Showing posts with label Darlington Raceway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darlington Raceway. Show all posts

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Era of Historic Opportunity: Five Questions for Darlington

(Credit: ISC Archives)
To some, history is pointless. The past isn’t important anymore. Who cares about things that happened decades ago?

Those people are wrong, and I’m going to tell you why.

Friday night, Chase Elliott won at Texas Motor Speedway, his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. The confetti flew after a performance that told observers one thing: this kid is the real deal. Being the son of former champion Bill Elliott, how could he not?

He isn’t the only one, either; there are many young drivers who are worth watching. Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski and many more. Most are in the NASCAR Next program, which was created to heighten their stance in the sport. Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are graduates of the setup, making noise on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level.

What used to take ages to achieve now happens in a matter of a year. This is the era of historic opportunity. Why don’t we embrace it?

NASCAR is different than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. Some see that as a miscue, others find it to be a relief. Either way, where the sport once was needs to be recognized. To see the steps made, you have to know where you’ve been.

A win is sweeter when you understand which drivers drove to the checkered flag years before you did. Without history, that taste would be nonexistent.

Knowing about the past is important, and Darlington Raceway’s past is louder than the track itself. With multiple personas, the venue is bound to mess with some drivers’ heads. In this edition, I’m discussing Matt Kenseth, predicting winners and ranting about SAFER barriers. It’s all here in these Five Questions for Darlington.

Will we see an eighth different winner? Seven drivers have visited Victory Lane this season, and you can color me shocked; since The Chase’s inception 2004, that hasn’t happened. The year before that, there were nine different winners in the first nine races. I believe we’ll meet that mark, and I can even tell you who will be hoisting the trophies this weekend (see the next question) and at Richmond (Hint: it rhymes with "Benny Tamlin"). The new and improved Chase structure has heightened competition, which is its purpose, and has drivers scrambling for a win. Chaos will happen at Darlington, but an eighth face will emerge as the victor.

Is it time for Jeff Gordon to tame the Lady in Black? This fickle mistress has tangoed well with Gordon; seven wins, 19 top fives  and 22 top 10s make for a deep understanding for this track. Will he land a win this coming weekend? It seems highly likely if you take his recent performances into consideration. He has the mannerisms of a starving animal, and each race brings him one step closer to satisfying that hunger. The stars are set to align and help Gordon close the deal.

Where are you, Matt Kenseth? Numbers don’t lie: 61.3 percent of Kenseth’s 31 wins in Cup have come from tracks between one and two miles in length. They’re his bread and butter, and that fact was reiterated last season. However, the No. 20 has faded into the background so far, barely making any noise. What’s going on? Kenseth won this race last year, and he knows how to get around it, but that means nothing if he’s not up to par this season. Besides, 2014 Kenseth isn’t as fun as 2013 Kenseth. Bring the other one back.

Are we STILL talking about SAFER barriers? Once again, there was a nasty, unprotected hit, and it happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. early on in the Duck Commander 500. The impact ruined Earnhardt Jr.’s day and left an impression in the wall. Enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of seeing heart-stopping collision after heart-stopping collision, wondering if the driver will make it out of the car. There isn’t one reasonable explanation as to why every wall at every track doesn’t have SAFER barrier technology. Drivers like Gordon and Kevin Harvick have both attested that money is one of the main factor, and that is appalling. NASCAR is a business, but this is about protecting drivers from serious injury and death. There can’t be bare walls when the cars are going 217 mph. It’s always been time for them to do something about this issue, but now it’s time to actually act on it. If something isn’t done, there are going to be severe consequences, which can range from lawsuits to fatalities. Let’s try to prevent that while we still can, shall we?

Can this be the most promising crop of young drivers in history? Elliott’s win emphasizes a well-known fact: there’s a lot of talent brewing under the age of 21. Wallace, Blaney, Dillon and Kwasniewski are just some of the names blasting onto the NASCAR scene. Up higher on the ladder, the older Dillon brother is battling with Larson and a slew of other youngsters to win the Rookie of the Year honor. This is only the beginning of a beautiful youth movement within the sport. They have resurrected the “no names” and forced themselves to be heard. New chapters of the record books are written every day, and we are first-hand witnesses. Isn’t that phenomenal?

TV Schedule: April 11-12

Darlington Raceway. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
She's the Lady in Black, and you always want to be on her good side. NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway for its new date on the sport's schedule. Instead of Mother's Day weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series events have been moved up to April.

The following is a handy guide to television coverage and track events this weekend at Darlington. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, April 11:
11:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
2 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
4 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS2
6 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
7:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN2
8 p.m. NNS: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, ESPN2. Green flag: 8:16 p.m.

Saturday, April 12:
3 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. NNS: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 (re-air), ESPN2
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
6 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
6:30 p.m. NSCS: Bojangles' Southern 500, FOX. Green flag: 6:45 p.m.
8 p.m. How It’s Made: NASCAR Engines, Science Channel
11 p.m. How It’s Made: NASCAR Engines, Science Channel
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS2

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Earning your Darlington Stripes

Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway •  Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.366 miles

Career Top 5s Among Active Drivers: 
Jeff Gordon- 19
Jimmie Johnson - 8
Ryan Newman - 7
Both with 4 - Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart  
All with 3 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray  
All with 2 - Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth  
All with 1 - Dave Blaney, Brad Keselowski, David Ragan and Martin Truex Jr.

Career Top 10s Among Active Drivers: 
Jeff Gordon - 22
Both with 11 -  Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart   
Ryan Newman 10
Matt Kenseth - 9
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -  8
Both with 7 - Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin  
Kevin Harvick - 6
All with 5 - Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch 
Kasey Kahne - 4
Martin Truex Jr. - 3
All with 2 - Dave Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Joe Nemechek 
All with 1 - Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Travis Kvapil, David Ragan and Brian Vickers 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Kurt Busch
2012 Greg Biffle

The Likely Suspects: Darlington is traditionally a fun race to watch with lots of beatin' and bangin', and more importantly, competitive racing. The performance package of this new car has made the car faster and harder to handle for some drivers. This all adds up as a big plus for the fans watching the race on Saturday night. Darlington's elite drivers include: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

My 2 Cents: If you want to take a break from mindfully picking your fantasy team this team, go for it. Just load up with as many Hendrick Motorsports drivers as possible, and relax. The Hendrick organization has won 14 races at Darlington, more than any other team.

