Instead of stripe, Darlington gives 2 Cup rookies a pat on the back

Jerry Bonkowski
NBC Sports

Darlington is known for giving rookie Cup drivers making their first start there the so-called “Darlington stripe” – which usually means trouble.

It’s no wonder the place is known as the “Track Too Tough To Tame.”

But for Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek in Sunday’s NASCAR comeback race, the venerable Lady In Black didn’t give them a stripe, but rather a pat on the back for a job well done.

Reddick, in his first Cup season driving for Richard Childress Racing, finished seventh, while Nemechek, in his first Cup season driving for Front Row Motorsports, finished ninth.

That means the two young drivers finished higher than former Cup champions Matt Kenseth (finished 10th), Brad Keselowski (13th), Joey Logano (18th), Kyle Busch (26th) and Jimmie Johnson (38th).

Needless to say, both Reddick and Nemechek left Darlington feeling mighty proud of themselves.

“We never gave up, and all in all, it was a great day,” Reddick said. “A seventh-place finish is a great way to come back, and we’ll look to build momentum from here. Good news is, we get to come back Wednesday night and try to finish seven spots better.

“We’re officially back to racing, and it felt great. Our first day back in the No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet was a little rough around the edges at times, but starting out in the 29th spot and racing our way into the top five in about the first 125 laps was just an outstanding kick off race.”

John Hunter Nemechek was the second-highest finishing Cup rookie Sunday at Darlington Raceway, the first NASCAR race in 71 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
John Hunter Nemechek was the second-highest finishing Cup rookie Sunday at Darlington Raceway, the first NASCAR race in 71 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It was a big bounce back for Reddick from how he performed in the last Cup race (finished 33rd at Phoenix) before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down more than two months ago.

Ditto for Nemechek, who rebounded from a 25th-place finish at Phoenix. It was also the best finish ever on an intermediate-size track for Front Row Motorsports.

“A solid day, very excited, an awesome day coming home P9, an amazing job by my team and the pit crew,” Nemechek said. “Everybody executed all day with no mistakes.

“We made the right adjustments. Seth and the engineers did a great job. The pit crew was flawless and I couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was great to get kicked off on the right foot for these races coming up.

“Hopefully, we can continue to build on this and create some momentum and continue to get our cars faster each and every week. It’s great to be back and I’m so excited to be able to race again next week.”

The five other drivers and their respective Cup debuts at Darlington were: Cole Custer (22nd), Christopher Bell (24th), Brennan Poole (27th), Josh Bilicki (34th) and Quin Houff (36th).

Both Reddick and Nemechek are looking forward to equaling if not improving upon Sunday’s performance when they and the rest of the Cup Series make a return visit to the Lady In Black on Wednesday night.



 

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Instead of stripe, Darlington gives 2 Cup rookies a pat on the back originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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