Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington

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One of NASCAR’s toughest tests comes this Saturday night, as the venerable Darlington Raceway hosts the Sprint Cup Series for the first time on its new April date.

The 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval is one of the series’ most historic tracks and one of its most difficult as well. Not many cars emerge from a Darlington race without having met up with the wall at some point, giving it a “Darlington stripe.”

And after being repaved in 2008, time has weathered the ‘new’ track to the point where some of its old, abrasive characteristics have returned – adding another obstacle for drivers.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 – Round 8 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

DARLINGTON-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/ Red Cross Ford)
· Two wins, two top fives, five top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.9
· Average Running Position of 10.3, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, third-best
· Series-high 286 Fastest Laps Run
· 452 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.878 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,441 Laps in the Top 15 (73.7%), fifth-most
· 291 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), third-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 14.4
· Average Running Position of 9.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 106.2, fifth-best
· 230 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 492 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.996 mph, third-fastest
· 2,790 Laps in the Top 15 (84.3%), second-most
· Series-high 337 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 14.9
· Average Running Position of 12.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, 10th-best
· 547 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.451 mph, 11th-fastest
· 2,277 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), eighth-most
· 273 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford EcoBoost Ford)
· Three top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 12.8, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.4, ninth-best
· 151 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 480 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.593 mph, ninth-fastest
· 2,248 Laps in the Top 15 (67.9%), ninth-most
· 279 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Seven wins, 19 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 11.5
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.1
· Series-best Driver Rating of 111.8
· 194 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 160.130 mph
· Series-high 2,982 Laps in the Top 15 (90.1%)
· 272 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 5.4
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 108.9, second-best
· 182 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.977 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,488 Laps in the Top 15 (84.6%), fourth-most
· 266 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet)
· Three wins, eight top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 9.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, fourth-best
· 233 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 485 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069 mph, second-fastest
· 2,504 Laps in the Top 15 (75.6%), third-most
· 252 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 14.2
· Average Running Position of 10.4, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.1, sixth-best
· 217 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.655 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,318 Laps in the Top 15 (70.0%), seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.7
· Average Running Position of 14.3, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.9, 11th-best
· 113 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 469 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.346 mph, 12th-fastest
· 223 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Seven top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 11.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.708 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,425 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), sixth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 12th-best
· 105 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Series-high 563 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.535 mph, 10th-fastest
· 2,144 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), 11th-most
· 300 Quality Passes, second-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 11.4
· Average Running Position of 12.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.8, eighth-best
· 125 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 510 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.745 mph, sixth-fastest
· 250 Quality Passes, ninth-most

source:

Darlington Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 8 of 36 (04-12-14)
Track Size: 1.366-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 25 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 23 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 6 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,229 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,229 feet
Race Length: 367 laps / 501.3 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Darlington
Jeff Gordon………………………… 111.8
Denny Hamlin………………………. 108.9
Greg Biffle………………………….. 107.5
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 107.5
Kyle Busch…………………………. 106.2
Kasey Kahne………………………… 99.1
Ryan Newman……………………….. 95.8
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 94.8
Carl Edwards………………………… 93.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 91.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Darlington Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner: Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 181.918 mph, 27.032 secs., May 10, 2013
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 141.383 mph, (03:32:45), May 11, 2013
Track qualifying record: Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 181.918 mph, 27.032 secs., May 10, 2013
Track race record: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 141.383 mph, (03:32:45), May 11, 2013

Darlington Raceway History
· Darlington Raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950.
· Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950. – won by Johnny Mantz.
· The track was re-measured to 1.375 miles in 1953.
· The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970.
· The track was repaved in 1995.
· The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington.
· The track was repaved again prior to the 2008 season.

