Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Darlington Southern 500 Storylines

2003 Darlington finish line with Ricky Craven beating Kurt Busch
This one’s circled and starred, every season.

One of NASCAR’s "Crown Jewels," the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, now falls every Mother’s Day Eve, weaving two uniquely American traditions into one.

This race sits atop just about every driver’s wish list.

An array of winners has entered Darlington’s Victory Lane lately – five different names in the last five races. And it’s usually close. In 2003, Ricky Craven beat Kurt Busch to the finish line by .002 seconds, the closest finish since the inception of electronic timing and scoring. That mark was matched three weeks ago at Talladega.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series begins the weekend, with the running of the Royal Purple 200 on Friday night.

Storylines follow…


For Some Big Names, Time To Get Going
These marquee names all reside outside the top 10 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings: Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin.

They all have something else in common: They’re tremendous at Darlington.

Gordon’s working on a string of seven consecutive top-five finishes, including a win in 2007. His seven Darlington victories rank third all-time at the historic track, behind NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (nine). His Darlington pre-race Driver Rating of 117.6 tops the series.

Martin has two Darlington victories.

Biffle won consecutive races in 2005 and 2006, and ranks second in Driver Rating with a 113.8.

Hamlin, fresh off a runner-up finish at Richmond, won last year’s Southern 500 and ranks third in Driver Rating at 109.1.

Allmendinger Flirting With Top 10
AJ Allmendinger nabbed his third top 10 of the season – a seventh-place run at Richmond – to vault four spots in the points standings (from 15th to 11th).

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver enjoyed a strong start to the 2011 season, but faltered, falling out of the top 10 in points after a 31st-place finish in Bristol.

Allmendinger has clawed his way back, with four top 15s in the last five races, and now sits just 12 points out of the top 10.

Wild Card: Wins At A Premium
Jeff Gordon’s win at Phoenix in the second race of the season looks huge right now. The only driver outside the top 10 with a win, Gordon – 16th in points – currently resides in Wild Card spot No. 1.

After race No. 26 at Richmond, the top 10 drivers in points will earn a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Chase spots 11 and 12 will go to the drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the top 20. The tiebreaker goes to the driver highest in points. So, right now, Gordon and 11th place AJ Allmendinger sit in the two Wild Card spots.

Fight Intensifies Around Top-35 Bubble
The coveted 35th-place owner points spot couldn’t be closer – literally.

Cars ranked in the top-35 in owner points are guaranteed starting positions in the following race. Currently, there is a three-way points tie for the 35th-place position. Three teams each have 132 points

The tiebreaker goes to Frank Stoddard Jr.’s No. 32, via best finish (its 15th-place result in the Daytona 500). In 36th sits Germain Racing’s No. 13; in 37th is TRG Motorsports’ No. 71.

NASCAR, Darlington Remembers Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter, former vice president of corporate communications at NASCAR and president of Darlington Raceway, passed away last October after a year-long battle with cancer.

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ first trip back to Darlington since Hunter's passing, the sanctioning body and the race track will honor one of the sport's true giants.

On Thursday, The Jim Hunter Memorial Golf Tournament will be held at Florence Country Club. Proceeds will benefit the McLeod Children’s Hospital, The NASCAR Foundation and a scholarship has been set up in his name at his alma mater, the University of South Carolina.

Also, Darlington has rededicated its media center – the Jim Hunter Media Center. As part of the rededication, a plaque featuring a photo of Hunter will be installed near the building’s main entrance.

- NASCAR Media Services

No comments: