Idriver Handicaps:/I Darlington

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series roars into Darlington Raceway for the first flag-to-flag Cup Series race under the lights at NASCAR's most historic speedway. As a preview to the race, RacingOne brings you its weekly detailed look at some of the field, including stats, notes and driver's quotes for the inaugural Mother's Day edition of the Dodge Charger 500.

1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 1368): Jimmie Johnson has competed in six races at Darlington. He has finished in the top-10 in every race except the 2003 spring race where he finished 27th after making contact with Sterling Marlin on lap 22. Last year, he swept both races at Darlington after leading 69 laps in the spring event and 124 in the final Southern 500. Johnson's 7.8 average finish leads all active drivers that have entered two or more events at the 1.366-mile speedway. He will race the same car (chassis No. 48329) that participated in a tire test at Atlanta.

Quotable: "I don't think I've tamed her (Darlington). I've become decent friends with her and we'll just try to keep it that way."

2. Kurt Busch (Points: 1238): In 2003, Busch came .002-second away from winning his first race at Darlington, when Ricky Craven bested him for the closest margin of victory in the sport since the advent of electronic timing and scoring. The runner-up finish, Busch's best performance at the 1.366-mile speedway, was one of four finishes of seventh or better in eight races. His first three starts at the track saw finishes of 28th or worse. He won his first Cup pole at Darlington on August 31, 2001. Last fall he started from the pole after rain washed out qualifying. Busch, who has led 182 laps at Darlington, will race a brand new car (chassis No. 66) with the IRWIN colors.

Quotable: "Darlington gives you a chance to isolate yourself from all the outside circumstances and just to allow yourself to invite your setup to the racetrack and make sure that you race just the racetrack and not the other race cars."

3. Jeff Gordon (Points: 1217): Gordon leads all active drivers with six victories at Darlington Raceway. The only two drivers that stand ahead of Gordon in wins at "The Track too Tough to Tame" are Dale Earnhardt (9) and David Pearson (10). Last year in the spring race Gordon placed 41st, his worst performance and sixth DNF at Darlington, after he was involved in an accident with Andy Hillenburg on lap 28. In the fall he led 155 laps and finished third after a pit mis-cue under caution cost him a shot at victory in the closing laps. In 24 Darlington races, Gordon has led in 19 for 1,533 laps, won three poles and holds a 13.1 average finish.

Quotable: "I can remember the first time that I raced here in a Busch car thinking this place was so cool. It was fast and you were right up next to the wall. It reminded me of racing Sprint cars at Winchester for the first time."

4. Greg Biffle (Points: 1181): Biffle finished a career-best 10th and led a career-high 70 laps at Darlington in the 2003 Southern 500. Biffle will be one of many Cup drivers that will race in Friday night's Busch race. He has one win, one pole and two top-five NBS finishes at Darlington. Appropriately for the night race, "Sleepy Bear", the official mascot for Travelodge, will be on the hood of the No. 16. The same car that finished sixth at Las Vegas will be Biffle's primary ride this weekend.

Quotable: "It's another night race for us, which is always fun for the fans and good for the team because they get an extra day off."

5. Elliott Sadler (Points: 1164): Sadler has yet to post a DNF in his 12 starts at Darlington, which is the longest current streak by a driver. In these 12 races, he has two top-five and four top-10 finishes, with his best finish of second on March 17, 2002. On the other end, the M&M's driver has started in the top-10 seven times, capturing the pole once in the spring 2003 event.

Quotable: "Darlington is abrasive and hard on tires and that wall can reach out and grab you."

6. Tony Stewart (Points: 1088): Stewart has captured two top-five's and six top-10's in 12 starts at Darlington. Last year he finished sixth and eighth respectively. His only Darlington DNF came in the 2003 spring race after being collected by a spinning Buckshot Jones. The race saw Stewart lead a Darlington career-high 7 laps before he ended-up with a trip to the hospital after he was T-boned by Jimmy Spencer. Stewart, who has a 12.6 average finish at Darlington, will make his 222nd start in chassis No. 68. This will be the seventh race for this car. It was raced most recently at Bristol where it finished third.

