns 1 and 2 are shaped differently from 3 and 4 (the result of a minnow pond that builder Harold Brasington contractually could not fill in), meaning racers can’t rest easy entering the corners.

“I expect a lot of sliding around, just like always,” said Brad Keselowski, the former NASCAR champion who won the Southern 500 here in 2018.

The Next Gen reviews have been positive in the first half of this season. There have been nine drivers winning the first 11 races, with only Chastain and William Byron taking the checkered flag more than once this season.

Chances are strong it will be a Hendrick Motorsports driver out front at the end of Sunday’s 293-lap race.

Chase Elliott won Dover’s rain-delayed race, becoming the last of Hendrick’s four entries to win a race this season. He likes what he’s seen of the Next Gen car so far and expects his team to have another strong showing at NASCAR’s most unconventional track.

Elliott said he hadn’t been able to put a complete race together until last week’s win at the Monster Mile. “We just have to better execute for the entirety of the event,” he said. “I think as long as we’re doing those things we can run and compete with the best of the garage.”


No surprise here: Drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are the favorites to win at Darlington this Mother’s Day, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Hendrick’s Kyle Larson is the betting favorite at 5-1, followed by JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. at 6.5-1. Hendick’s Chase Elliott and Gibbs’ Denny Hamlin are next at 8-1, with Kyle Busch of JGR at 10-1 and Hendrick driver William Byron at 12-1.


Darlington is hosting its latest tribute to NASCAR history with its throwback weekend. Many cars competing in the Cup Series, the Xfinity Series and the truck series will have paint schemes honoring the sport’s rich history. This is the first time since 2019 that the celebration will be run without COVID-19 guidelines in place, although officials caution visitors to stay smart and safe.

NASCAR champion Kyle Larson will run in a car painted to look like the one run by the late Tim Richmond in 1984.

Larson said Richmond was known for leaving it all out on the track. “He would go full send on crazy moves and things that other drivers wouldn’t even try,” Larson said. “So I’m going to go out there and try to drive it like Tim would.”


Retiring Cup racer Aric Almirola paid tribute to the man he considers his inspiration, his grandfather Sam Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was a three-time Tampa Bay Area Racing Association (TBARA) Dirt Sprint Car champion and passed his love of motorsports to Almirola. So Almirola has decked out his No. 10 Cup car in his grandfather’s vivid red paint scheme.

“He loved red because red is fast,” Almirola said. “He was very particular about his race cars always being immaculate.”


Hendrick Motorsports announced a three-year contract agreement with racer William Byron this week, meaning all four of its drivers are locked into the company through 2023.

Chase Elliott is signed through 2027 and Byron through 2025. Their teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman have deals that run out after next season.

Elliott believes the Hendrick teams are “in a really solid place right now,” he said. “I feel like we all work pretty well together. It’s just kind of an easy flow in operation.”

The quartet has combined for five wins the first 11 races this season.


More AP auto racing: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]
22 days ago
Joe Jarzynka...
Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]
22 days ago
FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]
22 days ago
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...
Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]
22 days ago
FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...
Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]
22 days ago
FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]
22 days ago
Next Gen vs. Old School: New car gets 1st Darlington test