Darlington Raceway Notebook
· There have been 110 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington Raceway. The 1.366-mile track has hosted the fourth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races.
· 702 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway; 426 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Darlington with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 33 starts; followed by Joe Nemechek with 27.
· Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Darlington in 1950 with a speed of 82.034 mph.
· 47 drivers have Coors Light poles at Darlington, led by David Pearson with 12. Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers with four.
· Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Darlington. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Darlington with five (1975 – 1977).
· Youngest Darlington pole winner: Kurt Busch (09/02/2001 – 23 years, 0 months, 29 days).
· Oldest Darlington pole winner: David Pearson (09/06/1982 – 47 years, 8 months, 15 days).
· 46 different drivers have won at Darlington Raceway, led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
· Youngest Darlington winner: Kyle Busch (05/10/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Darlington winner: Harry Gant (09/01/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 22 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Darlington in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 14.
· 11 different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 40 victories; followed by Ford with 28.
· 19 of the 110 (17.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Dale Jarrett in 1997. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has won from the pole four times at Darlington – the series’ most.
· The Coors Light pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (19) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second most wins (17).
· 36 of the 110 (32.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the front row: 19 from the pole and 17 from second-place.
· 95 of the 110 (86.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Six of the 110 (5.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington was 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 – the inaugural NSCS event.
· Buddy Baker and Richard Petty are tied for theseries most runner-up finishes at Darlington with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with four.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Darlington with 25. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19.
· Bill Elliott leads the series in top-10 finishes at Darlington with 35. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 22.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Darlington with a 6.758.
· Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 5.375.
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have an average finish in the top 10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (5.3) and Jimmie Johnson (8.8).
· 13 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990)and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996)are tied for theseries lead in consecutive wins at Darlington with three each.
· All six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Darlington Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Among active drivers, Kyle Busch won at Darlington in the fewest previous appearances (three).
· Matt Kenseth competed at Darlington Raceway 19 times before winning last season; the longest span of any the six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington without visiting Victory Lane at 27.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway was the (03/16/2003) race won by Ricky Craven with a MOV of 0.002 second – the MOV is tied with the 2011 Talladega race as the closest finishes in the NSCS using electronic scoring.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway: 2005 (367/370), 2011 (367/370) and 2012 (367/368).
· Eight of the 110 races at Darlington Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the fall race of 2000.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway five times; most recently was the fall race of 2004.
· Terry Labonte (09/04/1978) made his series debut at Darlington Raceway.
· Ken Schrader (03/29/1987), Kurt Busch (09/02/2001) and Clint Bowyer (05/13/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Darlington.
· Regan Smith (05/07/2011) and Terry Labonte (09/01/1980) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Darlington.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Darlington with 1,736 laps led in 33 starts.
· Three female drivers have competed at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

  • Janet Guthrie, Southern 500, Sept. 5, 1977 – Started 26th, Finished 16th
  • Shawna Robinson, Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, March 17, 2002 – Started 42nd, Finished 42nd
  • Danica Patrick, Bojangles’ Southern 500 – Finished 31st  in 2012, Finished 28th in 2013

NASCAR in South Carolina
· There have been 220 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 10 tracks in South Carolina. Darlington has hosted 110 of them. The other tracks are: Columbia Speedway (43), Greenville-Pickens Speedway (29), Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds (Spartanburg, 22), Rambi Race Track (Myrtle Beach, 9), Coastal Speedway (Myrtle Beach, 2), Lancaster Speedway (2), Gamecock Speedway (Sumter, 1), Hartsville Speedway (1), and Newberry Speedway (1)
· 133 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as South Carolina.
· 11 drivers from South Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; eight have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

  • David Pearson – 105 Cup wins, 1 NNS win
  • Cale Yarborough – 83 Cup
  • Rex White – 28 Cup
  • Cotton Owens – 9 Cup
  • Tiny Lund – 5 Cup
  • James Hylton – 2 Cup
  • Johnny Allen – 1 Cup
  • Joe Eubanks – 1 Cup
  • Larry Pearson – 15 NNS
  • Jason Keller – 10 NNS
  • Butch Lindley – 6 NNS

Leah Pritchett has quickest run in NHRA history at 3.640 seconds

Photo courtesy Don Schumacher Racing
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BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) Leah Pritchett had the quickest run in NHRA history with 3.640-second pass at 330.63 mph Friday night at Brainerd International Speedway in Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying.

She broke her own Top Fuel record of 3.658 set in Arizona in February.

“We’ve looked forward to this night session for a long time,” Pritchett said. “Knowing that Brainerd, this track, this surface, the conditions and what NHRA is able to do to it, lays down the ground work for us to pull out the most power possible. That’s what this team did. They have been working tirelessly at finding small amounts of power here, there and everywhere and to be able to put it on the track tonight was incredible.”

Robert Hight broke the Funny Car time record with a 3.793 at 338.00 in a Chevrolet Camaro SS, the first run in the 3.7s in Funny Car history. He set the speed record of 339.87 last month at Sonoma Raceway.

“I could tell it was running fast and I saw the 3.79 on the scoreboard,” Hight said. “It’s just something you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it all to come together. It’s not that easy. This is a big milestone. To be part of a milestone as a driver, this was big for me.”

Tanner Gray topped the Pro Stock field, and Hector Arana Jr. was the fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gray had a 6.607 at 208.617 in a Chevrolet Camaro, and Arana had a 6.879 at 194.24 on a Buell.

Back racing after F1 test, Norris dominates Zandvoort F3 opener

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McLaren younster Lando Norris made an emphatic return to racing action after the summer break by dominating the opening race of the FIA European Formula 3 weekend at Zandvoort, taking his sixth win of the season.

