After some superspeedway action at the World Center of Racing, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be heading to Darlington Raceway for the penultimate race in the regular season. Drivers will take on the Lady in Black for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 on Saturday, September 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Heading into the weekend, this will be the 67th NASCAR Xfinity Series race at “the track too tough to tame.” The previous 66 races have produced 36 different race winners and 32 different pole winners. Fifteen races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Denny Hamlin in 2017.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin sits as the track’s winningest driver in the series, tallying eight wins (1993, 1994 sweep, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 sweep). He’s also set the record for most poles (eight), top fives (14), top 10s (18) and laps led (972).
The track has also been memorable for some drivers as it has been a place of “firsts”. Justin Ashburn (2003), Denny Hamlin (2004) and John Jackson (2011) all got their first Xfinity Series starts at The Lady in Black while Kyle Busch (2004) and Ross Chastain (2018) each won their first poles here. There is yet to be a driver to post their first career Xfinity Series win at Darlington Raceway.
Saturday, September 2 will be a one stop shop for drivers. They will kick off their morning with practice at 10:35 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 11:05 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports App before gearing up for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 later that afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Is the track “Too Tough To Tame?”
Darlington Raceway’s 1.366-mile has been nicknamed the “the track too tough to tame” but for some, the taming has come easy as four drivers entered in this weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race have conquered the Lady in Black – Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Cole Custer and Kyle Larson.
JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier is coming off a long-awaited win at Daytona International Speedway and heads to Darlington as the only drivers with multiple wins at the track. In his 16 starts, he has posted two wins (2021, 2022), seven top fives and 12 top 10s. He posted a runner-up finish when the series ran at the track earlier this season for NASCAR’s official throwback weekend.
JRM teammate Brandon Jones hasn’t quite had the season he was hoping for but could very well snag his first win of the season this weekend at Darlington Raceway. He’s made 11 starts at the track, posting one win (2020), one pole (2022), two top fives and five top 10s.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer has been dominant on the 1.366-mile South Carolina track, posting a top-five or top-10 finish in all four of his starts. His win came in 2019 in a race where he bested Tyler Reddick by a mere .602 seconds.
Cup Series regular Kyle Larson will get behind the wheel of the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for his third Xfinity Series start of the 2023 season. One of his previous starts this season was at Darlington Raceway where he landed himself in Victory Lane. If Larson wins again this Saturday, he’ll become the ninth different driver to post back-to-back wins at the track, following Ron Bouchard (1984 sweep), Darrell Waltrip (1985, 1986), Dale Earnhardt (1986, 1987), Harry Grant (1989, 1990), Dale Jarett (1990, 1991), Mark Martin (1993, 1994 sweep, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 sweep), Jeff Burton (2001, 2002 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2006, 2007).
Clinch scenarios: Two to go in the regular season
There are only two races left in the regular season so drivers will be pushing the limits to secure their spot in the 2023 Playoffs. As we head into the weekend, let’s take a look at the clinch scenarios:
The following 8 drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Jeb Burton.
Can clinch via points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 4th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed or Daniel Hemric.
o Josh Berry: Would clinch with 21 points
o Sheldon Creed: Could only clinch with help
o Daniel Hemric: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Parker Kligerman or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings.
o Josh Berry: Would clinch with 54 points
o Sheldon Creed: Could only clinch with help
Can clinch via win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
o Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed, Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, Riley Herbst, Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, Kaz Grala, Parker Retzlaff, Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements, Anthony Alfredo, Josh Williams, Joe Graf Jr.
Can clinch Regular Season Championship
Additionally, the Regular Season Championship could be clinched by the following drivers:
o Austin Hill: Could only clinch with help
It’s crunch time at Darlington Raceway
Eight drivers have clinched their way into the Playoffs, leaving four spots up for grabs. Sheldon Creed, Josh Berry, Daniel Hemric and Parker Kligerman currently hold those spots on points and will be sure to give it all they have to secure their spot.
Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed has made three starts at Darlington Raceway. Although he’s yet to snag a win at Darlington, he did post a runner-up finish in last year’s September race. If he makes it to the post season, it will mark his first Xfinity Series Playoff appearance.
JR Motorsports’ Josh Berry has made five starts at the Lady in Black, posting one top five and three top 10 finishes. Like Creed, he has also come extremely close to tasting victory, finishing runner-up in 2021. Berry made his first Xfinity Series Playoff appearance last season where he made it to the Championship Four.
Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric has nine Darlington starts under his belt, posting one top five and three top 10 finishes. He’s no stranger to making Playoff runs, already with four Xfinity Series Playoff appearances on his resume and even a championship trophy in his trophy case (2021).
Big Machine Racing’s Parker Kligerman has three stints at Darlington Raceway with a best finish of 13th. Kligerman is in his second full-time Xfinity Series season. If he manages to stay above the cutline, he will make his first Playoff appearance.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year update – The regular season is on the verge of wrapping up and Chandler Smith continues to lead the pack as he has all season long with one win (Richmond), five top fives, nine top 10s and 675 points.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith still sits close behind with one win (Phoenix), four top fives, 10 top 10s and 609 points.
Jordan Anderson Racing’s Parker Retzlaff has posted one top five and six top 10s this season, accumulating 456 points.
Closing out the competition is Blaine Perkins with 196 points.