NASCAR is making their yearly visit on Mother’s Day Weekend to the “Lady in Black.” Darlington is the track that has been branded “Too Tough To Tame” and leaves many drivers with the famed “Darlington Stripe” because of the odd, egg shaped configuration and narrow racing lanes. It’s a fast track as well with qualifying speeds over 170 MPH. The narrow lanes make it tough to pass and you often think you are handling OK before you slap the wall quickly. The track surface is also tough on the tires which is a welcome change from some of our other tracks. Click through to see what we’ll be talking about on Monday… (or on Sunday…)
Other happenings this week… Ryan Newman was a bit surprised that NASCAR decided to not fine Tony Stewart for his 5 minute sarcastic post-race interview where he ripped the racing at Talladega. If you recall, Newman was fined back in 2010 for saying this about Talladega, “If they want to have these races for the fans, just let us do this, but don’t let it affect our championship because it’s not racing. We should be here for the Talladega Event Marketing, or something like that.” It was kind of surprising given NASCAR’s history of fines that Stewart was not fined.
Speaking of fines, there were no penalties or fines handed down for Danica Patrick’s post race spin of Sam Hornish Jr. at Talladega. However, she’ll have to keep her temper under control because I’m not so sure they’ll be so lenient if she repeats that behavior.
Looking back…Regan Smith won the ’11 event at Darlington. It was his first victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Most people remember that race because of the altercation between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch both on the track and on pit road that set up the Green-White-Checkered Finish that allowed Regan Smith to win by staying out while others chose to pit. Of course, that incident between Harvick and Busch later led to a series of events which included: A trip to the NASCAR hauler, probation, in-race warnings for both drivers in other events, Richard Childress thumping on Kyle Busch’s head, Kyle Busch picking on the Kevin Harvick owned truck of Ron Hornaday in a race and the eventual suspension of Kyle Busch from a Chase race. It seems those two have settled down and they have played nice together this season so far. I doubt we’ll have fireworks from them again to talk about.
What we’re talking about after the race…No doubt that Danica Patrick’s second Sprint Cup race will dominate some of the conversations had about Saturday’s race. I think most hope she is going to make it more than one lap before ending up in a wreck. However, I won’t be surprised if she struggles because there isn’t another track similar to Darlington on the schedule and it truly is a tough one to get a handle on. As of the first practice, she has already earned a Darlington Stripe along with Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., and Aric Almirola.
The narrow grooves will provide some bumping and banging whether that be between cars or just between a car and the wall. Last year there were 11 cautions so those of you, like me, hoping for more caution laps may get your wish. I expect a much better race than our other Saturday night races so far this year.
One other thing we will be talking about is whether or not Hendrick got their 200th win again. Hendrick has won more than any other owner at this track and Jeff Gordon has 7 wins himself.
Who will win (which means they won’t)… I picked Bowyer last week and he finished 6th. I’ve actually had a pretty good streak lately of picking guys that are at least finishing well despite not winning. Darlington is a really tough track to pick a winner but I think it is going to go to the Hendrick crew. Although it won’t be the guys that you think or that most will want to win the 200th for Hendrick. There is a lot of chatter about Dale Jr. being the favorite again this week and I think that is going to continue to be the case each week if for no other reason that so many want him to finally win. At this point, I think we will be looking at Michigan before he is back in Victory Lane. I am picking Kasey Kahne to win. His team is on track this season finally and Hendrick cars are obviously good at this track. Kahne finished 4th last year and sat on the pole.