Date: Saturday, May 12, 2012
Location: Darlington Raceway—Darlington, SC
Time: 7 pm. ET
Distance: 367 laps/ 501.3 miles
Broadcast: TV- Fox with coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)
Notes and Analysis:
For the only time in 2012, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes a stop at “The Lady In Black” Darlington Raceway.
After racing last weekend in close-quartered competition at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, drivers face a much different type of close racing when they head to Darlington.
With the racing grove up next to the wall, drivers are on the edge all night long on egg-shaped oval trying to avoid the infamous “Darlington Stripe”.
Being up next to the wall all race long, drivers are on the edge for the entire 500 miles at Darlington. There’s little to no room for an error at Darlington as the track has just over one lane for racing. So instead of competing with your fellow driver throughout the race many focus on a thing called “racing the track”.
When you race the track, you’re not concerned about your competitors. Instead you are 100-percent focused on navigating 23-25 degree banked turns as you try to keep the right side of the car as close to the wall as possible without grabbing the infamous “Darlington Stripe” in the process.
In order to do all of that, the driver inside the car must know how to keep a focus on the prize but also know how to charge when it comes time to decide the finish of the race.
Drivers like; Greg Biffe, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson have found recent success there for those very reasons.
When Gordon won his most recent Darlington race back in 2007, he battled through car problems which forced him to keep calm if he wanted just to finish the 500 miles much less win.
And what allowed him to win the race? His competitors falling due to simple mistakes on the track and on pit road, handing the lead and the win to Gordon.
Kyle Busch took his one and so far only victory at Darlington after battling severe handling issues throughout the first 300 miles of the race. Remaining as patient as he could, Busch’s crew fixed his No.18 and before he knew it, he was in the lead for the closing stages of the race.
Even take a look at Regan Smith’s victory at Darlington last year.
Smith slowly moved through the 43 car field, keeping his car off the wall and out of harms way the entire night. When most of the leaders darted down pit road, Smith opted to stay out and took over the race lead.
On old tires and with pressure from then points leader, Carl Edwards, Smith was able to find the will to charge and held on for his first Sprint Cup win on arguably the toughest track in NASCAR.
So what does it take to win a race at Darlington?
A good car, a cool head, a smart crew chief on the box, a solid pit crew, and the ability to know how and when to charge.
That’s why Darlington is the toughest. It takes everything to win a race of any kind there.
By the Numbers:
- 19—The number of times in the 108 races at Darlington Raceway that the race winner has started on the pole.
- 43rd- Johnny Mantz won the inaugural race from the 43rd starting spot, the furthest back in track history.
- 39- The number of races won by Chevrolet at Darlington, the most of any manufacture.
- 10- David Pearson’s win total at Darlington Raceway is still the all-time win mark for the track.
- 1997- The year the front and back stretches switched.
- 1- The fewest laps lead by a race winner at Darlington. Ricky Craven did that in March,2003.
- 140.350 mph- Kyle Busch’s race record pace set in 2008. This was the first race after the track’s repaving earlier that year.
- “A” Drivers: Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson
- “B” Drivers: Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin
- “C” Drivers: Bobby Labonte, David Reutimann
- #1 Jamie McMurray (Bass Pro Shops/ Tracker Boats)
- #2 Brad Keselowski (Miller Lite)
- #5 Kasey Kahne (Rockwell Tools)
- #9 Marcos Ambrose (DeWalt)
- #10 Danica Patrick (GoDaddy.com)
- #11 Denny Hamlin (Sport Clips)
- #13 Casey Mears (GEICO)
- #14 Tony Stewart (Office Depot/ Mobil 1)
- #15 Clint Bowyer (5-Hour Energy)
- #16 Greg Biffle (3M/OH/ES)
- #17 Matt Kenseth (Zest)
- #18 Kyle Busch (Doublemint)
- #19 Mike Bliss (Humphrey Smith Racing)
- #20 Joey Logano (Home Depot)
- #22 A.J. Allmendinger (Shell Pennziol/AAA)
- #23 Scott Riggs (North Texas Pipe)
- #24 Jeff Gordon (Driver to End Hunger)
- #26 Josh Wise (Morristown Driving Service)
- #27 Paul Menard (Menards/PPG)
- #29 Kevin Harvick (Budweiser)
- #30 David Stremme (Inception Motorsports)
- #31 Jeff Burton (BB&T)
- #32 Reed Sorenson (TBA)
- #33 Stephen Leicht (Little Joe’s Auto)
- #34 David Ragan (Peanut Patch- Margaret Homes)
- #36 Dave Blaney (Seal Wrap)
- #38 David Gilliland (A&W All American Food)
- #39 Ryan Newman (WIX Filters)
- #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Target)
- #43 Aric Almirola (Gravely Mower)
- #47 Bobby Labonte (Scott’s Products)
- #48 Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools)
- #49 J.J. Yeley (JPO Absorbents)
- #51 Kurt Busch (Phoenix Construction)
- #52 Mike Skinner (Crusader Staffing)
- #55 Mark Martin (Aaron’s)
- #56 Martin Truex Jr. (NAPA)
- #73 Travis Kvapil (Dr. Pepper-Burger King)
- #74 Cole Whitt (Turn One Racing)
- #78 Regan Smith (Furniture Row/ CSX Play it Safe)
- #79 Scott Speed (Team Kyle)
- #83 Landon Cassill (Burger King-Dr. Pepper)
- #87 Joe Nemechek (AM FM Energy)
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Diet Mountain Dew)
- #93 David Reutimann (Burger King-Dr. Pepper)
- #98 Michael McDowell (Curb Records)
- #99 Carl Edwards (Ford EcoBoost)