My no-brainer pick this week is a tie: Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson is also an obviously fine choice. My next picks are Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart. I will complete my team with Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. When doing final picks this week, focus on teams with the whole package. At Darlington, the most important thing is keeping up with the track, so consider strong crew chiefs.

Post your comments here or email me at Enjoy the race!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Travel Tips: Darlington Raceway – April 10-12, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media

The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series visits the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, Thursday through Saturday, April 10-12 for the annual Bojangles Southern 500 for the Cup Series and the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 for the Nationwide Series.

Festivities kick off on Wednesday, April 9 with RaceFest, featuring the 10th annual Darlington Car Hauler Parade. RaceFest begins at 4 p.m. ET at the Florence Civic Center, with the Hauler Parade leaving the Civic Center at 7 p.m. ET; it makes its way through Darlington Square before ending at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” 

Key on-track times:

Thursday, April 10 –
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1 and 2:30 p.m. ET

Friday, April 11
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 6:05 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 300 – 8 p.m. ET

Saturday, April 12
  • Sprint Cup Series Bojangles Southern 500 – 6:30 p.m. ET

Fans attending the race weekend can check out FAQs here and the Darlington 2014 Event Guide here.

Find out more about the event and purchase tickets at

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Checkered Past: NASCAR’s American holiday tradition goes north of the border

Denny Hamlin wins at Atlanta in 2012.
Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images  

For many years, two of America’s biggest national holidays have been associated with auto racing. Memorial Day, the start of summer, sees action at two racing meccas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The summer ends with Labor Day when the epic five-day U.S. Nationals for the NHRA invades Indy’s Lucas Oil Raceway. NASCAR is part of that Labor Day party as well, visiting Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday night action – but the action hasn’t always taken place in Georgia.

The original NASCAR Labor Day race was the historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Harold Brasington built the track in the late 1940s and cut a deal with Bill France Sr., whom Brasington raced against in NASCAR’s early days, to host a 500-mile Labor Day event in 1950 at his new South Carolina track. Co-sanctioned by NASCAR and the Central States Racing Association, more than 80 drivers entered the race, pursuing their share of the $25,000 purse. In two moves inspired by the Indy 500, Brasington used a two-week qualifying period and lined the qualified cars up three wide to start the race – all 75 of them. The inaugural Southern 500 was won by Johnny Mantz. It was only his third NASCAR race and his only NASCAR win.

In spite of the prestige of the Southern 500 and its Labor Day scheduling, the race was moved to the 10-race Chase for the Cup in 2004, and eliminated in name in 2005, when Darlington lost one of its two races. After four years, the Southern 500 returned to the schedule in name, with the race now held the Saturday night before Mother’s Day in May. The Labor Day race moved to California (now Auto Club) Speedway in 2004, remaining there through the 2008 season, after which the Labor Day date moved back to the south and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In 2013, NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series will be racing in a new frontier on Labor Day weekend. The NCWTS heads north of the border to celebrate “Labour Day” at Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a 2.459-mile road course co-owned by road course ringer Ron Fellows. The race marks the series’ first race in Canada as well as its first road course race since 2000.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NASCAR penalizes No. 54 JGR Nationwide team for infractions from Darlington pre-race inspection

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
NASCAR Nationwide Series Crew Chief Fined; Crew Chief, Car Chief Placed On Probation For Infractions At Darlington Raceway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 14, 2013) – NASCAR announced today that NASCAR Nationwide Series crew chief Adam Stevens (No. 54 team) has been fined and placed on probation for violations during this past weekend’s event at Darlington Raceway. In addition, the team’s car chief Christopher Landis has been placed on probation for the remainder of the year.

Stevens has been fined $10,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Landis has likewise been placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.

The rules violations referred to Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20-A of the rule book); 20A-2.1E (streamlining of the contours of the car, beyond what is approved by the series director will not be permitted. Installation of air directional devices, underpans, baffles, shields or the like beneath the car or the car’s hood and fender area, front firewall, floor, rear firewall area, rear deck and quarter panel area will not be permitted. If, in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted. Addition of body fillers of any type, to the underside of the body, chassis or suspension components will not be permitted. All cars must remain standard in appearance); 20A-3.10A (front upper bumper cover must be from the respective OEM manufacturer and must be approved by NASCAR. The front lower bumper cover and rear bumper cover must be from an approved manufacturer and must be approved by NASCAR. Once approved, the front lower bumper covers may be used on all approved models. NASCAR officials may use bumper covers provided by the respective manufacturer as a guide in determining whether a competitor’s bumper cover conforms to the specifications of the NASCAR rule book. Unless otherwise authorized by the series director, cutting and reshaping of bumper covers will not be permitted.)

The infractions were discovered during opening day inspection on May 9.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jeff Gordon goes for eighth Darlington win in 700th career start

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

When Jeff Gordon takes the green flag in tonight's race, he'll be doing so for the 700th consecutive time in his Cup career. The four-time Cup champion leads all active drivers in consecutive starts, and is second on the all-time list behind Ricky Rudd.

Gordon sees Rudd's "Ironman" record of 788 consecutive starts as too distant for him to consider breaking. “Never say never; but that to me is like David Pearson’s 105 wins. It’s too far out there. You have to get closer before you can think realistically about those things. I never dreamed I’d make 700 consecutive starts."

There's an asterisk next to Gordon's name on that list, one that will take a while for any other driver to erase. Every single one of his starts was for the same team, the same organization and the same number. Since Nov. 15, 1992, every Winston Cup, Nextel Cup or Sprint Cup race that's been run, Jeff Gordon was in it for Hendrick Motorsports driving the No. 24 Chevy.

Gordon, who turns 42 in August and is in his 21st season of Cup racing, has earned 87 of the Hendrick Motorsports' 212 Cup wins, four of the organization's 10 Cup championships and he encouraged owner Rick Hendrick to hire five-time champions Jimmie Johnson. So to say that Hendrick owes his level of success to Gordon is not an exaggeration.

Yet Gordon, always humble and gracious, thanks Hendrick.

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
“I have so much thanks to Rick (Hendrick) and to Hendrick Motorsports," Gordon said Friday. "It just seems like it was yesterday that we were signing that contract and talking about starting in the Cup Series, and that first start in Atlanta. So it’s hard to believe 20 years and 700 starts later, and all the success that we've had, too. It’s been amazing.

"And I’m proud of not just the record that I have of the number of wins and top fives and top 10s, but to do 700 consecutive [starts]. There are other guys who have done it, but it’s not an easy thing to do. But I've been fortunate that along the way my main focus was not getting to 700; it was going out there to win and be competitive and that’s because of Hendrick Motorsports."

What about those top fives and top 10s? In 699 races, Gordon scored 299 top fives, an astounding 42.77 percent. Top tens? That's 416 for an amazing 59.5 percent. In 20 full-time seasons he's finished out of the top ten in points only twice: 1993 and 2005. That consistency earned a staggering $132,122,663 in winnings - the all-time record in NASCAR.

That's money in the bank for Gordon, who credits his on-track rival Dale Earnhardt Sr. with helping him negotiate a contract that pays dividends for beings successful. "He was making a lot of money and he was investing it," Gordon said. "He certainly helped me look at contracts and licensing and protecting your likeness and controlling those rights and all those things. It’s turned into a big business.

"My first contract I signed was more money than I ever thought I could make driving a race car, but it was nothing compared to what the second contract was. To me, these days, because I have a lifetime contract with Hendrick, I don’t talk contracts with anybody anymore. It’s like this is what I agreed to and I don’t discuss it."

Gordon recalled, “Back in those days, contract negotiations were just being talked about among the drivers all the time; you know, what’d you do, how’d you get this and what do you think about this structure or that structure. So Dale really helped me in the way I like to structure my contract, which I have today, where it’s a percentage of the income. Some of these guys I feel like get it before they've ever earned it. My first contract was not very much. I had to go earn it, and then I got a second contract that was really good."

It seems appropriate that career-start 700 comes at Darlington, a track where Gordon has won seven times, the last in 2007.

“I’m excited it’s happening here at Darlington," he said. "This has been such a special track to me over the years ... it’s such a great weekend for me, personally, to accomplish that. Obviously there has been a lot of effort over the years from the team to a lot of different people; crew chiefs and pit crew members have contributed to those 700 starts. So, I’m very proud of that and excited about the weekend.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

NNS Pole Report: Joe Gibbs Racing sweeps top 4 starting spots at Darlington

Kyle Busch. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images 
Joe Gibbs Racing's four Nationwide Series teams claimed the top 4 starting spots for tonight's VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Kyle Busch won the pole with a lap of 172.584 mph, 28.494 seconds, followed by teammates Elliott Sadler, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers. This marks Busch's third Nationwide pole of the season and puts him in position to try for his fifth series win of the year.

The VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 will be broadcast live at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Green flag is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Pre-race coverage starts at 7 p.m.

Starting lineup:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Elliott Sadler
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Brian Vickers
5. Justin Allgaier
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Kyle Larson
8. Austin Dillon
9. Sam Hornish Jr.
10. Trevor Bayne
11. Regan Smith
12. Parker Kligerman
13. Alex Bowman
14. Joey Logano
15. Ty Dillon
16. Reed Sorenson
17. Travis Pastrana
18. Chris Buescher
19. Milke Bliss
20. Landon Cassill
21. Nelson Piquet Jr.
22. Josh Wise
23. J.J. Yeley
24. Blake Koch
25. Mike Wallace
26. Brian Scott
27. Jeremy Clements
28. Joe Nemechek
29. Tanner Berryhill
30. Dexter Stacey
31. Jeff Green
32. Chase Miller
33. Kyle Fowler
34. Hal Martin
35. Harrison Rhodes
36. Bryan Silas
37. Eric McClure
38. Danny Efland
39. Tony Raines
40. Kevin LePage

Did Not Qualify: Jason Bowles and Derrike Cope

TV Schedule: May 10-11

Jimmie Johnson wins last year's Cup race at Darlington Raceway.
Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR makes its annual stop at Darlington Raceway, one of the most difficult tracks on the circuit. The 1.366-mile track is known by many names: The Lady in Black and Too Tough to Tame.

The Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series will take their turns under the lights to see which driver can get on the Lady in Black's good side.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage this weekend at Darlington. Times are in Eastern Standard Time. Events without a channel listed will not be televised.

Friday, May 10:
8:30 a.m. NNS Final Practice
11 a.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
11:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, SPEED
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
2 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, SPEED
3 p.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
3:30 p.m. NNS Qualifying, ESPN2
5 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, SPEED
6:30 p.m. Trackside, SPEED
7 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN2
7:30 p.m. NNS: VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200, ESPN2. Green flag: 7:45 p.m.
10:30 p.m. Trackside (re-air), SPEED
11 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), SPEED

Saturday, May 11:
5 a.m. NNS: VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 (re-air), ESPN2
12 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), SPEED
11 a.m. NASCAR Now presented by 5-Hour Energy, ESPN2
3:30 p.m. SPEED Center NASCAR Edition, SPEED
4 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED
6 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
6:45 p.m. NSCS: Bojangle's Southern 500, FOX. Green flag: 7 p.m.
10:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED

Painting the World Black and White: Five Questions before Darlington

[ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images]
Painting the world black and white is my favorite thing to do. When the color disappears, the underlying structure is visible. It is beautiful. So beautiful that it must be taken in.

And if you haven’t done that, then you’ve never lived.

I like to think of taking that time to peer into the past as time traveling. When you allow it, you can go anywhere you may please. It’s leaving and going on a mental vacation. We all need those sometimes.

What you let teleport you is a personal preference. I, myself, take solace in songs filled with twang and heart. It places me at a corner, smack dab in the middle of The Great Depression, surrounded by humbling images. Or maybe it puts me in Georgia, where a man and The Devil are in a fiddle-wielding duel. Whatever the melody, my mind become a drive-in.

My passion may touch country music, yet it throbs in the center of NASCAR.

Darlington is a melody, one that crescendos under the blanket of night. Whenever the name is mentioned, the first thing mentioned is an incredible finish. Busch and Craven.

Ten years past. If only it were those times.

That’s what time traveling does to you. It gives you the urge to dip into the easier periods of history. It makes you wonder why times have changed.

It pushes you to paint things black and white.

