The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves to the Darlington Raceway for the 11th race of the 2012 season, the Bojangles’ 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 12, 2012; 7:15 p.m./et.
Weather: Sunny with a high around 82; wind out of the E at 5 mph Chance of precipitation is 10 percent.
The Track: Darlington Raceway
Darlingtonis 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. Darlingtonrewards aggressive and fearless drivers which is why it is the “Track Too Tough To Tame”.
Key to Race: THE TRACKTOO TOUGH TO TAME
Jeff Gordon is one of the few that has managed to tame Darlington. 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.
46 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots on Saturday, May 11 at 5:10 pm. If the first practice is run, but qualifying is unable to take place, the starting lineup will be based on speeds from the car's fastest lap from the first practice, with top-35 cars in owner points no longer segregated from the non-top 35 cars. Previously, the top 35 cars lined up in front of all other eligible car owners.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has seven wins in 31 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 five races at Darlington. He should be fast again this weekend.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has four poles and three top five finishes in nine career starts at Darlington. He is someone to watch this weekend.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards has made the top 10 in five of his eight career starts at Darlington. He is a great option on Saturday.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has two wins and has finished outside the top 10 just four times in 13 career starts at Darlington. He should be in the top five all day.
6 to 10
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy loved the increased speeds that came with the new Darlington surface 2008. He is a great pick to win.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has had one of the most dominant cars in five of the last seven races at Darlington. He is a great pick this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has seven top five finishes in 13 career starts at Darlington. He is a very good option this weekend.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been great if five of the last six races at Darlington and should return to the top 10 this weekend.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has finished in the top 11 in seven of the last 11 races at Darlington. We like his chances for a top 15 finish on Saturday.
11 to 20
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick finally figured out Darlington in 2010 and 2011 after struggling in most of his previous six races at the track. He shouldn’t have an issue making the top 15.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke has 10 top 10 finishes in 19 career starts at Darlington. He has never won at the track and likely won’t find victory lane this weekend this trip to South Carolina.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski wasn’t intimidated during his first three trips to Darlington. He is an exciting pick.
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. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has finished in the top 12 in four of the last six races at Darlington. We think he should just miss the top 10 this weekend, but will cruise to a solid top 20 finish.
No. 55 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. 20 Joey Logano: Logano cruised to a top 10 finish at Darlington in 2009, but struggled that past two years. He will bring a top 20 car on Saturday.
No. 15 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.
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. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch has just one top 10 finish at Darlington since 2004. He won’t be a factor.
21 to 30
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard had a great run Mother’s Day weekend at Darlington in 2010. He could be fast again this year.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Regan Smith surprised everyone with a win at Darlington last year. He is work taking a flyer on in deep, deep leagues.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose was terrible during his first start at Darlington, but improved quite a bit the past two years. He isn’t a terrible option.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya finally found success at Darlington in 2010, but we are afraid he will revert to his middling ways. There are far better fantasy options.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Bobby-LA has finished in the top 25 in 24 of the last 26 Darlington races. He is a decent choice as a fourth fantasy driver on all teams this weekend.
No. 34 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. 10 Danica Patrick: Danica is back behind the wheel of the No. 10 car this weekend. She will likely earn her first Darlington stripe very quickly.
No. 93 David Reutimann: Reutimann has averaged a 22nd place finish at Darlington during his career. He will finish worse than his average this visit to South Carolina.
No. 22 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 32nd.
No. 43 Aric Almirola
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 33 Stephen Leicht
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 32 Reed Sorenson
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 52 Mike Skinner
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 49 J.J. Yeley
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 79 Scott Speed
No. 74 Cole Whitt
No. 26 Josh Wise
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Kasey Kahne
4. Carl Edwards
1. Regan Smith
2. Bobby Labonte
Bust of the Week:
1. Danica Patrick