The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves to the Darlington Raceway for the 10th race of the 2011 season, the Showtime Southern 500. The only race this season at the "Track Too Tough To Tame" promises to be filled with excitement. We analyzed past performances, season trends, and talked to NASCAR contacts to shed a light on how the field should finish on Saturday night.When:
Saturday, May 7, 2011; 7:45 p.m./et.Weather:
Sunny with a high around 82; wind out of the W at 7 mph Chance of precipitation is 10 percent.The Track:
Darlington is a 1.366 mile oval. It has 25 and 23 degree banking in the turns and three and two degree banking on the straight-aways. Darlington rewards aggressive and fearless drivers which is why it is the "Track Too Tough To Tame".Key to Race:
THE TRACK TOO TOUGH TO TAME
Darlington is a track that Jeff Gordon
has managed to tame. He has seven career victories at the track, including the 2007 edition of the race. He is one of our favorites to take the checkers on Saturday.Qualifying Procedures:
47 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the 2011 owner point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined during qualifying on Friday, May 6 at 5:10 pm/et.Fantasy Cheat Sheet:Top 5
No. 24 Jeff Gordon
: Gordon has seven wins in 30 career starts at Darlington. He has tamed the "Track Too Tough To Tame".
No. 11 Denny Hamlin
: Hamlin has had one of the best cars in the past four races at Darlington. He should be fast again this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle
: Biffle has had one of the most dominant cars in four of the last six races at Darlington. He is a great pick this weekend.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
: Johnson has two wins and has finished outside the top 10 just three times in 12 career starts at Darlington. He should be in the top five all day.
No. 18 Kyle Busch
: Rowdy loved the increased speeds that came with the new Darlington surface 2008. He is a great pick to win.6 to 10
No. 17 Matt Kenseth
: Kenseth has been great the past five races at Darlington and should return to the top 10 this weekend.
No. 99 Carl Edwards
: Edwards has made the top 10 in four of his seven career starts at Darlington. He is a great option on Saturday.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick
: Harvick finally figured out Darlington in 2010 after struggling in most of the last six races at the track. He shouldn't have an issue making the top 10.
No. 22 Kurt Busch
: Busch hadn't cracked the top 10 at Darlington since 2004 prior to his third place finish last year. We think he will be fast again this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman
: Newman has six top five finishes in 12 career starts at Darlington. He is a very good option this weekend.11 to 20
No. 5 Mark Martin
: Martin has 17 top five finishes at Darlington, including a win during the 2009 race. He won't win this weekend, but his ability to be patient and drive smart races should have him near the top 10.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.
: Truex has cracked the top 14 in all but one of his career starts at Darlington. He is a great sleeper pick this weekend.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne
: Kahne has three poles and two top five finishes in eight career starts at Darlington. He is someone to watch this weekend.
No. 20 Joey Logano
: Logano cruised to a top 10 finish at Darlington in 2009, but struggled last year. He will bring a top 20 car on Saturday.
No. 31 Jeff Burton
: Burton has finished in the top 12 in four of the last five races at Darlington. We think he should just miss the top 10 this weekend, but will cruise to a solid top 15 finish.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
: Junior has finished in the top 11 in seven of the last 10 races at Darlington. We like his chances for a top 15 finish on Saturday.
No. 14 Tony Stewart
: Smoke has nine top 10 finishes in 18 career starts at Darlington. He has never won at the track and hasn't seen Victory Lane this season so he is due for a little fence climbing.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski
: Keselowski wasn't intimidated during his first two trips to Darlington. He is an exciting pick.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray
: McMurray has been very hit-or-miss at Darlington in his career. He is a bit of a risky pick on Saturday.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer
: Bowyer has finished inside the top 15 in two of the past four Darlington races. He should finish inside the top 20, but we don't see a top 15 finish this weekend.21 to 30
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
: Montoya finally found success at Darlington last year, but we are afraid he will revert to his middling ways. There are far better fantasy options.
No. 27 Paul Menard
: Menard had a great run Mother's Day weekend at Darlington in 2010. He could be great again this year.
No. 6 David Ragan
: Ragan impressed with a top five finish at Darlington in 2008, but it was more luck than skill. He will be doing well to crack the top 20 this weekend.
No. 83 Brian Vickers
: Vickers is usually a great sleeper pick, but besides strong qualifying efforts he has never been great at Darlington. Stay away from him this weekend.
No. 00 David Reutimann
: Reutimann has averaged a 27th place finish at Darlington during his career. He will finish just a little better than his average this visit to South Carolina.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
: Bobby-LA has finished in the top 25 in 23 of the last 25 Darlington races. He is a decent choice as a fourth fantasy driver on all teams this weekend.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose
: Ambrose was terrible during his first start at Darlington, but improved quite a bit last year. He still isn't much of an option.
No. 78 Regan Smith
: Regan Smith
has been a top 25 finisher previously at Darlington. Take a flyer on him in deep, deep leagues.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: A.J. has finished on the lead lap in a Darlington race just once. He will crack the top 30, but won't do enough to help your fantasy team this weekend.
No. 13 Casey Mears
: Mears has struggled at Darlington during his career. His career average finish at the track is just 30th. Field Fillers
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 34 David Gilliland
No. 38 Travis Kvapil
No. 46 J.J. Yeley
No. 181 Scott Riggs
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 09 Landon Cassill
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 32 Ken Schrader
No. 37 Tony Raines
No. 150 T.J. Bell
No. 60 Mike Skinner
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 175 Derrike Cope
No. 92 Brian KeselowskiBrownie's PicksTop Four:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Gregg Biffle
4. Jimmie Johnson Sleepers:
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. David Ragan Bust of the Week:Brian Vickers