Lady in Black Smiles on Kez, RFK, the #6 and Ford

Race Breakdown

Finally!  For most of the 12 races of this season Ford’s new Dark Horse looked like a Shetland Pony among thoroughbreds. A flicker here and there but for the most part a non-factor in the Hendrick Motorsports-Joe Gibbs Racing dominated season aka Cup 2024. But on this Sunday, Darlington’s Lady in Black ultimately smiled on Brad Keselowski as he brought his RFK #6 Dark Horse to Victory Lane, ending a ton of winless streaks.  

This popular win not only ended Ford’s 13 race winless streak but more importantly ended Keselowski’s 110 winless streak. RFK hadn’t seen Victory Lane since Chris Buescher’s Daytona Coke Zero Sugar 400 win to end the 2023 Regular season 22 races ago.

The most impressive though was Keselowski’s win ended a 359-race winless streak for the RFK flagship team, the #6 who last saw Victory Lane, not with the driver most synonymous with the #6, Mark Martin, but with David Ragan. Ragan got the #6’s last win in the 2011 second Daytona race. Since then, Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Trevor Bayne, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Ross Chastain had all tried to get the iconic #6 into Victory Lane. But in the ultimate of throwbacks it was Brad Keselowski, in his 84th start in the #6 who finally put RFK’s original team, the #6 back into its rightful place in Victory Lane.

For a while this Sunday, all seemed right with Cup.

There were those who would disagree. Teammate Chris Buescher was poised to get his first win of the season, until a heated battle between he and Tyler Reddick went south when Reddick’s slide job for the lead with 10 to go resulted in flat tires for both cars, allowing Keselowski to pass both to get the win. The missed chance for the win resulted a post-race “intense moment of fellowship” between the drivers of the #17 and #45.  Buescher was understandably heated by once again missing a win and his chance for the Playoffs, while the race’s top lap-leader, Reddick readily took blame for his move gone bad that cost both a chance to win.

The Lady in Black let everyone know it was still her race.  

A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2024 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Although she smiled on Ford with the win, she didn’t smile on them all. Ryan Blaney found himself taken out by in a William Byron three wide attempt that caromed Martin Truex, Jr. into the Blaney who wound up not with a Darlington Stripe, but a Darlington wound he was unable to overcome. Kyle Larson, who last year got taken out by a Ross Chastain slide job gone bad, found himself losing it all on his own this year. After last year’s HMS’ post-race blow up over the incident, maybe this was a bit of Karma, the Lady in Black’s way of saying quitting asking your manufacturer to intercede, quit having your owner publicly blast a driver and instead take care of your own business and drive.

She has that way about her, you know.

Ty Gibbs had another strong showing, leading 34 laps to a P2 finish. Josh Berry brought his Dark Horse in Third, followed by fairly quiet Denny Hamlin in P4. Chase Briscoe drove his Dark Horse to Fifth placing three Fords in the Top Five.

William “Big Hat” Byron was the top Chevy in P6, followed by Toyota’s Bubba Wallace, and Chevy’s Alex Bowman. Justin Haley and Michael McDowell put the final two Fords in the Top 10.

Larson won Stage 1, padding his points total for the season. Reddick won Stage 2 and looked to have the Race Win in his control before his ill-fated pass attempt for the lead. Four drivers scored Stage Points in both Stages and finished in the Top 10. Thirteen different drivers scored Stage Points. Keselowski scored 57 out of a possible 60 points for the race.

Going into the All-Star Break at the Regular Season mid-point we find Larson solidly atop the Points Standings.  Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott are the only drivers within a race of Larson. Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace are fighting for the Transfer position. 

Lead Change Breakdown

Here is a statistical breakdown of the changes we saw at Darlington: 


Keselowski and Buescher each had one RLC.  Denny Hamlin continues to lead the RLC Standings by a hefty margin.  


Darlington’s 2 RLCs ranks tied for 9th in the RLC Track Ranking.  Talladega had the most with 49 and Richmond had a single.

Passing Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of the remainder of passes throughout the race. Like eight of the twelve races this season, the bulk of the passing was found in the P16-P37 positions or the back of the field.


