Three things learned from the Darlington race weekend

May 14, 2012 No Comments

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR

Darlington is known as the track that is “too tough to tame,” but after the race weekend two powerhouses at the track walked away knowing that they tamed the “lady in black.”

Joe Gibbs Racing once again concurred the Nationwide series race with Joey Logano winning on Friday night. On Saturday Gibbs followed that up with all three of their drivers finishing in the top-10.

In the Southern 500, Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports was finally able to celebrate their 200th win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, with Jimmie Johnson driving to the victory.

As the three national touring series will split up, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series will both be in Charlotte with the CWTS racing for points and the Sprint Cup Series racing for fun in the annual All-Star race. The Nationwide series will race on Sunday in Newton, Iowa at the 7/8th mile Iowa Speedway.

Before the next round of races get started there are things that fans can take away from Darlington as the NASCAR season continues. Here are the three things learned from Darlington:

  • Long green flag runs are here to stay.

Sprint Cup Series:

It happened at Texas with a 243 green flag run to the end of the race, it happened at Kansas with over a 100 lap run to end that race as well. Richmond and Talladega both saw the caution flags wave late, but compared to most races the number of caution periods were decreased.

The trend continued at Darlington with almost the first half of the race going green.

Long green flag runs and drivers being patient with each other have been a big storyline this year and that trend continued at Darlington. Yes, there were some tempers flaring after the race between Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman’s crew, for the most part the tempers have remained calm this year.

That is something that looks like it will continue as the series gets ready for the summer session. With very few short track races in the next two months, it seems that long green flags and cool heads are on pace to prevail in the hot summer races.

Nationwide Series:

It took less than a lap for the first caution to come out and the race was relatively short and didn’t allow for a tremendously long green flag run, but one still happened. In the middle of the race, for 70 laps the Nationwide series saw the green flag.

Even though that is nowhere near the amount of green flag laps that the Sprint Cup Series had on Saturday, 70 laps was still a long green flag run considering that the race was only 147 laps that means that like the Sprint Cup series the Nationwide series also saw almost a half-race green-flag run.

In the Nationwide series there were a number of racers that were making their first ever apparence at Darlington. While long green flag runs may be expected in the Sprint Cup series where there are a number of veterans and very few rookies running, the fact that the Nationwide Series had a long green flag run shows that the talent level in both series is top-notch.

  • Hendrick Motorsports drivers seem to be headed in opposite directions.

As mentioned earlier, the team recorded the 200th win on Saturday with Jimmie Johnson as the driver, but even though Johnson and garage mate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. are  in the top-12 in points and currently in chase positions, but the other two drivers are struggling.

Kasey Kahne started off the season with horrible luck. Despite having two poles, Kahne didn’t lead a lap until Talladega. At one point in he season, Kahne was struggling just to stay in the top-35 in points (the drivers that are assured a spot in the race week to week) now Kahne has resurfaced and has started to run better.

But the Hendrick driver that has been abandoned by lady luck the most is Jeff Gordon. After 11 races, Gordon is sitting in the lowest points position he has ever been in and in eight of the 11 races, Gordon has either recorded a DNF or finished multiple laps down.

A telling stat so far, Mark Martin, who has missed three races, is one spot above Gordon in the season points, despite the fact that Gordon has been in every race.

After Darlington it is clear that 3/4ths of Hendricks is looking strong, and that Gordon needs to find some luck.

  •  Kurt Busch once again has troubles in the month of May

It was last year in the beginning of May that Kurt Busch and his Penske team started to disagree on just about everything as they raced at Richmond. Busch had a profanity-laced tirade on almost a weekly basis on his radio. After being let go from Penske Racing Busch found a job with James Finch’s team. After getting off to an early start, things were looking good for Busch and Finch.

Then came the month of May. It started off with a unique “Talladega Nights” paint scheme, and it looked like Busch might have been able to capture Finch’s second ever career Sprint Cup Series win. However, a late race spin led to Busch falling out of contention.

At Darlington, Busch was once again having a strong top-10 run when suddenly he lost control of the No.51 Chevrolet. As a result the No. 39 of Ryan Newman also spun. It was reported that during pit-stops to repair both cars, Busch sped off from his pit box and through Newman’s pit almost hitting several members.

After the race, Newman and Busch team members got into a scuffle on pit-road. It appears that once again, the month of May is not going to be a strong month for Busch.


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