Drivers in focus leaving Darlington

Darlington delivered drama all over again.

Sunday’s Goodyear 400 came down to a thrilling, three-car battle over the final 33 laps, with Brad Keselowski emerging victorious after Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick fell out of contention late.

RELATED: Race results | Darlington photos

Reddick was the class of the field almost all day — but things change quickly at the “Lady in Black.” When the checkered flag flew, one sophomore driver stormed to his best career finish and a rookie nabbed his first top five of the year. Meanwhile, two past NASCAR Cup Series champions struggled to overcome late challenges.

After a doozy of a Darlington stunner, see which drivers are trending upward and those going in the wrong direction.

THREE UP

1. Ty Gibbs, No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Ty Gibbs competes in a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Started: 4th

Finished: 2nd

What happened: Lost in the fray of Sunday’s post-race ruckus, the JGR rookie notched a career-best runner-up finish Sunday at Darlington, the track “Too Tough to Tame.” Gibbs was a frontrunner all afternoon, notching a third-best 4.05 average running position, per NASCAR loop data, behind only Reddick and Keselowski.

What’s next: Gibbs returns to the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway for the All-Star Race, where the No. 54 team pit crew won Gibbs the pole for last year’s All-Star Open. Gibbs will have to race his way into the big show Sunday night, but he accomplished that feat in last year’s event with a second-place finish in the Open.

2. Josh Berry, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

Josh Berry competes in a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Started: 33rd

Finished: 3rd

What happened: Despite a qualifying effort that left him third-from-last, Berry methodically picked his way through the field to score his first top-five finish since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. The result was no fluke for Berry, who posted the 13th-best average running position (14.33) Sunday and his fourth straight top-20 finish.

What’s next: The short-track ace returns to a familiar playground at North Wilkesboro, where Berry won the All-Star Open a year ago, substituting for a then-injured Alex Bowman. He’ll look to make his second appearance in the All-Star Race on Sunday.

3. Justin Haley, No. 51 Rick Ware Racing

Justin Haley competes in a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Started: 28th

Finished: 9th

What happened: Haley keeps improving with Rick Ware Racing, wheeling the No. 51 Ford to his first top-10 finish with the organization. Haley has shown flashes of speed all year, evidenced by a 17th-place finish in March at Bristol. But Haley is on an upswing now, with finishes of 23rd (Dover), 18th (Kansas) and ninth in consecutive weeks.

What’s next: Haley’s campaign to earn the Fan Vote into the 2024 All-Star Race has been nothing short of spectacular. If the No. 51 team continues its forward charge, perhaps it won’t need to rely on the ballots to compete for the $1 million prize.

RELATED: Vote your favorite driver into the NASCAR All-Star Race!

THREE DOWN

1. Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford

Joey Logano completes a pit stop during a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Started: 14th

Finished: 21st

What happened: Logano was solidly at the front of the field Sunday, racing inside the top five and top 10 for much of the afternoon. But a speeding penalty at Lap 255 under the race’s final caution period upended any of the good mojo the No. 22 team built, squandering what was a ninth-best average running position (9.92).

What’s next: The 2016 All-Star Race winner is looking for another $1 million payday. The difference, of course, is that the 2016 contest was run at Charlotte Motor Speedway and not the tight confines of North Wilkesboro. Logano was 10th on the short track a season ago.

2. Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Martin Truex Jr. walks at Darlington ahead of a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Started: 10th

Finished: 25th

What happened: Truex appeared to be a real player early in Sunday’s race, still searching for that elusive first victory of 2024. What he found, however, was a damaged nose on his car after a multicar collision at Lap 129. The 2017 Cup champion was able to continue, but ultimately faded through the pack for his first finish outside the top 20 this season.

What’s next: The All-Star Race has never quite been Truex’s cup of tea, with just four top 10s in 12 appearances in the main event and a 14th-place result last year. The good news? Charlotte Motor Speedway awaits after the All-Star exhibition — a track where Truex has won three times.

3. Tyler Reddick, No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota

Tyler Reddick makes a pit stop during a NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Started: 1st

Finished: 32nd

What happened: It was all looking so good for Reddick until it wasn’t. Reddick dominated Sunday’s race at Darlington, leading a race-high 174 of 293 laps on a day no one else led more than 40. But in a desperate attempt to pass Chris Buescher for the lead with 10 laps to go, Reddick slid high, knocking Buescher into the wall and cutting Reddick’s right-rear tire, sending the No. 45 car to a 32nd-place finish instead.

What’s next: With two disappointing results in the rearview mirror in addition to last week’s 20th-place run at Kansas, Reddick shifts sights to North Wilkesboro, where he earned a third-place finish in last year’s inaugural return to the North Carolina gem.

WATCH: NASCAR video highlights