May 5, 2009
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 IndyCar.com. 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.
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
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 EventDayGames.com to play NASCAR's most unique fantasy game.
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.
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.
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 SceneDaily.com.
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.
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
|Dale Earnhardt Jr||7.20||17.40||5|
|Martin Truex Jr||13.00||28.67||3|
|A J Allmendinger||31.50||23.00||2|
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.
The entry list (.pdf) for the Indy 500 has been posted at IndyCar.com.
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.
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.