Driver Handicaps: Darlington

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in wins (7) and laps led (1,720) at Darlington. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Driver Averages Loop Data eBookDriver Ratings Past Winners

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Who's HOT at Darlington
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in wins (7) and laps led (1,720).
• Denny Hamlin, winner of the 2010 race, leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish.
• Mark Martin, winner of the 2009 race, leads all drivers entered in this weekend's race with 26 top 10s. 
• Jimmie Johnson, who swept both races in 2004, leads all drivers in average finish (8.5) that have competed in the last 10 races.
• Carl Edwards is coming off his second runner-up finish in the last four races.
• Ryan Newman has finished ninth or better in seven of his last nine starts. 
• Kyle Busch has scored two top 10s, including a win in 2008, and led 278 laps in his last four starts.
• Two-time winner Greg Biffle is second among all drivers in the Driver Ratings.

Keep an Eye On at Darlington 
• Brad Keselowski has posted a 7.3 average finish in three starts at Darlington.
• Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. each have a 12.0 average finish in the five races with the COT chassis at Darlington.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in the last six races in 2012.
• Matt Kenseth has finished in the top five in four of the last five races in 2012.
• Regan Smith is the defending Southern 500 winner.
• Kasey Kahne, who is coming off his best finish and fourth straight top 10 of the season, led the most laps and finished fourth last year at Darlington.

Darlington Qualifying Facts

*Active Pole Leaders
*Best Starting Average
Races Won from Starting Pos.
1. Kasey Kahne - 4
1. Jeff Gordon - 6.5
Pole - 19 times
2. Jeff Gordon - 3
2. Marcos Ambrose - 7.7 
Top Five - 68 times
3. Mark Martin - 2
3. Ryan Newman - 8.2
Top 10 - 93  times
3. Seven drivers with one 4. Kasey Kahne - 9.0
Top 15  - 102 times
5. Greg Biffle - 10.3
Worst - 43rd, one time

* - Must be entered in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

*Best Average Finish at Darlington 

Last # of Races
Driver
Avg. Fin.
Two Races
Denny Hamlin
3.5
Four Races
Jeff Gordon
6.0
Six Races
Jeff Gordon
4.5
Eight Races
Jeff Gordon
4.0
10 Races
Jimmie Johnson
8.5

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

Darlington Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2011)

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Jeff Gordon
1. Ryan Newman
1. Jeff Gordon - 6.6
2. Denny Hamlin
2. Jeff Gordon
2. Denny Hamlin - 9.5
3. Greg Biffle
3. Denny Hamlin
3. Greg Biffle - 10.6
4. Ryan Newman
4. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Ryan Newman - 10.7
5. Jimmie Johnson
5. Carl Edwards
5. Kyle Busch - 10.9
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Jeff Gordon - 2420
1. Kyle Busch - 265
1. Jeff Gordon - 116.2
2. Ryan Newman - 2073
2. Jeff Gordon - 220
2. Greg Biffle - 109.7
3. Kyle Busch - 2056
3. Tony Stewart - 216
3. Denny Hamlin - 108.3
4. Greg Biffle - 1802
4. Carl Edwards - 204
4. Jimmie Johnson - 100.6
5. Jimmie Johnson - 1769
5. Denny Hamlin - 197
5. Ryan Newman - 100.2

*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 Darlington Raceway view the Bojangles' Southern 500 Pre-Race eBook.

Season Loop Data Leaders

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Jimmie Johnson
1. Kasey Kahne
1. Matt Kenseth - 8.3
2. Mark Martin
2. Jimmie Johnson
2. Greg Biffle - 8.7
3. Kyle Busch
3. Jeff Gordon
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 9.6
4. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Matt Kenseth
4. Denny Hamlin - 10.2
5. Tony Stewart
5. Brad Keselowski
5. Martin Truex Jr. - 11.1
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Matt Kenseth - 2705
1. Brad Keselowski - 913
1. Greg Biffle - 105.4 
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 2690
2. Kyle Busch - 782
2. Matt Kenseth - 104.6
3. Brad Keselowski - 2622
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 739
3. Jimmie Johnson - 101.4
4. Jimmie Johnson - 2499
4. Tony Stewart - 692
4. Denny Hamlin - 100.8
5. Martin Truex Jr. - 2478
5. Greg Biffle - 676
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 100.5

*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: Kasey Kahne
Pete Pistone: Greg Biffle
Ricky Hamber: Denny Hamlin 
John Singler: Kevin Harvick

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

Greg Biffle: Coming off fifth top 10 (eighth) in 11 starts; Won back-to-back races in 2005 and 2006; Fourth among drivers entered in this even in laps led (639); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 749) that he finished 13th with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Matt Kenseth: Last of seven top 10s (10th) came in 2009 when he won the pole; Recorded four-straight top 10s from 2006-2009; 18.1 average finish in 18 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 806) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: 15.8 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Recorded four-straight top 10s from 2005-2008; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 711) that he last finished third with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Denny Hamlin: Winner of the 2010 event; Leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish; Second-best average finish (5.8) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis.

Kevin Harvick: Last of five top 10s (sixth) came in 2010; Led 47 laps last year before a late-race incident took him out of contention; 18.9 average finish in 15 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 374) that he last finished fourth with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Martin Truex Jr: Coming off second top 10 (10th); 14.5 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis.

Tony Stewart: Coming off 10th top 10 (seventh) in 19 starts; 11.0 average finish in three starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 708) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Last of nine top 10s (second) came in 2009; Swept both races in 2004; 13.8 average finish in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 681) that he last finished 10th with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Kyle Busch: 13.3 average finish and 278 laps led in four starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Won the 2008 race after leading 169 laps.

Clint Bowyer: Won the pole and scored only top 10 (ninth) in 2007; 24.5 average finish in six starts; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing in the same car (chassis No. 727) that he last finished 13th with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Carl Edwards: Coming off second runner-up finish in eight starts; Started fourth and led 57 laps last year; Third-best average finish (11.2) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 815) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Brad Keselowski: 7.3 average finish in three starts; Best finish came last season in third; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 810) that he finished fifth with at Phoenix International Raceway in March.

Ryan Newman: Has finished ninth or better in seven of his last nine starts; Fourth-best average finish (11.8) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 682) that he last finished 21st with at Texas Motor Speedway.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in five starts; 26.8 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 347) that he last finished 10th with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Joey Logano: Finished ninth in his first start in 2009; 23.7 average finish in three starts.

Jamie McMurray: Coming off second consecutive top 10; won the pole and finished second in 2010; 5.5 average finish and 84 laps led in two starts with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1112) that he finished fourth with at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Fifth-place finish in 2010 is only top 10; 18.8 average finish in five starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1111 that he last finished eighth with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Jeff Burton: Last of 16 top 10s came in 2010 in eighth; Swept both races in 1999 with Roush Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 393) that he last finished 22nd with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

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