There is a musty, old-coat feel to this weekend’s race. That’s Darlington for you. Who will wear that ancient coat with glory and pride after Saturday night is unknown, but other questions can be answered. I have written them below.

Will the racing live up to the old school standards? As much as everyone loves the beating and banging (not to mention the fighting brought on by flaring tempers), it’s unrealistic to expect it at every race. Yet, it’s common to see such racing at the track that is apparently Too Tough To Tame. It’s highly likely that Saturday night will be the stage for a good ol’ brawl. That’s something to get excited about.

What sorts of penalties will come after Saturday night? However, such racing as described above may not even happen. We are at a state in the sport where the drivers are truly scared, scared if NASCAR will or will not reprimand them on certain incidents. The authority is much more strict than it use to be, and whether that is a good thing or not is up in the air. Maybe the answer will come after Saturday night.

Who will flame up under the heat of the summer? Some drivers are famous for getting hot when the weather does the same. That sort of magic is unexplainable. So, who are the Weather Wizards? One is Tony Stewart, who truly needs a stretch of good finishes. Although I reiterate this weekly, it’s go time. If he doesn’t start walking the straight and narrow, he’ll go from Smoke to Nothing.

Who will smolder and die out? As some flourish, some shrivel up. It isn’t the season that will throw Jimmie Johnson off his game, it’s the inevitable. The past two years, Johnson and Chad Knaus run into an obstacle. It ranges from illegal parts to a strained relationship to just not getting it right. Five-Time has been dominating the series as of late, but it’s so easy to wonder what may go wrong because of past seasons.

Can taming The Lady in Black ever be done? We go to Darlington once a year, and it’s an excitable slot on the schedule. The tire-hungry pavement, the wall eager to hand out signature stripes, the fever it catches as the sky dims into a velvet canopy. Suitors line up at the chance to charm the infamous femme fatale into their corner. Some achieve, and then she lashes out the next time they meet. There is nothing worse than a woman scorned, and comforting this woman seems nearly impossible. Maybe one day, a lone victor can make The Lady in Black settle and bow down. Maybe.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Darlington

Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway •  Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.366 miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Denny Hamlin - 4
All with 3 - Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth 

By Track
All with 3 - Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman

Recent Pole Winners:  
2012 Greg Biffle
2011 Kasey Kahne

The Likely Suspects: Racing at Darlington is challenging, and well known for its beating and banging, which drivers affectionately refer to as "rubbin'." By the race's end more than a handful of drivers will have earned their "Darlington stripes." More than anything else, racing at Darlington is about racing the track first, and then the other drivers. Drivers who have mastered this track include: Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

My 2 Cents: Blindly picking a Hendrick Motorsports driver this week is not a bad strategy. The Hendrick's organization has won 14 races at Darlington, more than any other team. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie: Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. Both run well at Darlington, and should perform well. My sentimental pick is Denny Hamlin, who will be back in the No. 11 for the whole race, and is no slouch when it comes to Darlington.  

My next picks are: Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. I will complete my team with last week's winner David Ragan and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Post your comments here or email me at Enjoy the race!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Faith on the Frontstretch: A Speedy Apology Calms a Conflict

Joey Logano turns Elliott Sadler into the wall
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
“...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Emotions were “too tough to tame” at the Darlington races last weekend for several drivers and crew members. Whereas one feud is still smoldering, another potential grudge dissolved before it took shape. Why? Because of a swift, heartfelt apology.

Late in the Nationwide race at Darlington, Joey Logano got behind Elliott Sadler to push him to the lead, but ended up turning him into the wall. The wreck took Sadler out of the race and cost him the lead in the NNS points standings. Here is how Logano described the incident:

“On that next to last restart, I was able to give Elliott a good push and got him out into the lead. I thought he was gone but we had another caution and we all lined up in the same order. I figured we would do the same thing again – I would try and push him to the lead and get myself up to second. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if he spun his tires or what, but when we started to go he just got crossed up. I backed off, but by that time, he was already sideways and then he got into Denny (Hamlin) and turned into the outside wall.”

Shortly after the wreck, Logano radioed his crew. “Tell him I’m sorry,” he said, the sincerity evident in his voice. After taking the checkered flag, Logano expressed his regret again in his Victory Lane interview and a third time in a post-race interview:

Joey Logano and the No. 20 team celebrate
their Darlington NNS win.
Photo by Boris at
“...I need to apologize to Elliott Sadler. That isn’t the way I wanted to win the race. Elliott and I are good friends and he’s the last person I’d want to take out of a championship. I just felt really bad about that deal. I gave him a call from Victory Lane but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. You can bet I’m going to search him out right away and talk to him as soon as I can.”

Mishaps and conflict occur not only in racecars, but at home, in school and at the workplace. Many times we are on the receiving end when someone does something to cause us pain or irritation. But sometimes we mess up too, and wreak havoc on another person’s day. What the best way to handle it?

One way to deal with conflict is to ignore it, but that doesn’t clear up anything. On the track, ignoring a dust-up may result in a payback or lingering hostility. In real life, unresolved conflict ruins relationships, creates stress, and taints our fellowship with others and with God.

A quick, humble apology is always an appropriate response when we offend or hurt someone. Admitting our mistake gives the other person an opportunity to offer forgiveness. Our genuineness tames frazzled emotions, esteems the other person and honors God.

Joey Logano modeled that kind of humility and class in his scuffle with Elliott Sadler. He didn’t ignore the issue or shrug and say, “Oh, that’s just racing.” Instead, he chose speedy reconciliation, even trying to call Sadler while celebrating his win in Victory Lane.

“I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” are winning words that calm a conflict, on or off the track.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” ~ 1 Peter 5:5b


Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 or more to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go. See you on the frontstretch!

Beth Bence Reinke is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for female racing fans, available in paperback or eBook. “Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth also writes “Gibbs Garage,” Sprint Cup race recaps for Joe Gibbs Racing teams. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NASCAR Issues Fines And Probation For Violations At Darlington Raceway

Photo by Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 15, 2012) – NASCAR has fined Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, $50,000 and placed him on NASCAR probation until July 25 for his actions during the May 12 race at Darlington Raceway.

Kurt Busch violated Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; reckless driving on pit road during the race; involved in an altercation with another competitor after the completion of the race) of the 2012 NASCAR Rule Book. Additionally, Craig Strickler, a crew member for the No. 51 team, has been fined $5,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31 for violating Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; interfering with a member of the broadcast media).

