NNS: VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 preview

Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Information:

Date: Friday, May 11, 2012

Location: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina

Distance: 147 laps/200.8 miles

Time: 7:15 p.m. EST

Broadcast: TV—ESPN2 broadcast starts at 6:30 p.m. EST

Radio—MRN

Analysis:

Darlington is known as the “track too tough to tame,” but lately for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series the track in South Carolina has been fairly easy to tame.

All three of Toyota’s wins at Darlington have come from Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, with Tony Stewart winning in 2008, Denny Hamlin in 2010 and Kyle Busch winning last year’s event.

Going back a little further, before Joe Gibbs Racing was racing Toyota’s they still dominated the egg-shaped track.  Five of the last six races have been won by Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Matt Kensenth driving a Roush-Fenway Ford is the lone non-Gibbs winner at Darlington since 2006.

Before Gibbs went on their current winning streak, when it came to racing at Darlington in the Nationwide Series, it was the Fords owned by Jack Roush that used to dominate the track.

From 1999 to 2005, there were 13 races at Darlington and eight of the winners were driving a Ford that was owned by Jack Roush.

This Friday as the series moves from the superspeedway of Talladega to the original superspeedway at Darlington, these two powerhouses could be racing side-by-side for the victory again.

Coming off a win at Talladega and a second place at Richmond, Joe Gibbs Racing seems to have the No.18 car where it has been for a majority of the last few seasons, running towards the front of the field.

The drivers may be changing weekly, with Hamlin scoring the second place at Richmond, while Logano took the victory last week, but the car and the crew has remained strong. After winning this event last year, the No. 18 car that will be driven by Hamlin this week, will be a car to keep an eye on as the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 gets underway from Darlington.

With Ricky Stenhouse Jr. piloting the lone Roush-Fenway racing entry again this week, he could be up challenging the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s for the win late in the event. Stenhouse has two career starts at Darlington, and he showed a big improvement last year than he did his rookie season in 2010.

In 2010, Stenhouse only completed 52 laps and finished in the 37th place. Last year Stenhouse finished on the lead lap with a top-10 finish in 10th.

When it has come to the mile and half tracks this year, Stenhouse captured victories at both of them, with a win at Las Vegas and Texas. Even though Darlington is only 1.366 miles and much different than both Las Vegas and Texas, Stenhouse is still strong when it comes to Darlington.

After two weeks of strong runs, it appears that Kyle Busch Motorsports has finally gotten a hold of the new series and  are looking quite strong. With a win and a second place finish in the last two weeks, with two different drivers, KBM with Kurt Busch driving could be up competing for the win again this week.

Among the notables in Friday’s will be the second career start of Travis Pastrana. For Danica Patrick it will be her first career start at Darlington.

After being injured in a wreck last weekend, Eric McClure will sit out and  Jeff Green will be driving the No.14 Morgan McClure Motorsports entry.

The track is tough to master because cars run up near the wall and the two corners are very different. For rookies and veterans alike the track can prove to be too tough to tame, but the driver that finds victory Friday will be the one that tames the track the best.

By the numbers:

  • 36th—the furthest back a race winner has started to win the race. (Larry Pearson- 1995)
  • 17—the number of wins that Ford has at the track to lead all manufactures.
  • 12—the number of races that have been won from the pole, including the last two years.
  • 8—the number of wins Mark Martin has at the track to lead all drivers.
  • 8th—the average starting position of the race winner (number rounded up).
  • 7—the number of wins in a row that Ford had at Darlington from 1999-2002
  • 3—the number of wins Denny Hamin has at the track to lead all active drivers.

Entry list:

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

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