Driver Handicaps: Darlington

Darlington Driver Handicaps

Jeff Gordon is a seven-time winner at Darlington Raceway and Denny Hamlin is the defending event winner. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Driver Averages | Loop Data eBook | Driver Ratings | Past Winners | Power Rankings

This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for Saturday night's Showtime Southern 500. To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com's Jeff Wackerlin brings you his weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 367-lap event.

Who's HOT at Darlington
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in wins (7) and laps led (1,72).
• Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner and leads all drivers with a 6.6 average finish.
• Kyle Busch finished seventh last year and won the 2008 race. 
• Two-time winner Mark Martin leads all drivers entered in this weekend's race with 26 top-10s.
• Jimmie Johnson, who swept both races in 2004, has a 9.3 average finish in 12 starts
• Ryan Newman has finished ninth or better in five of his last six starts.
• Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton have respective average finishes of 9.0 and 10.0 in the four races with the COT.

Keep an Eye on at Darlington
• Greg Biffle is second in the driver ratings and in laps led with the COT (212) at Darlington.
• Brad Keselowski has a 9.5 average finish in two starts at Darlington.
• Clint Bowyer is coming off his fifth consecutive top 10 of the 2011 season.
• Three-time Darlington pole winner Kasey Kahne particpated in a Goodyear Tire Test at the track in March.
• Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray (second) and Juan Pablo Montoya (fifth) each finished in the top five last season at Darlington. McMurray also started from the pole.
• Series points leader Carl Edwards has two top-fives with the COT at Darlington.
• Kurt Busch scored his first top-10 finish (third) with Penske Racing at Darlington last year.
• Kevin Harvick recorded his first top-10 finish with the COT at Darlington last season in sixth.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an 11.7 average finish in his last six starts at Darlington Raceway.

Darlington Qualifying Facts 

*Active Pole Leaders
Best Starting Average
Races Won from Starting Pos.
1. Jeff Gordon - 3 
1. Jeff Gordon - 6.6
Pole - 19 times
Kasey Kahne - 3
2. Marcos Ambrose - 8.5
Top Five - 68 times
Ken Schrader - 3
3. Ryan Newman - 8.8
Top 10 - 93 times
2. Mark Martin - 2
4. Joey Logano - 9.0
Top 15 - 102 times
3. Seven drivers with one pole
5. Greg Biffle - 9.1
Worst - 43rd, one time 

* - Must be entered in the Showtime Southern 500.

*Best Average Finish at Darlington 

Last # of Races
Driver
Avg. Fin.
Two Races
Jeff Gordon
4.5
Four Races
Jeff Gordon
3.2
Six Races
Jeff Gordon
2.8
Eight Races
Jeff Gordon
7.6
10 Races
Jimmie Johnson
9.7

* - The best average finish is based off a driver who has competed in every race during that time span.

Darlington Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2010)

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Jeff Gordon
1. Martin Truex Jr.
1. Jeff Gordon - 6.8
2. Greg Biffle
2. Ryan Newman
2. Greg Biffle - 9.7
3. Denny Hamlin
3. Jeff Gordon
3. Denny Hamlin - 9.8
4. Ryan Newman
4. Denny Hamlin
4. Ryan Newman - 10.8
5. Jimmie Johnson
5. Mark Martin
5. Jimmie Johnson - 11.1
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Jeff Gordon - 2050
1. Kyle Busch - 217
1. Jeff Gordon - 117.6
2. Ryan Newman - 1776
2. Jeff Gordon - 191
2. Greg Biffle - 113.8
3. Kyle Busch - 1744
3. Carl Edwards - 175
3. Denny Hamlin - 109.1
4. Greg Biffle - 1658
4. Jeff Burton - 174
4. Jimmie Johnson - 102.8
5. Jimmie Johnson - 1602
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 172
5. Ryan Newman - 99.9

*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating: Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


For a look at all the pre-race Loop Data for Richmond view the Showtime Southern 500 pre-race ebook.

Season Loop Data Leaders
*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Kyle Busch
1. Kyle Busch
1. Kyle Busch - 9.1
2. Clint Bowyer
2. Matt Kenseth 
2. Clint Bowyer - 11.5 
3. Carl Edwards 
3. Carl Edwards
3. Ryan Newman - 11.6
4. Martin Truex Jr. 
4. Jimmie Johnson
4. Carl Edwards - 12.9
5. Paul Menard
5. Denny Hamlin
5. Jimmie Johnson - 13.5
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Kyle Busch - 2470
1. Kurt Busch - 881
1. Kyle Busch - 115.1
2. Ryan Newman - 2208
2. Clint Bowyer - 873
2. Clint Bowyer - 98.5 
3. Carl Edwards - 2029
3. Paul Menard - 866
3. Carl Edwards - 97.8
4. Jimmie Johnson - 1984
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 748
4. Jimmie Johnson - 95.1
5. Clint Bowyer - 1918
5. Kyle Busch - 712
5. Ryan Newman - 92.4


