May 5, 2009

Yahoo! Darlington Preview

Darlington Raceway may be known as the "Track Too Tough to Tame," but this week someone will get the upper hand. Read this week's Yahoo! Preview (.pdf) for a list of who's hot.

IRL: Four rookies complete orientation

Four rookie contenders, Robert Doornbos, Raphael Matos, Alex Tagliani and Mike Conway, completed all four stages of the Rookie Orientation Program for the Indy 500 and are ready to begin practicing and attempt to qualify for the biggest race of their careers, according to Nelson Philippe completed three of four phases and Stanton Barrett got through two before the track closed; they will have from 9 am to 2 pm on May 6 to complete the remainder.

Our View: Rookie orientation is designed to insure that these drivers can manage their car in increasingly difficult conditions. They go progressively faster and maintain more tightly controlled lines in order to test their abilities before they find themselves in heavy traffic at 220 mph.

F1: Calming Ferrari

Bernie Ecclestone has been thrust into the role of peacemaker after Max Mosley and Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo exchanged heated words over Formula's plans to implement a salary cap, according to

Our View: Ferrari is accustomed to buying their way to the top of the F1 charts; it will be interesting to see if they can be successful when the playing field is leveled.

Event Day Games Darlington Preview

by Andrew Marren
Event Day Games

This weekend’s trip to Darlington Raceway by the Sprint Cup Series is more than a journey to the sand hills of South Carolina; it’s truly a trip back to the roots of NASCAR racing. Like Daytona, it’s a track that every driver on the circuit wants to win. It’s a track steeped in history, from humble beginnings that caused it to be shaped like an egg in order to not disturb a local farmer’s minnow pond, to its light towers and freshly paved surface that make "The Lady in Black" one of NASCAR's shining modern stadiums. Its past winner reads like a who’s who of racers. Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Donnie Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott, Tim Richmond, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon have all etched their name in its record book.

On track, this week will be all about survival. The question for all competitors won’t be if they’ll hit the wall but when will they'll hit it and how hard. Picking up an infamous Darlington Stripe is a badge of honor. For most, it will happen even before the green flag flies in either practice or qualifying. If the passenger side of the car stays clean, then there’s a good chance that’s the guy headed to victory lane.

If you’re looking for some favorites for the Southern 500, you can start with Jeff Gordon. In 28 starts, he’s recorded seven Darlington wins, and has lead 1,604 laps. Jimmie Johnson has two wins in 10 career starts with 7.4 being his average finish. Defending race winner Kyle Busch has an average finish of 17.0 in his 4 starts, but that didn't slow him any in 2008. Denny Hamlin has the highest average finish of any non winner at 6.3.

It certainly should be an interesting night, with tense fast paced action at the "Track Too Tough to Tame."

Join us this week at to play NASCAR's most unique fantasy game.

Truck: DiCarlo crewman suspended

Wesley Lane, a crew member on the No. 90 Doug Stringer Craftsman Truck Series entry driven by Gabi DiCarlo, has been suspended for allowing another person to use his badge at Kansas Speedway, according to

Our View: NASCAR takes the credential process very seriously. With so many people wandering around the garage area, it is important to know who everyone is.

Harvick, Mears swap pays dividends

The crew swap between Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears is already paying dividends, according to

Our View: You couldn't tell by Harvick's result, but he had one of his best runs of the year at Richmond before contact with Sam Hornish Jr. cut his tire and sent him hard into the wall. Mears was doing fine before the swap with several finishes in the teens, but he recorded his first top-10 of the season with a ninth in the Crown Royal 400.

Raines replaces Andretti at Darlington

While John Andretti is in Indy practicing and attempting to qualify for the Indy 500, Tony Raines will climb into the No. 34 this week and race at Darlington, according to this week's entry list.

Our View: The No. 34 remains in the top 35 in points, so Raines is guaranteed to start. He's not the first driver you should select for your Southern 500 roster, but the veteran is strong on short tracks. Measuring less than a mile and half in length, this track takes a lot of experience to navigate. For more on this, see also this story at

Darlington entry list

The Darlington entry list has been posted and it features 46 cars.

Our View: Notable among the part time entries is Brad Keselowski—in the Hendrick No. 25 this week—and rookie Max Papis. Darlington is not usually kind to freshmen, but the new Car of Tomorrow (COT) is much more durable than the old version and Young Guns have been a better value than in the past.

Darlington, Five-year Avg. Finish

Jeff Gordon stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field at Darlington over the last five years with an average result of 2.2. He earned that near perfect number with a perfect sweep of the top-five in that span.

Teammate Jimmie Johnson is second on the list with a 5.6 and three other drivers (Denny Hamlin at 6.3, Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 7.2 and Mark Martin at 8.8) have averages of better than 10th. That is proof that Darlington is indeed a rhythm track where momentum is one of the biggest keys to success.

Darlington, Five-year Avg. Finish

DriverAvg. FinStartAttempts
Jeff Gordon 2.209.205
Jimmie Johnson 5.6010.605
Denny Hamlin6.3311.003
Dale Earnhardt Jr7.2017.405
Mark Martin 8.8021.205
Carl Edwards 12.4016.205
Matt Kenseth 12.4027.205
Jeff Burton 12.6024.205
Martin Truex Jr13.0028.673
Tony Stewart 13.2012.805
Kasey Kahne 14.2012.405
Clint Bowyer15.6714.003
Jamie McMurray 15.8013.405
David Ragan16.0019.502
Greg Biffle 16.806.805
Bobby Labonte 17.0017.005
Kyle Busch17.0019.254
Kurt Busch 17.209.005
Ryan Newman 17.2014.405
Joe Nemechek 18.8026.605
Juan Montoya23.0030.002
Dave Blaney 24.2525.504
David Gilliland25.0035.502
David Reutimann26.0022.002
Elliott Sadler 27.008.405
Reed Sorenson27.6723.673
Kevin Harvick 27.8014.405
Robby Gordon 28.8030.005
Brian Vickers 29.2016.605
David Stremme29.5017.002
Casey Mears 30.4019.805
A J Allmendinger31.5023.002
Scott Riggs31.6019.255
Jeremy Mayfield 33.5016.004
Paul Menard33.5032.002
Michael Waltrip 34.6027.505
Tony Raines 35.0037.003

Hamlin's bad luck continues

Denny Hamlin continues to sing an old Hee Haw song as he drives in the Cup series; if it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all, according to

Our View: This has made him a difficult driver to place on your roster with any regularity. Luck is unpredictable. Hamlin is more than capable of earning top-fives, especially on NASCAR's short, flat tracks, but the risk is most often outweighing the reward at this stage of the season.

IRL: Indy 500 entry list

The entry list (.pdf) for the Indy 500 has been posted at

Our View: The usual cast of characters is included, but several one-off teams will also make appearances. Notably, three women will attempt to qualify for the biggest race of the year, including Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno.

IRL: Barrett transitions

Stanton Barrett's transition to IndyCar has been steady as he's layered open wheel experience on top of his stock car skill, according to

Our View: Barrett showed great promise in NASCAR, but could never seem to get into a competitive ride. With smaller fields in IndyCar, he may well earn a few top-10s, and that will make him more marketable in either series.