Darlington Driver Handicaps
August 28, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Marlin won the spring race at Darlington this year and also in 1995. But he’s been inconsistent here as well. That win in 1995 was his last top 5 finish at Darlington prior to last spring. Still as good as Marlin looked here in March, I figure he’ll be a contender if the engine stays together.
Martin won the 1994 Southern 500 but he’s failed to crack the top 10 in the last four Cup races at Darlington. Was unstoppable here in a Busch series car.
Gordon holds the record winning four straight Southern 500s from 1995-98. He also won the spring race here in 1996 and finished second in this race last year. Has only missed the top 10 twice in the last fourteen Darlington Cup races. Gordon figures to be a player this weekend. The new aero package on the Chevys ought to help the 24 too.
Stewart had a strong car here in the spring but got into a hard wreck. Best Darlington Cup finishes are a pair of fourths including one in this race last year.
The Lady in Black usually isn’t very tolerant of rookies, but Johnson managed a credible sixth place finish here this spring.
Strange but true: Though he’s been around forever Wallace has never won a Cup race at Darlington. He has finished second here twice though. Top ten finishes in two out of the last three Cup races at the Track Too Tough to Tame.
Rudd has a win at Darlington but that was way back in 1991. Rudd has finished 12th or better in the last four Cup races run here but never inside the top 5. I’m sensing a “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” attitude within the 28 team and that’s not going to help for the rest of the season.
I’m picking Bill Elliott to win here this weekend. He’s a five time Darlington winner with three Southern 500 crowns, including the 1985 race when Bill claimed the first Winston Million and became a household name. Fifth here in this race last year.
Kenseth has a pair of top ten finishes in six Winston Cup starts at Darlington. The team really needs to get back in the game and Roush cars have run well here in the past.
Jarrett has seen some highs and lows at Darlington. He’s won here three times (all of those wins were in the spring). He also crashed and lost his shot at the Winston Million at Darlington. This spring was definitely a low for DJ with a 40th place finish.
His 28th place finish here in the spring was actually Busch’s best Darlington finish in three Cup races he’s run to date here. Did win the pole for this race last year.
Newman finished a very respectable fifth here in the Spring in his first Darlington Cup start.
If it rains here, one of the Burton brothers is going to win. Burton won both Darlington Cup races in 1999, and dueled with Jeff Gordon in 1998 going for the win late in the race before Gordon knocked him around a little and Burton had to settle for second. Finished sixth in last year’s Southern 500 and had eight straight top 5s at Darlington prior to last year.
This is one of those “I’m at the wrong track” joints for Waltrip. Hasn’t had a top 10 finish here since 1997.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior finally got a decent finish out of the Lady in Black with a fourth place result here this spring. Typically runs better than he finishes here.
Craven won the pole at Darlington this spring, but finished 41st. Craven normally struggles at this track and with the exception of a third place finish in 1996 has never finished well here.
Labonte won the 2000 Southern 500 and finished third in last year’s edition of the Labor Day classic. Has been very inconsistent at Darlington though.
How’s this for weird? Labonte has finished 11th in three of the last seven Darlington Cup races including this race last year. 23rd here in the spring.
In three Cup starts at the Track Too Tough to Tame, Harvick has a pair of top 10s and a fourteenth place result. His third place result here in the spring was his best ever finish at Darlington, and one of the few bright spots of the opening part of this season for the sophomore driver.
While he was 25th in this spring’s Darlington race, Green did win last spring’s Busch race here.
Others to Watch
Burton has a pair of wins at Darlington including this race last year.
Sadler surprised everyone and finished second here this spring. The weird part is he’d never even scored a top 10 in a Cup race at Darlington before that, but his team the Wood Brothers certainly have.
Park returns to the site of that terrible Busch series wreck at almost ended his career last year. Park finished second in the spring race here last year.
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