Quotable: "Five hundred miles at Darlington is still 500 miles at Darlington, no matter when you're racing there. It's a tough race track and a tough race. To me, the date of the Southern 500 might've changed, but the race sure hasn't."

7. Dale Jarrett (Points: 1085): Although Jarrett has three wins at Darlington Raceway in his 34 starts, he has yet to win a 500-mile race at the track. His most recent win was in the spring of 2001. At the egg-shaped oval, the UPS driver has five top-five finishes in the 500-mile race and 11 overall top-five's. This week he climbed from 13th to seventh in the standings, trailing Stewart by only three points. Jarrett will help commemorate Mother's Day by racing a special paint scheme on his car (chassis No. 38) to honor his mother Martha. This is the first time the team is racing this car in 2005. Last year, Jarrett took the car to the season finale at Homestead-Miami and the September race in Dover.

Quotable: "If you don't give the track its respect, then you will end up with a 'Darlington Stripe,' which makes what is already a long race even longer because nine times out of 10 you're going to do some damage."

8. Kevin Harvick (Points: 1083): In eight Darlington starts, Harvick has four top-10 finishes, with his best finish of second on August 31, 2003, in the only race where he has led a lap at the track. Harvick is one of five drivers to have climbed into the top-10 after last week's race in Talladega. He's fighting to get back to the sixth-place position in the standings where he sat one year ago. He will drive chassis No. 137 this weekend.

Quotable: "I think the fans will enjoy seeing us race at night. With the sparks and the cool temperatures, it will make the 500-mile race more exciting. It should be an incredible show."

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points: 1070): Over the past six races Earnhardt Jr. has climbed from 27th to ninth in the standings. He has competed in 10 races at Darlington scoring three top-10 finishes. His best Darlington finish, fourth, came in the 2002 spring race. Junior has led in four races at Darlington, for a total of 135 laps. He finished 10th and led 18 laps in last year's spring race. His average finish at the 1.366-mile speedway is 17.4.

Quotable: "The track configuration is very unorthodox. Looking at it from the grandstands, or even an aerial view, it would look pretty easy to drive, but it ain't easy at all. Even with a good car - hell, even the best car - you still feel like it ain't that great."

10. Jamie McMurray (Points: 1067): After a fifth-place finish at last weekend's race in Talladega, McMurray took the 10th-place spot in the driver standings, moving up from 15th. Relatively new to "The Track too Tough to Tame," McMurray has two top-five finishes in just four starts and has led a total of 76 laps in the last three races. His best finish is fourth, which he posted twice in both of the fall, 500-mile events. In last year's spring event, he led 40 laps but finished 21st. The team will bring chassis No. 403, which has raced in Texas, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Fontana this season. He posted two top-five finishes in those four races.

Quotable: "We're coming off a great finish in Talladega, and I feel like momentum is on our side. Hopefully that momentum will send the Texaco/Havoline Dodge to victory lane on Saturday night."

11. Mark Martin (Points: 1066): Martin is coming into Darlington off a second-place finish there last fall. He has made 38 starts at the track, beating it once on September 5, 1993, in a 500-mile race. Overall, he has 15 top-five's and 23 top-10's and has led 710 laps. Last week, Martin dropped to 11th in the point standings after sitting in the top-10 for 20 weeks. However, he's not that far out, as he's only one point behind Jamie McMurray. The team will run chassis No. RK-231, which was considered his strongest car last season and took seventh this season at Fontana.

12. Jeremy Mayfield (Points: 1064): In 21 starts at Darlington, Mayfield has one pole, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes. His best finish of second came in the 1999 spring race, where he started 11th. On the other end of the spectrum, his best start in the following year's spring race ended in a 41st place finish after he was involved in an accident. Darlington is the first place where Mayfield led laps in a Cup series race. Since that first time in March of 1995, he has led in six more races for a career track total of 320 laps. The No. 19 Dodge team will be bringing the Evernham Motorsports chassis No. 112, previously raced at Bristol, which Mayfield felt was the best race car he'd ever driven at the track. Currently 12th in the point standings, he is only three points out of the top ten.

13. Rusty Wallace (Points: 1057): Wallace will have his last chance to win at Darlington this weekend when he starts his 43rd and final race at 1.366-mile speedway. Since his first Darlington start on April 15, 1984, Wallace has captured 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes. You would have to go all the way back to September 4, 1988, to find Wallace's best finish of second, a feat he also accomplished in 1987. His most recent top-five (fourth) came in the second race in 2001. The last time Wallace led a lap at Darlington was on Sept. 6, 1998, when he led 11 of his career total 307. He will drive the same car (PRS-078) that debuted at Bristol last fall and crashed at Atlanta this year.

14. Carl Edwards (Points: 1046): Edwards will make his first spring Darlington start this weekend. He first raced at the track in the fall of 2004 finishing seventh after starting 24th. He will race chassis RK-265 and will carry the Office Depot colors. This is the same car Edwards made his Cup debut in at Michigan. On Friday, Office Depot will announce the winner of the "Small Business of NASCAR" promotion. The winner will join Office Depot on the TV panel at Darlington.

15. Ryan Newman (Points: 1045): In six starts at the track, Newman has three top-five finishes, with his best finish of second in his second career start on September 1, 2002. In the 2003 fall race, where he sat on the pole for the only time at Darlington, he led 120 of a track total 161 laps before a mishap on pit road caused the team to lose several laps and finish 23rd. Newman will be driving the 'Viper,' chassis No. PRS-76, which won the DHL 400 at Michigan last June. After Talladega, Newman extended his streak of top-10 starts to 16 consecutive weeks. He is the only Cup driver to qualify in the top-10 for all nine races this season.

16. Michael Waltrip (Points: 1036): Waltrip, who is coming off back-to-back top-three finishes for the first time in his career (615 starts), has competed in 39 races at Darlington. In 1991, he led 208 of his 214 laps led at Darlington en-route to a career-best third-place finish. He has only posted one top-10 finish (fifth-place, March 16, 2003) in the last 14 races. His last of nine DNF's came in the spring race last year. He will race the same car (chassis No. 22) that finished seventh at Atlanta in March.

17. Sterling Marlin (Points: 1029): This weekend Marlin will make his 650th career Cup start at Darlington where he's visited Victory Lane twice, most recently on March 17, 2002. In 42 Darlington races, Marlin has captured three poles, 16 top-10's and has led a total of 449 laps. His last of 10 DNF's came in the 2003 spring race. Marlin will pilot chassis No. 401 for the fourth time this season. Its best finish came at Texas, finishing fifth. The car also raced at California and Las Vegas.

18. Jeff Burton (Points: 1013): At Darlington, Burton has two wins, which came back-to-back in 1999. As rain began to fall at both the events in 1999, Burton, who was leading, was named winner after NASCAR called the races. In his 22 starts at the track, he has eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes and has led 786 laps. This weekend, the team is bringing chassis No. 115, which Burton drove to a 12th-place finish at Texas.

22. Kasey Kahne (Points: 901): Kahne is new to "The Lady in Black," with only two starts under his belt. In his first race at Darlington one year ago, he started on the pole and finished 13th. He led his only laps on the track (24) in that race as well, taking the lead four times. His best finish of fifth came in last fall's race after starting 13th.

33. Bobby Labonte (Points:714): Labonte has one win (September, 2000) and 11 top-10's in 24 races at Darlington. He has finished in the top-10 in the last three races contested there, including a runner-up finish one year ago. Labonte has one pole (1997) and has led 127 laps at Darlington. This weekend's primary chassis (No. 71) for Labonte has been in action eight times since 2003, posting a best finish of third in the 2003 spring races at Bristol and Dover.

RacingOne Staff Picks:

Pete Pistone: Jamie McMurray
Rick Benjamin: Jimmie Johnson
Ron Lemasters: Tony Stewart
Jeff Wackerlin: Ryan Newman

Wins: Jeff (Greg Biffle-California, Kevin Harvick-Bristol, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville), Rick (Jeff Gordon-Talladega)

Dodge Charger 500
Darlington Raceway

TV: FOX, 7:00 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Race length: 367 laps, 500 miles.

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