Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Darlington Raceway Sprint Cup Notes

Great paint schemes again this weekend  at Darlington.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, Sept. 4
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 6 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps)

Next Race: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Saturday, Sept. 3
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.8 miles (147 laps)


Grand Larson: Kyle Larson Wins First Career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race

Kyle Larson led a race-high 41 laps on his way to his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The triumph marked the first time a graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs has won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Larson’s win came in his 99th career start. It was the first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in 99 contests, when Jamie McMurray won at Talladega in fall of 2013.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver will attempt to continue his winning ways in Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on NBC). Larson has finished in the top 10 in both of his career starts at The Lady in Black.

Two Races To Go: Chase Starts In Less Than Two Weeks
Only two races remain until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and next week’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Here’s how the Chase Grid shakes out right now: Brad Keselowski (4 wins), Kyle Busch (4 wins), Kevin Harvick (2 wins), Carl Edwards (2 wins), Denny Hamlin (2 wins), Jimmie Johnson (2 wins), Matt Kenseth (2 wins), Kurt Busch (1 win), Joey Logano (1 win), Martin Truex Jr. (1 win), Kyle Larson (1 win), Tony Stewart (1 win), Chris Buescher (1 win), Chase Elliott (27 points above Ryan Newman on the cutoff line), Austin Dillon (+21) and Jamie McMurray (+15).

The first four out are Ryan Newman (15 points behind Jamie McMurray on the cutoff line), Kasey Kahne (-52), Trevor Bayne (-58) and Ryan Blaney (-71).

Remember, a driver can get into the Chase with a win as long as he/she is in the top 30 in points following Richmond and he/she attempted every race. On Sunday at Michigan, Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson clinched a Chase spot.

Buescher currently sits 30th in the points standings – seven markers ahead of 31st-place David Ragan. If he falls out of the top 30, he will not make the Chase even with his win.

The currently winless drivers who have visited Victory Lane at Darlington are Greg Biffle and Regan Smith. Those who have triumphed at Richmond are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.

Let Me Tell You A Little Something About Throwback Weekend
Darlington Raceway will celebrate NASCAR’s history for the second straight season with a “Throwback Weekend.” This year’s throwback platform will focus on the 1975-84 era of the sport. And it’s one of the most anticipated weekends of the season.

Initiatives of the celebration include, but are not limited to, drivers sporting retro paint schemes, Cale Yarborough acting as the honorary pace car driver, 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin serving as grand marshals and throwback food options.

On the broadcast front, Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett will call part of the race from the NBC booth.

A Lot Of Eyes On Edwards: Can Carl Command Darlington For Second Consecutive Season?

Rumor has it there’s a new commander at Darlington, but Carl Edwards might have something to say about that.

Edwards will attempt to win at Darlington for the second consecutive season.

Last year, he rallied from two laps down to take the lead following the last round of pit stops. He led the final eight laps to win the first Darlington race held on Labor Day weekend since 2003.

In 12 starts at The Lady in Black, Edwards owns one win, four top fives and eight top 10s.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver currently sits fourth on the Chase Grid on the strength of two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s. He leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a career-high five poles.

Parity At Darlington: Track Has Produced 10 Different Winners In Last 10 Races

Darlington has seen 10 different drivers in Victory Lane over its last 10 races: Greg Biffle (2006), Jeff Gordon (2007), Kyle Busch (2008), Mark Martin (2009), Denny Hamlin (2010), Regan Smith (2011), Jimmie Johnson (2012), Matt Kenseth (2013), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Carl Edwards (2015).

Elliott Scores Another Career-Best Finish At Michigan
Chase Elliott tied his career-best finish with a runner-up showing at Michigan last weekend. His previous high finish was also a runner-up result at Michigan in June.

Elliott’s effort snapped a streak of eight races without a finish better than 13th. His last finish better than 13th was also the runner-up result at Michigan.

The No. 24 Chevrolet driver will try to build more momentum in Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway where he finished 41st last year due to a wreck.

Elliott will try to duplicate his father NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott’s success at Darlington. The elder Elliott won at The Lady In Black five times. Arguably his most famous win came at Darlington in 1985 when he visited Victory Lane in the Southern 500 to capture the first Winston Million. After the triumph, he earned the moniker “Million Dollar Bill.”

Gibbs Brings ‘A Team’ To Darlington
All four of Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers have won one race at Darlington. It is the only team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that can make the claim.

JGR has continued its success from the stretch run of last season. All four of its drivers – Kyle Busch (4 wins), Denny Hamlin (2), Carl Edwards (2) and Matt Kenseth (2) – have multiple wins this year. JGR is also the only four-car team to have all of its drivers in the Chase right now.

Hamlin Hopes To Match Career-Best Top-10 Streak At One Of Best Tracks
If Denny Hamlin finishes in the top 10 at Darlington, he’ll match the longest streak of top 10s in his career with seven. The No. 11 Toyota driver had seven straight top 10s during his rookie season in 2006 and again in 2009.

In 12 starts at the South Carolina oval, Hamlin owns one win, five top fives and eight top 10s. Among active drivers, he boasts the series-best average finish (6.5) and the second-best driver rating (107.8) and average running position (8.4).

Johnson More Than Comfortable At Darlington
Jimmie Johnson is arguably NASCAR’s top driver at Darlington.

He leads all full-time active drivers in wins (3), top fives (9) and top 10s (12) at the 1.366-mile track. His Darlington results are supplemented by strong loop data as well. He claims the fourth-best average running position (10.3) and driver rating (104.4) among active drivers there.

Johnson finished 19th at Darlington last season, snapping a string of three straight top-four finishes at the track dubbed “Too Tough To Tame.”

After struggling the majority of the summer, Johnson has finished seventh (Bristol) and sixth (Michigan) in his last two starts.

Blaney Posts Season-High Finish
Ryan Blaney registered his highest finish of the season with a fourth-place showing at Michigan.

Right now, the 22-year-old North Carolinian ranks 20th on the Chase Grid, 71 points behind Jamie McMurray for the final spot. To make NASCAR’s playoffs, he pretty much has to win at Darlington or Richmond.

Blaney made his lone start at Darlington last season and finished 30th.

The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing driver ranks second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings – 41 points behind Chase Elliott.

On the season, Blaney has two top fives and seven top 10s.

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