Tony Gibson, crew chief for the No. 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, has been placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for violating Section 12-1 and Sections 12-4G and 9-4A (Crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his team members). Andrew Rueger, a crew member for the No. 39 team, has been fined $5,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for violating Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; failure to comply with a directive from a NASCAR official). Both of these violations occurred post-race.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hendrick Garage: 200th Win!

Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

Welcome to Darlington, or as most call it “The Lady in Black.” Would the Hendrick drivers make it without a stripe? Or would that 200th win finally come?  

Kasey Kahne, No. 5

Kasey Kahne’s luck just keeps improving as he scored another top-ten finish. He had a flawless night in Darlington, quickly challenging for the top spot and battling teammate Jimmie Johnson for second. Kahne became the leader on Lap 49, when Greg Biffle pitted. Kahne then pitted soon after, getting a bonus point for leading.

On Lap 200, Kahne restarted second and quickly passed leader Denny Hamlin. On Lap 230 the caution flag waved for teammate Jeff Gordon who had a tire go down. Kahne lost the lead during pit stops. He bounced back, though, and ended his night in 8th, now ranking 16th in the points. That's a gain of 3 positions from last week, up 15 spots total since week six at Martinsville. 

Jeff Gordon, No. 24

Jeff Gordon started his night off looking great; by Lap 22 he was in the top ten. The No. 24 looked to be a factor in the race. Gordon maintained the top-ten spot but also received his first Darlington stripe of the night. On Lap 193 the No. 24 suffered a cut tire and had to pit, putting him two laps down.  Five laps later,  he cut another tire, but instead of fixing the issue on pit road, he headed to the garage. Finishing 35th wasn’t what Gordon wanted; sitting 24th in points the team needs some luck to turn this season around.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Jimmie Johnson's night was explosive from the moment the green flag dropped; starting second just added to the fire. He was quick to battle Greg Biffle for the lead, but the No. 48 just wasn’t fast enough to catch the No. 16. On Lap 48 during green flag stops Johnson opted to hold out until he led a lap, getting a bonus point.

Johnson wasn’t about to let Biffle out of his sight. The No. 48 kept battling for the lead and it would finally pay off. With great pit strategy Johnson pitted ahead of Biffle during a series of green flag stops and  gained the lead. Johnson held the top spot for 72 laps and looked to have the race in the bag. Though on the Lap 180 restart Johnson lost his lead to Kyle Busch, he was quick to gain it back on Lap 189. When the caution came out for teammate Jeff Gordon, Johnson took four tires while the leaders took two, sending him to 10th.

On Lap 307 caution came out. While the leaders pitted, Johnson stayed out - a gutsy move. Crew Chief Chad Knaus told Johnson to save gas so he turned his engine on and off to conserve during the yellow. Another caution quickly came out and he was just as quick to start saving fuel again.

With 48 laps remaining, Johnson battled Kyle Busch for the lead and got it. Surviving yet another caution, Johnson was great at saving fuel. A move some said was risky proved to pay off. Johnson scored his first win of the season, but that’s not all. Finally, after months of trying, Hendrick Motorsports got their 200th win. This 200th win is special, something for the history books. Johnson scored win 199 at Kansas last year, so it seems fitting for him to get the 200th. After all the celebrating, the important thing now is that the win gained Johnson three spots in the points. He now ranks fifth. 

“Yeah, just very proud of the effort that the whole 48 team put together," Johnson said about finally getting the  landmark win for Hendrick Motorsports. “We've been awfully close to winning the 200th for him the last month or two. Very happy that we closed the deal today. My mind goes back to the early days of Hendrick Motorsports, the people that won the early races, worked on the early cars, helped Rick build Hendrick Motorsports to what it is today. I think of Harry Hyde, Tim Richmond, Geoff Bodine, Kenny Schrader...a lot of people over the years that put a lot of time and effort and commitment into this organization. So I'm thinking of all those people. And so happy for Rick, his dedication to the sport, the performance. Winning is second to none. So happy for him to get him his 200th.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s night started off on a sour note: the car was too loose, it just wouldn't drive. Even though the car handled poorly, he was still able to make passes, getting the No. 88 in the top 20 from his starting place in 24th. He went a lap down early, but on Lap 230, Earnhardt Jr. got a lucky break when he received the lucky dog getting him back on the lead lap. Despite the issues he had, he did get a bonus point for leading during green flag stops. It wasn't the best of nights for Earnhardt Jr. with a 17th place, but he retained third spot in the points.

Gibbs Garage: Trio of Top-10 Finishes at Darlington for Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin and Cale Yarborough at Darlington
Credit: Rainier Ehrhart/Getty Images
When the checkered flag fell for the Bojangles Southern 500, the Gibbs guys were at the front of the pack: Hamlin in 2nd, Kyle Busch in 4th and Joey Logano in 10th. Hamlin led four times and Busch led five times for a combined 100 laps, and both drivers ran in the top 10 all night.

At one time or another, all three of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have tamed the “Lady in Black.” Kyle Busch is the youngest Sprint Cup Series winner, setting the track race record of 140.350 miles per hour when he won in 2008. Denny Hamlin has an amazing average finish of 6.6 at this track, with a win, two top fives and five top 10s under his belt. Joey Logano and his team celebrated in Victory Lane after winning the Nationwide race on Friday night.

With the iconic No. 11 car sitting at 199 wins, Denny Hamlin may have wanted this trophy more than anyone. His Sports Clips Toyota featured a retro paint scheme to honor Cale Yarborough’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, so a victory would have made an extra-special 200th win for the No. 11.

After starting eighth, Hamlin ran in the top 10 for the entire event. A call by crew chief Darian Grubb to stay out on the second caution panned out, allowing Hamlin to take the lead. ”Our finish is because of the crew chief making good calls and the pit crew making good pit stops,” Hamlin said after the race. “That kept us in the ballgame, kept our track position up front.”

Hamlin finished second to teammate Joey Logano in the NNS race, and ended up second again in the NSCS race, too. He reflected about the 2x2 in a post-race interview, “Really proud of our effort. Two seconds, this weekend, this track, we'll take, even though we wish we had a win.”

The No. 18 Doublemint Toyota
Photo by Boris at
Kyle Busch ran the entire Southern 500 in the top 10, dropping outside of the top 5 only twice. “The Doublemint Camry was great all night,” Busch said after the race. “It was good to keep it up front like that and have another strong run. I think that’s our third top-five in a row, so we’ll try to keep that momentum rolling for us and keep it ongoing and try to go get us an All-Star win next week.”

Even though he ran up front most of the night, Busch struggled with handling on the racecar - sometimes loose, sometimes tight, especially in traffic. Just past the halfway mark, Busch kissed the wall, earning his Darlington stripe and losing a few spots. After his final pit stop at Lap 299, Busch restarted second, and even led 12 laps, but after two more cautions and restarts, slipped to fourth position.

“We were just so loose at the end of the race,” Busch said. “It’s really hard to hustle the car and be loose here, and it seems like old Darlington’s back. Tonight was definitely a lot more slipping and sliding, a lot more slowing down using brakes and using tires."

Joey Logano
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Joey Logano rolled off 21st, but earned his third top 10 finish of the season. After getting two Darlington stripes before the midpoint of the race, the No. 20 pit crew checked the car, pulled out fenders and got it back on track without losing too may spots. Overall, the Home Depot Toyota struggled on restarts but was decent on long green runs. Logano said, “I just wasn’t very good on restarts and I would lose several positions each time and I was getting frustrated. Our car was great on the long run and I could reel those guys back in and make those spots back up, but once the restarts happened, I’d lose them again.”

Toward the end, Logano hit the wall going into turn three and dropped back to 19th, but a caution allowed for repairs. In those last 30 laps, he drove the wheels off his racecar to claim a 10th place finish. “If there was an award for the most cars passed I feel like we would have won that tonight pretty easily,” Logano said after the race. “We went from 21st or 22nd into the top-five, dropped back to 20th and then drove our way back into the top-10. That was fun racing like that and finding some speed once again in the Home Depot Toyota. Hopefully we can build on this and head to Charlotte and get in that All-Star race.”

Earlier in the week, Logano and two other Gibbs drivers, Brian Scott and Jason Leffler, spent some time at a Dollar General Store. Under the direction of JGR staffers, the guys made a light-hearted video as they played “game shows” and shopped for birthday gifts for other Gibbs team members. If you enjoy a chuckle, it’s worth the view.

No change in the points standings for the JGR drivers after Darlington:
Denny Hamlin – 4th
Kyle Busch – 9th
Joey Logano – 15th


Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at

In The Hunt with RCR: Darlington

Darlington Raceway. The Southern 500. Historic race, historic track. The track and race where last year the Kevin Harvick - Kyle Busch on-track feud spilled over onto pit road.

Saturday night racing at its finest, right?


The Bojangles Southern 500 made history, all right. The start of the race yielded the longest green-flag run in track history. Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team finally earned that elusive 200th career win for Hendrick Motorsports. Congratulations to Five-Time and HMS.

But for Team RCR, the night could be summed up in a recap the length of a single tweet. Tight in, loose off. Adjust air pressure. Add or remove wedge. Keep digging, car's getting better. Wait, that's too far, car's getting worse.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Nobody led a lap, nobody fought for the lead. All three teams, the No. 27, No. 29, and No. 31 experienced basically the same things through the 500-mile race. Normally I'd break the action down by team but there was no significant action to break down. Each team performed basically the same as the others, except that Harvick ranked first in green-flag passes with 109, though the passes didn't get him anywhere close to the front of the field. He had the fastest speed in traffic at 162.797mph, but that statistic's virtually meaningless because the leaders were rarely in traffic except when they were lapping cars. Burton, made 57 green flag passes but none of them were near the leaders.

The RCR organization hoped to gain some significant ground in the points this week, for Jeff Burton and Paul Menard to get closer to the strike zone for the Chase and for Kevin Harvick to regain his top five status. Burton gained one position to 17th despite finishing eight spots worse than he started. Menard gained one position to 13th, but Harvick - who last week finished five spots worse than he started but gained two positions in points - lost three spots in the points despite finishing seven spots better than he started. Harvick's crew chief Shane Wilson has to be beyond frustrated at this point.

After eleven races, the group as a whole only has three top-five finishes, eleven top tens, and no wins. They've led only 174 of the 3488 laps run, and most of those were led by Harvick in Phoenix, the second race of the season. They only have two DNFs, but one of those was Harvick's from last week where he actually gained in the points despite crashing out of the race.

Perhaps it's too early to hit the proverbial panic button, but it's not too early for RCR to take a serious look at the way the teams have been running. Harvick needs to win. Menard and Burton need to finish in the top five. Unless, of course, they're going to settle for mediocrity.

By the numbers:

Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet
Race Start: 14th     Race Finish: 13th
Points Start: 14th   Points Finish: 13th  

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet 
Race Start: 23th     Race Finish: 16th
Points Start: 5th     Points Finish: 8th 

Jeff Burton, No. 31 BB& T Chevrolet
Race Start: 10th      Race Finish: 18th
Points Start: 18th   Points Finish: 17th 

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Attempting to Tame the Lady in Black

MWR continued to prove why they are a legit contender for wins in 2012. Martin Truex Jr. once again battled for the win during the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway while his teammates just battled, period. Still, the No. 15 and No. 55 teams never stopped trying to gain positions.

Clint Bowyer on track for practice.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-HOUR Energy
Started: 26th
Finished: 11th
Points: 11th (-1)

Clint Bowyer's evening can be summed up simply as a see-saw effect with up and down battles throughout the race. Nevertheless, the No. 15 team kept digging.

Starting back in 26th there was really only one way to go, up to the front, but it was not an easy fight. The leaders lapped cars at a fast and furious pace as the first 173 laps were under the green flag the whole run. Crucial to the fight: the No. 15 5-HOUR Energy pit crew, who performed  many green flag pit stops and helped Bowyer gain positions on track.

After pitting at Lap 50, Bowyer was working around 18th position, gaining steadily. Pitting at Lap 145 from 12th place, Bowyer complained he was dealing with a loose condition on track, so crew chief Brian Pattie made wedge adjustments to the No.15. With just 14 cars on the lead lap, Bowyer went down one at Lap 163, but the caution soon came out and he received the Aaron's Lucky Dog pass to get his position back.

Bowyer's up and down night continued during pit stops and restarts, but ending the night in 11th can be counted as a success.

“This isn’t one of my best tracks, so to get out of here -- I had a top-10 there and they got together down there in (turn) one and two and I checked up and the 9 (Marcos Ambrose) just had enough momentum.  He was far enough behind me that he didn’t have to check up and sailed right around me, but lucky to get out of here I guess.  She ain’t tore up too bad," Bowyer said of his night trying to tame Darlington.

Mark Martin before the Southern 500
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine
Started: 18th
Finished: 20th
Points: 12th (owners) -3

Much like his teammate, Darlington was "Too Tough to Tame" this time around for Mark Martin.

Concerns were expressed early over the handling of the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine and it was evident Martin was having difficulties because he was lapped early at Lap 98. At that point the team went to work, making changes trying to dial the car in for Martin to be able to race. The crew made air pressure changes and by Lap 166, crew chief Rodney Childers was telling him he was one of the fastest cars on the track.

The problems continued, though, and at Lap 250 Martin radioed into the team, "I have to believe a wheel is a little loose."

Cautions allowed Martin to catch up to the field from being two laps down and he ended the race in 20th and on the lead lap thanks to Aaron's!

After the race Martin took to Twitter, "Well I'm proud of our teams effort tonight. We were not fast but we fought hard. On to the All Star next week."

Martin Truex Jr. races with Kyle Busch and Casey Mears during
the Southern 500 at the famed Darlington Raceway.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts
Started: 6th
Finished: 5th
Points: 6th

Martin Truex Jr. is going to win...soon! His performance week in and week out shows how strong of a contender he is and to the doubters of MWR, shame on you!

Truex had a great qualifying effort on Friday, putting him and the No. 56 in prime position throughout the Southern 500. After starting in 6th position he stayed within the top 10 all evening.

At Lap 282 Martin Truex Jr. took the lead for 17 laps until Denny Hamlin passed him. Truex passed Hamlin at Lap 300 to regain the lead for an additional eight laps (25 laps total) until he was passed by eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson.

Settling for 6th, the disappointment was evident by Truex's Twitter comments.

"Thanks @MWRteam for an awesome car. Im cooled off now, if it had went green chad woulda looked like a hero. Im behind my team 100%" Truex said on his Twitter page.

His tweet continued, "The frustration was just me seeing another potential win slip away. Got to focus on the big picture. I promise everyone we will win soon."

Don't forget to vote for Martin Truex Jr. for the 2012 All-Star race next week in Charlotte!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Joey Logano wins his third Nationwide race this season

Joey Logano wins his third Nationwide race this season
Picture credit: Genevieve Cadorette
Friday night’s VFW Sports Clip Help a Hero 200 started with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the pole, but it was Joey Logano who took his General Dollar No. 20 Toyota to victory lane.

The news of the weekend was Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana, both competing in their first race at Darlington Raceway.

Patrick was fast during practice. “I think I was pretty pleased with how it went,” she said. “I felt like we had some decent speed for the very first run and never being here before.” Patrick finished the race in 12th position, in one piece, and without attracting any unnecessary drama. On Saturday, Patrick returns for her second Cup race since Daytona, driving the No. 10 for Stewart-Haas Racing. 

Pastana also spoke with the media, and admitted that it was the first time he was scared in a stock car. He also went on to finish in one piece, without any incidents, and in 17th position.

The same cannot be said for rookie Ryan Blaney, who brought out the first caution on Lap 3. Collected in the wreck were the cars of Matt Frahm (No. 08), Casey Roderick (No. 24), Chase Miller (No. 46) and the No. 51 of Jeremy Clements. Blaney would retire from the race due to the damage sustained in the accident.

Mike Wallace brought out the second caution of the evening, hitting the wall in turn three in a single car accident.

Turn three proved to be problematic: T.J. Bell hit the wall to bring out the third caution, and Josh Richards also had some damage in that incident.

The fifth and final caution of the evening came out as Elliott Sadler led a restart (caution for Brendan Gaughan into the wall) and got hit from behind by Joey Logano. Sadler hit the outside wall, crossing the front nose of Denny Hamlin's car, causing minor damage. Kasey Kahne also hit the wall in the bunch up on the field.

Determined to get back on track and fight for the points, Sadler calmly instructed his team of the needed repairs, to a lost cause. The damage was terminal.

Over the scanner Logano said, "I did not mean to do that at all."

Logano shot out like a bullet on the final restart to the lead. Hamlin worked to pass him, but he couldn’t catch up in time to pass him for the win. After leading a total of four laps, Logano won his third Nationwide race this season.

Race results:
Sam Hornish Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski address
the media post-race.
Credit: Genevieve Cadorette/Skirts and Scuffs

1. Joey Logano
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Brad Kesolowski
4. Sam Hornish Jr.
5. Austin Dillon
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Brian Scott
8. Kurt Busch
9. James Buescher
10. Cole Whitt
11. Joe Nemechek
12. Danica Patrick
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Michael Annett
15. Mike Bliss
16. Timmy Hill
17. Travis Pastrana
18. Kasey Kahne
19. Jeff Green
20. Danny Efland
21. Jason Bowles
22. Morgan Shepherd
23. Jamie Dick
24. Elliott Sadler
25. Josh Richards
26. Brendan Gaughan
27. Derrike Cope
28. Matt Frahm
29. Erik Darnell
30. Mike Wallace
31. Tayler Malsam
32. T.J. Bell
33. Jeremy Clements
34. Blake Koch
35. Kevin Lepage
36. Tony Raines
37. Mike Harmon
38. Scott Riggs
39. Josh Wise
40. Casey Roderick
41. Chase Miller
42. Scott Speed
43. Ryan Blaney

The importance of winning the Southern 500

The Bojangles Southern 500 is the last race a driver can win in order to qualify for the All-Star Race. Regan Smith joined the All-Star team by winning his first Cup race here last year.

“That win meant the world to me,” said Smith to the media on Friday. “It was certainly a pretty special place to get a first win, here at Darlington.”  

Could AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill or even Danica Patrick be the next driver to win their very first Cup trophy this Saturday night?

Patrick had two chances to win this weekend, for she piloted the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports on Friday night and will drive the No. 10 Stewart-Haas/Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet on Saturday. "This is a tough place and everything they said about it is true. This Lady in Black is very intimidating," Patrick said Friday. "I'm just a trying to get comfortable with what the car needs me to do."