*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating: Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Jeff Gordon
Pete Pistone: Denny Hamlin
Craig Moore: Carl Edwards
Steve Blevins: Ryan Newman
John Singler: Greg Biffle

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings
(All stats/notes are in regards to Darlington unless noted)

1. Carl Edwards: 13.5 average finish, including two top fives, in the four races with the COT; Four top-10s and an average finish of 15.6 in seven overall starts; Led 33 laps in 2007; Finished 32nd and 15th in last two starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 732) that he won with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Second among all drivers in average finish at 9.3; Coming off worst finish, in 36th, after a crash took him out contention; Finish was second outside the top 15 in 12 starts; 13.5 average finish in the four races with the COT; Won both races in 2004; Fourth-best driver rating in the past six races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 659) in the Showtime Southern 500.

3. Kyle Busch: Won the 2008 race after leading 169 laps; 19.8 average finish in the four races with the COT; Finished seventh last season for third top 10 in six starts; Sixth-best driver rating in the past six races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 277) that he led 153 laps with en route to the win at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr: 16.3 average finish in three starts with Hendrick Motorsports; 14.2 average finish in the four races with the COT; Best finish in 16 starts is a pair of fourth-place finishes with the last coming in 2008; Eighth-best driver rating in the past six races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 657) in the Showtime Southern 500.

5. Kevin Harvick: Coming off best finish, and first top 10, in four starts with the COT in sixth; 19.1 average finish and 16 laps led in 14 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 304) that he finished sixth with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

6. Kurt Busch: 12.4 average finish in five starts with Penske Racing; Coming off best finish, and first top 10, with the team in third; Scored four top-10s in previous nine starts with Roush Racing; One lap led in the four races with the COT.

7. Clint Bowyer: 23.2 average finish in five starts; Best finish, and only top 10, came in the 2007 race from the pole in ninth; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 315) in the Showtime Southern 500.

8. Ryan Newman: 6.5 average finish in two starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; 12.2 average finish in 12 overall starts; Ninth-place finish last year was fifth top 10 in the last six races; 297 laps led; Fifth-best driver rating in the past six races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 506) that he last finishes eighth with at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2010.

9. Matt Kenseth: Third-best average finish (9.0) in the four races with the COT; has finished 13th or better in the past five races; Won the pole and finished 10th in 2009; 17.7 average finish, seven top-10s and 154 laps in 17 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 707) that he finished fourth with at Auto Club Speedway.

10. Tony Stewart: 13.0 average finish in two starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Best finish came in 2008 in third; Posted eight top-10s in previous 16 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; 13.2 average finish in the four races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 640) in the Showtime Southern 500.

11. AJ Allmendinger: 29.2 average finish in four starts; Best finish came in 2009 in 17th; Has yet to lead a lap; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 729) that he last finished 14th with at Martinsville Speedway.

12. Juan Pablo Montoya: Coming off first top 10 in four starts in fifth; Finish lowered his average finish to 17.8; Has yet to lead a lap; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1105) that he last finished 13th with at Texas Motor Speedway.

13. Mark Martin: Won the 2009 event in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Finished 16th in 2010; Seventh-best average finish (11.8) in the four races with the COT; 10th-best driver rating in the past six races; 26 top-10s in 44 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 656) in the Showtime Southern 500.

14. Greg Biffle: Winner of this event in 2005 and 2006; Eighth-place finish in 2009 was fourth top 10 in 10 starts; Second in laps led in the four races with the COT with 212; Second-best driver rating in the past six races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 706) that he led 11 laps and finished 28th with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

15. Paul Menard: 28.0 average finish in four starts; Best finish came in 2009 in 15th; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 328) that he finished 12th with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

16. Jeff Gordon: Leads all drivers in wins (7) and laps led (1,720); Leads all drivers with a 3.2 average finish in the four races with the COT; Last win came in 2007; Best driver rating in the past six races.

17. Denny Hamlin: Led 104 laps en route to the win last season; Second-best average finish (5.8) in the four races with the COT; First in laps led (298) with the COT; 6.6 average finish leads all drivers; Third-best driver rating in the past six races.

18. Kasey Kahne: Three-time pole winner; Has finished 20th or worse in his last five starts; Two top-five finishes in eight starts; Ninth-best driver rating in the past six races; Will make first track start with Team Red Bull.

19. David Ragan: 21.0 average finish in four starts; Best finish, and only top 10, came in 2008 in fifth; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 711) that he last finished 16th with at Bristol Motor Speedway.

20. Jeff Burton: 11.9 average finish in seven starts with Richard Childress Racing; Scored 16th top 10 in 28 overall starts last year in eighth; Fifth-best average finish (10.0) in the four races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 355) in the Showtime Southern 500.

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