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DARLINGTON RACEWAY PRESIDENT KERRY THARP: My predictions for NASCAR champions
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NASCAR Commentary

DARLINGTON RACEWAY PRESIDENT KERRY THARP: My predictions for NASCAR champions

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 2021 NASCAR racing season will close out this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, crowning champions in all its major series - the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; the NASCAR Xfinity Series; and the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s been a highly competitive and promising season for the sport, as NASCAR has successfully navigated its way through the pandemic and established some positive momentum heading into 2022 and beyond. The road to the Cup Series championship began nine weeks ago at Darlington Raceway and will conclude this week in the scenic desert setting of Arizona.

Last week’s action at Martinsville Speedway was fast and furious. The famed short track, known as the “Paper Clip” because of its unique shape, did not disappoint, providing fans with three compelling races that produced plenty of storylines heading into Phoenix.

As we gear up for the season’s final weekend of racing, let’s take a look at the Championship 4 contenders in all three series.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

• Matt Crafton – Three-time series champion

• John Hunter Nemechek – Four wins on the season

• Ben Rhodes – Two wins on the season

• Zane Smith – Advanced to the championship round with a thrilling victory last week at Martinsville

MY PICK – Ben Rhodes. I have to go with my hometown (Louisville, KY) guy who I’m confident would go as far as to spin out another competitor on the last lap to get the victory.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

• AJ Allmendinger – Regular season champion with five wins on the season

• Austin Cindric – Defending series champion with five wins on the season

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• Daniel Hemric – Appearing in the championship round for the third time

• Noah Gragson – Three wins on the season, including the September race at Darlington and last week at Martinsville

MY PICK – AJ Allmendinger. One of my favorite drivers in the sport, it’s hard not to pick a guy who’s married to Mrs. North Carolina.

NASCAR Cup Series

• Kyle Larson – Regular season champion with a series-high nine wins on the season

• Chase Elliott – Defending series champion with two wins on the season – both on road courses

• Denny Hamlin – Three-time Daytona 500 winner and three-time Cook Out Southern 500 winner with two wins on the season

• Martin Truex Jr. – 2017 Cup Series champion; winner of the 2021 Darlington Spring Race (Goodyear 400) with four wins on the season

MY PICK – Martin Truex Jr. A two-time winner at Darlington, Truex won the spring race at Phoenix earlier this year. He’s also an all-around good guy who loves racing at Darlington. While you might shake your head at why I’m not going with Larson, the prohibitive favorite, I just have a “gut” feeling that Truex is going to take the checkered flag on Sunday.

Track Laps

for Charity

Darlington’s fourth and final Track Laps for Charity event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For a donation of $20 per car, Darlington Raceway will offer fans the opportunity to drive their personal vehicles around the iconic 1.366-mile egg-shaped track. Proceeds will go towards supporting Toys for Tots and Darlington Shares, the track’s charitable arm.

Toys for Tots is an organization that is humbly serving communities across the nation to help families have a Merry Christmas. With the holidays season approaching, we are proud to support this purposeful organization by welcoming our loyal fans to the track Too Tough To Tame for a fun community event to benefit a worthy cause.

This is the fourth Track Laps for Charity event of the year as Darlington Raceway continues to partner with organizations making a difference in our community. The first three Track Laps for Charity benefited Donate Life South Carolina in March, VFW’s Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship program with Sport Clips, the Official Hair Care Service Provider of Darlington Raceway, in June and Blessings in a Backpack in August.

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