Patrick continued, "It's my honor to finally be here at a place like Darlington with so much history and tradition. I think I heard it was the first paved track. Is it true? And that's why it's called the Lady in Black, because it finally got paved. I'm learning my history and it's good to be here. I had a lot of respect for this place coming in," she said, "but having finally hit the track in both the cars, I've got even more respect now."

Patrick hit the wall during practice Friday. "I clipped it with the right rear on the exit of Turn Two," she said. "Then in the Cup car, I hit it entering three and then the next time I hit it flat in three and four in the middle of the corner," She went on to joke, "and oh yeah, right before that I hit the entry to three wall again. I've hit it four times. Getting pretty cozy with it."

Patrick did finish the Nationwide race in one piece, and in the 12th position.

Although a chance to compete in the May 19 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the highlights of winning the Southern 500, there are more reasons why winning here is important.

Darlington Raceway is a place where history was made. Some drivers have won here several times; let’s look at who they are.

Buck Baker won at Darlington in 1953, 1960, and in 1964. Baker's son, Buddy, won in 1970 and in ’71.

David Pearson won here several times: '68, ’70, 72, ’73, ’74, ’76, again at the second race in 1976, and in ’77, ’79, and in 1980.

Bobby Allison won in 1971, ’72, twice in 1975, and once in 1983.

Darrell Waltrip has won here in 1977, ’79, ’81, ’84, and in 1992.

"The Intimidator," Dale Earnhardt, also has a plethora of wins: 1982, ’86, twice in ’87, once in ’89, twice in 1990; once in ’93 & ’94.

Harry Grant has won in 1983, ’84, ’89, ’91.

Bill Elliott, 16-time Most Popular Driver, won at Darlington twice in 1985, and once in ’88, ’92, and ’94.

Among today’s drivers, Jeff Gordon leads them all with the most wins. He "beat" the Lady in Black in 1995, twice in ’96 and once in ’97, ’98, 2002, and in ’07. Teammate and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson swept the 2004 races. Kasey Kahne won twice in the Truck Series, and is looking for his first Darlington Cup win, as is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne raced in the Nationwide Series on Friday in the No. 38 Great Clips car for Turner Motorsports, but a wreck in the end ruined his chance to sweep the weekend.

On Saturday, Johnson starts second and Kahne starts third, as both drivers had the same qualifying lap time of of 27.386 seconds and 179.566 mph. Earnhardt starts in 24th and Gordon in 12th.

Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Joey Logano, two-time Daytona 500 winner and 2003 Cup Champion Matt Kenseth, three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are on the list of drivers who are looking to win their first Southern 500 trophy.

Keselowski finished the VFW Sports Clip Help a Hero 200 in the third position and will start the Bojangles Southern 500 in 15th.

Jeff Burton won twice in 1999, and his brother Ward won it in 2000 and 2001.

Who is next? Cup points leader Greg Biffle has two wins here in 2005 and ’06. A win here would be his second this season, and would let him hold on to the points lead. He won the pole for Saturday night - he's got the speed, and to win it from the pole will be a challenge.

Kyle Busch has a reputation of winning more than once at a track. Is the Lady in Black one track that may be too tough for him to tame twice?

Denny Hamlin will honor Cale Yarborough this weekend, sporting his (1979) paint scheme on the No. 11 Sports Clip Toyota. Yarborough won this race five times in his career: 1968, ’73, ’74, ’78, 82. Hamlin has already won in 2010, can he win it again this weekend? If he does, it’ll be the No. 11's 200th victory, and with Yarborough’s paint scheme, and name on the car, it would be quit a special victory for Hamlin and the team. He starts in the eighth position.

Hamlin dominated the Nationwide race on Friday, but finished in second. He admitted that's to be expected when you have a lead car.

In the end, every driver wants to win, and every driver expects to wreck - it started as early as the first few laps in Friday's practice. Johnson hit the wall, as did many of the big drivers. Knowing there will be many wrecks, checks and cautions on Saturday, who will cross the finish line first? It's a mystery for now but we'll have our answers soon enough.

Genevieve, this picture was taken by my 3 year old niece

Genevieve is a freelance writer with a day job living on Lake Norman in the Charlotte, N.C., area. When not writing, she's hanging out with family, friends, or exercising. All pictures in this post are her own, for photography is her new hobby. You can follow her on Twitter at @C_Genevieve.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NSCS Pole Report: Biffle continues his dominance, winning pole for Southern 500

There is no denying it, Greg Biffle is on a hot streak this season. The current points leader just claimed his second pole award of the season and his 11th of his career after a lap of 27.281 seconds, 180.257 mph broke a tie between Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.

Biffle has started from the pole position at Darlington previously, his first pole at the track came in May 2008. After leading 95 laps, Biffle finished 43rd with engine problems.

The starting lineup for the history making Southern 500:
  1. Greg Biffle
  2. Jimmie Johnson 
  3. Kasey Kahne
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kyle Busch
  6. Martin Truex Jr.
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Denny Hamlin
  9. Regan Smith
  10. Jeff Burton
  11. Jamie McMurray
  12. Jeff Gordon
  13. Aric Almirola
  14. Paul Menard
  15. Brad Keselowski
  16. AJ Allmendinger
  17. Tony Stewart
  18. Mark Martin
  19. Matt Kenseth
  20. Landon Cassill
  21. Joey Logano
  22. Bobby Labonte
  23. Kevin Harvick
  24. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  25. Kurt Busch
  26. Clint Bowyer
  27. Juan Pablo Montoya
  28. Marcos Ambrose
  29. Scott Speed
  30. Josh Wise
  31. Casey Mears
  32. David Stremme
  33. Travis Kvapil
  34. Dave Blaney
  35. Mike Skinner
  36. David Gilliland
  37. David Ragan
  38. Danica Patrick
  39. Cole Whitt
  40. Joe Nemechek
  41. David Reutimann
  42. Reed Sorenson
  43. J.J. Yeley
Failing to qualify: Scott Riggs, Michael McDowell, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss

TV Schedule: Tune into the Southern 500 on FOX at 6:30 pm EST for pre-race. Green flag is scheduled for 7:15 pm EST.