'Too Tough' indeed as success rare at Darlington
May 11, 2012 11:05 AM, EDT
27 -- Number of consecutive Cup races the pole-sitter has not gone on to win the race. The last pole-sitter to win -- Kyle Busch, at Kentucky Speedway in July 2011. The best finish of a pole-sitter in 2012 belongs to Martin Truex Jr., who finished sixth at Texas. The streak looks like it will continue -- Dale Jarrett is the last winning pole driver at Darlington, and he did it back in 1997. The longest drought for a pole-sitter victory in Cup Series history is 29 in the 1989 and 1990 seasons
4 -- On the flip side, Nationwide races at Darlington usually see the pole-sitter head to Victory Lane. In the past six Nationwide races at the track, four have been won from the P1 position.
6 -- Darlington is one of six active tracks that were on the Nationwide schedule when the series started in 1982. The other five: Bristol, Charlotte, Daytona, Dover and Richmond. Interestingly, Darlington is not known to reward drivers with their first series victory. In the first three races held at the track from 1982-'84, Geoffrey Bodine, Neil Bonnett and Ron Bouchard earned their first series victory at Darlington, but since then -- a streak that spans 48 races -- no driver has earned his or her first victory at the Lady in Black. _____________________________________________________
7 -- In six of the past seven races, the final green-flag run was seven laps or fewer. However, last year the final 44 laps were run under green.
7 -- The driver leading the most laps has won seven of the past nine Nationwide races at Darlington. In 2009, Kyle Busch had to pit with a flat tire after leading 143 laps and Matt Kenseth went on to win. In 2006, Denny Hamlin, Kenseth and Jamie McMurray took their turn at the point for at least 38 laps with Hamlin leading when it mattered most.
16 -- Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have won 16 of the past 22 races at Darlington. Roush drivers dominated the track in the '90s and early 2000s, but its been a Gibbs track more recently with wins in five of the past six races with a JGR driver leading 59 percent of the laps run in that stretch.
3.3 -- Denny Hamlin has an average finish of 3.3 in six Nationwide starts at Darlington. He has three victories in his past four starts with the one non-victory a second-place finish last year. Hamlin's worst finish is eighth and he's finished every race on the lead lap. In 2010, Hamlin swept the weekend winning both the Cup and Nationwide races, the first driver to accomplish that in the past 18 years.
4 -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the points lead from Elliott Sadler last week at Talladega and it is because he has been on a tear recently. In the past four races, Stenhouse is the only driver to notch a top-five in each one. He finished second at Fontana, won at Texas, was fourth at Richmond and third at Talladega. Stenhouse has finished sixth or better in the past seven races, with his only finish outside the top six a 19th in the opener at Daytona.
9 -- Nationwide regulars have won five of the eight races this season, but at Darlington, it's the Cup stars who shine. The past nine Nationwide races have been won by Cup regulars with Hamlin leading the way with three. Brian Vickers, back in 2003, was the last Nationwide driver to capture the checkered at Darlington.
SPRINT CUP SERIES
13 -- Could this be the week? Hendrick Motorsports has been trying all season to grab its elusive 200th victory and Darlington could be its best opportunity. Hendrick has 13 victories at the 1.366-mile track, four more wins than any other Cup team. It's been 16 races since Hendrick has last been to Victory Lane, the team's longest drought since 2001-2002. However, the team is still a long way from its worst winless skid of 40 races back in 1991-1992 when Ken Schrader and Ricky Rudd drove for the owner and rookie named Jeff Gordon made his Cup debut at Atlanta. _____________________________________________________
0 -- Number of victories and top-five finishes for Richard Childress Racing at Darlington since 2005. RCR has eight victories at the South Carolina track, but none since Dale Earnhardt won in 1994. The team has 21 top-five finishes, but only four from anyone other than Earnhardt. Robby Gordon scored the team's last top-five back in 2004. All four RCR cars finished 17th or worse in 2011.
2 -- Darlington is one of two active tracks Tony Stewart has yet to win (Kentucky is the other). In 19 starts, Stewart's best finish is third in 2009 and he has just three top-fives and 10 top-10s. His average finish is a solid 12.3, but he's led just 20 laps.
5 -- Darlington has had double-digit cautions in five of the past seven races and has seen two green-white-checkered finishes in that stretch. In both instances, the driver who was leading at the time of the caution did not go on to win the race.
0 -- So far in 2012, there has not been a last lap pass for the victory. If you're a fan of last-lap passes, Darlington may lead you to be disappointed. In 108 races, there have only been five last-lap passes for the victory with the most recent coming in Darlington's most famous finish between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch in 2003.
5 -- Believe it or not, but Brad Keselowski is second in Cup Series wins since the beginning of 2011. Tony Stewart has seven, followed by Keselowski and Kyle Busch with five, and Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth with four. Of those five drivers, though, Keselowski has the worst average finish and the fewest top-10s. But Darlington is Keselowski's best track where he has started more than once with an average finish of 7.3.
21.6 -- Jeff Gordon's average finish of 21.6 this season is his worst in 10 races since the summer of 2005, the only season he missed the Chase. Interestingly, in the three races this season without an incident, he's done pretty well finishing eighth at Phoenix, 12th at Las Vegas and fourth at Texas.
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