White Flag Thoughts

Here’s some thoughts coming down to the Checkered Flag…

  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2024 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Overall, thought it was good for the sport to have a former champ and an iconic team back in Victory Lane. Also didn’t hurt to have the Championship OEM finally find the Winner’s Circle after coming so close this year.

The RLC’s seemed low this race but many came down to Leaders Pitting from Lead and turning the Lead over. Larson’s pass of Gibbs was scored as an Other since Gibbs put his car in the wall which resulted in the pass. Throw in a Lead Change on a Restart or two and you have accounted for the Green Flag Lead Changes.

Will the third time be a charm for Chris Buescher?  He’s missed two now. Hopefully, his win is not that far away.

Darlington was the “throw-back” race for the season and besides the paint schemes, the Darlington Stripes and the finish, drivers’ days being ruined due to passes for the lead gone bad is part of the mystique here – just ask Cale Yarborough.

Back in the day, post-race “discussions” were known to happen here.  All this one needed to close out the “throw-back” weekend were some punches thrown. A different pair of drivers may have done it, but it did bring back memories and kept the juices flowing.

Voters gave the race a 92.4% Good Race in the Jeff Gluck Good Race Poll. This is two 92%+ races back-to-back.  Is this indications of things to come?  

Was hoping that TV Viewership would get a bump after the record finish last week. Unfortunately, this year’s 2.632 million was down slightly from last year’s 2.689 million. So much for the bump.

The 13 Green Flag Lead Changes was the same as last year. We did have one more RLC this time. Leader Pit Green was still the dominate pass.

Was surprised how little reference was made to the 2023 Chastain-Larson dust up considering we had several incidents that resembled it. It’s now been a year and I think it’s safe to say that Trackhouse is not where they were this time a year ago before being publicly dressed down by Rick Hendrick. Yeah, they did get two wins after that – hometown Nashville and the Phoenix finale, where HMS needed the eliminated Chastain to act as an aero-blocker on eventual champ Ryan Blaney, but otherwise Year 3 of GEN 7 has been nothing to write home about and Darlington didn’t change the optics.  

Another week and aero-blocking, horsepower and tire-fall off were barely mentioned. I’m sure it’s all still there, just got pushed out by other topics. Funny how that happens when the product looks a little different.  

It’s been a sad week heading into the All-Star Break as we lost three icons of racing. Former TMS president, Eddie Gossage, DIRT modified racer, “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie and Daytona International Speedway’s Juanita “Lightin’” Epton.  

Gossage was a promoters’ promoter.  It’s said, “everything is bigger in Texas” and that’s exactly how Gossage promoted his events at TMS.  

McCreadie, though not a NASCAR fixture, his success on the dirt made him a racing legend.

Miss “Lightin’” was the longest-tenured employee at DIS.   She started there before they were racing on the Beach and was still working Tuesday before passing away at 103 on Thursday.  

All made impacts on motorsports racing in their own ways. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family, friends and fans. Know racing will not be the same without you.

Finally, this is All-Star Weekend at North Wilkesboro. The second race there. The first with the new repave, which would be story enough. But throw in the big Goodyear Optional Tire Experiment and you have the whole sport watching to see if giving teams tire choices between longer wearing Original tires and the faster, but less durable Optional tires will cure the GEN 7’s short track racing woes. The tire talk has overshadowed almost everything, including Kyle Larson’s Indy qualifying attempt.  Will these tires work?  

Photo from

Tune in and find out.


Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover):  James Gilbert/Getty Images

One comment

  1. David, just wanted to say “I admire you and what you do with a story!”
    Don’t get on the computer every day so sometimes it is a few days or a week before I read anything, but I sure do look forward to your articles.
    Even though I lived in Orlando for many years and went to most of the races at Daytona and then went back every February for years until I lost my parents, who still lived there when I came West, I never got to go up to NC, SC, VA and W VA or KY, I read a lot about the racing there. We had our own locals and when I read what you write about some of the locals in those states, I wish I could have traveled more. But then I had to seek my fortunes out West so when I read what you, Frank, Dave, Tim and others write about local tracks and the speedways there, I smile and still dream. I always wished I could have visited all of them…
    Thank you, David, and as our dear late friend, PattyKay would say “Hugs”

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