Norris, 17, moved up to F3 for 2017 after winning two Formula Renault titles last year, as well as linking up with McLaren’s junior program.

The Briton impressed during his maiden Formula 1 test in Hungary at the end of last month, and carried the momentum through to Zandvoort by taking pole position for Carlin for the first race of the weekend.

Norris retained his lead at the start and only came under pressure following a safety car period, with Swedish youngster Joel Eriksson running close for the lead.

Norris was able to create a gap and pull away, completing a wire-to-wire win with almost nine seconds in hand over the pack for his sixth win of the season.

The result sees Norris move to within eight points of championship leader Maximillian Günther, the German finishing third on Saturday at Zandvoort.

Carpenter, Jones crash as Hunter-Reay leads Pocono practice

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LONG POND, Pa. – The Saturday morning practice for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway saw Honda jump to the fore, though a pair of incidents forced stoppages near the end.

Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the time charts with a quick lap of 219.268 mph, turned in the second half of the session. Hunter-Reay led Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, the best of the Chevrolet runners, the Frenchman turning a best lap of 219.211 mph.

Tony Kanaan was third for Chip Ganassi Racing, with Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti in fourth after leading most of the session. Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon completed the top five, while sixth-place Takuma Sato and seventh-place Alexander Rossi made it four Andretti Autosport cars in the top ten.

The morning practice saw three stoppages. The first was only for a quick track inspection, but the next two were for crashes.

The first was for Ed Carpenter. Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet broke loose exiting turn three 3 and smacked the outside wall with the left side. Carpenter climbed out unhurt, but the car sustained heavy damage. However, the team immediately began repairing the car ahead of qualifying this afternoon.

The other incident was for Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones. Jones’ No. 19 Honda spun in the middle of turn 2, but only sustained minor damage to the front nose, which brushed the outside wall during the spin.

Both Carpenter and Jones were checked, cleared, and released from the infield care center. Times are below. Qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

NHRA: Hight uncorks first 3.70 Funny Car run in history in Brainerd

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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Last night, Robert Hight and the John Force Racing team took an even bigger step in their recent run of form with a new record elapsed time in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history for the Funny Car class.

With a 3.793-second pass at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, Hight became the first Funny Car driver in history to run a pass under 3.80 seconds in the class’ history.

The full team release is below.

Auto Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight is getting pretty good at making history.

Two races ago, the Chevrolet Camaro SS driver set the national speed record of 339.87 mph at Sonoma, Calif.

On Friday at Brainerd International Raceway, Hight again went to new heights. The John Force Racing driver became the first in Funny Car to run under the 3.8-second mark, making a pass of 3.793 seconds at 338.00 mph to earn the provisional No. 1 spot for the NHRA Nationals on Friday night.

“It’s something you dream about,” Hight said. “There are so many things that have to happen, and so many people that have to work together for it to happen. It’s just not that easy. We’ve been on runs before that you think that, if it’d finished, it would have run in the .70s.

“To be the first – that’s history. This is a big milestone. It’s going to be a long time before we get into the 3.60s. To be a part of a milestone – I’ve been on John’s teams when he’s cracked barriers, but never done it as a driver – so this is big for me and the whole team. We’re ecstatic.”

Hight and his Auto Club team, led by crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham, have been on fire recently. Hight won in Denver and Seattle, earned No. 1 qualifiers in three of the last four races, qualified in the top three in each of the last nine races and now has set the national record for elapsed time and speed.

Hight sat in the No. 2 spot after the first session Friday with a run of 3.844 seconds at 335.07 mph but figured the “Prock Rocket” could go even quicker – and it certainly did.

“I could tell it was running fast,” Hight said. “The clutch disc was boiling, and that’s the way Jimmy runs it. That’s how he wants to wear the clutch. It was hard to see, but I did see the 3.79 on the scoreboard, because we shut off at 1,000 feet, I had the chutes out, and I glanced up there but I didn’t know the speed.”

Hight led a solid 1-3-4 effort for JFR, as PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil driver John Force was No. 3 with a run of 3.852 seconds at 334.15 mph and Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force was No. 4 with a pass of 3.863 seconds at 335.98 mph.

Brittany Force was No. 2 in Top Fuel, making a brilliant run of 3.685 seconds at a track-record speed of 333.16 mph. That speed was matched the third-best in NHRA history.

JFR now owns six of the nine fastest speeds in Funny Car history, as well as three of the six quickest elapsed times in Funny Car history.

Additionally, JFR Funny Cars own 12 of the 21 track records for elapsed time.