Driver Handicaps: Darlington

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon

Jimmie Johnson (3) and Jeff Gordon (7) have combined to win 10 races at Darlington Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Driver Averages |  Loop Data eBook (pdf) Driver Ratings Past Winners

To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com brings you our weekly analysis to help steer you toward Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500.

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 5.9 average finish. 
• Jimmie Johnson, the defending race winner, leads all drivers in average finish (8.3) that have competed in the last 10 races.
• Kyle Busch has scored three top 10s, which includes a win in 2008, and has led 322 laps in his last five starts.
• Martin Truex Jr. (10.8) and Tony Stewart (11.4) each rank in the top five in average finish among all drivers that have competed in the five races since the track was resurfaced.
• Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards each have finished in the top 10 in their last two starts.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Darlington
• Mark Martin has yet to finish in the top 10 in his last three starts, but he's the winner of the 2009 race and leads all drivers with 26 top 10s.
• Greg Biffle, winner of two races with the Gen-4 car, is second among all drivers in the Driver Ratings. 
• Brad Keselowski (will have new crew chief) has posted a 9.3 average finish in four starts at Darlington.
• Matt Kenseth, who will make his first Darlington start with Joe Gibbs Racing, has led the most laps this season with the Gen-6 car.
• Ryan Newman has finished in the top 10 in three of his four Darlington starts with Stewart-Haas Racing.
• Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya were among the drivers the participated in the Goodyear tire test at Darlington.
• Aric Almirola is the only driver to bring four consecutive top 10s on the season into Darlington.
• Jamie McMurray - 2010 pole winner - has finished in the top 10 in two of his last three Darlington starts.
• 2011 winner Regan Smith will be back behind the wheel of the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing.

Be sure to check back with MotorRacingNetwork.com on Friday for the practice speeds.

Darlington Qualifying Facts

*Active Pole Leaders
*Best Starting Average
Races Won from Starting Pos.
1. Kasey Kahne - 4
1. Jeff Gordon - 6.7
Pole - 19 times
2. Jeff Gordon - 3
2. Ryan Newman - 7.9
Top Five - 69 times
3. Greg Biffle - 2
3. Kasey Kahne - 8.4
Top 10 - 94 times
Mark Martin - 2 4. Greg Biffle - 9.5
Top 15 - 103 times
5. Six drivers with 1 5. Denny Hamlin - 10.7
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
4.0
Four Races
Denny Hamlin
5.5
Six Races
Denny Hamlin
5.2
Eight Races
Jeff Gordon
8.0
10 Races
Jimmie Johnson
8.3

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

Darlington Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2012, 8 Races)

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Jeff Gordon
1. Denny Hamlin
1. Jeff Gordon - 8.3
2. Denny Hamlin
2. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Denny Hamlin - 8.8
3. Greg Biffle
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Greg Biffle - 9.8
4. Jimmie Johnson
4. Jeff Gordon
4. Kyle Busch - 10.0
5. Ryan Newman
5. Carl Edwards
5. Jimmie Johnson - 10.7
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Jeff Gordon - 2615
1. Kyle Busch - 323
1. Jeff Gordon - 111.8
2. Kyle Busch - 2423
2. Tony Stewart - 266
2. Greg Biffle - 110.5
3. Ryan Newman - 2326
3. Greg Biffle - 249
3. Denny Hamlin - 109.5
4. Greg Biffle - 2170
Carl Edwards - 249
4. Jimmie Johnson - 105.7
5. Jimmie Johnson - 2137
5. Jeff Gordon - 245
5. Kyle Busch - 102.3

*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, view the Bojangles' Southern 500 Pre-Race eBook (pdf).

Season Loop Data Leaders

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Matt Kenseth
1. Matt Kenseth
1. Matt Kenseth - 6.4
2. Kyle Busch
2. Brad Keselowski
2. Jimmie Johnson - 6.8
3. Denny Hamlin
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Clint Bowyer - 12.0
4. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kyle Busch
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 12.9
5. Kevin Harvick
5. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski - 13.5
Laps in Top 15--
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Matt Kenseth - 2958
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 633
1. Matt Kenseth - 117.9
2. Jimmie Johnson - 2876
2. Martin Truex Jr. - 602
2. Jimmie Johnson - 114.3
3. Kevin Harvick - 2649
3. Joey Logano - 568
3. Kyle Busch - 100.1
4. Clint Bowyer - 2457
4. Clint Bowyer - 564
4. Kasey Kahne - 98.6
5. Kasey Kahne - 2342
5. Kurt Busch - 540
5. Clint Bowyer - 95.0

*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: Martin Truex Jr.
Pete Pistone: Kyle Busch
Dustin Long: Kasey Kahne 
John Singler: Kyle Busch 

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

Jimmie Johnson: Coming off third win in 14 starts; Second-best average finish (9.1); Seventh-best average finish (13.4) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Will return in the same chassis (No. 728) that he finished sixth with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Carl Edwards: 13.1 average finish in nine starts; Has led 57 laps and posted a 4.5 average finish in last two starts; Fourth-best average finish (11.6) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Participated in the Goodyear tire test in February; Will return in the same chassis (No. 806) that he finished 18th with at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: 16.0 average finish in five starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Led 35 laps and finished fourth with HMS in 2008; 15.3 average finish in 18 starts; Will return in the same chassis (No. 745) that he finished sixth with at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Matt Kenseth: Coming off eighth top 10 in 19 starts; Sixth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Will make first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Has led the most laps (764) this season with the Gen-6 car.

Clint Bowyer: Finished 11th last year in first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing; 22.6 average finish in seven starts; Only top 10 (ninth) came from the pole in 2007 with Richard Childress Racing.

Brad Keselowski: Third-best average finish (9.2); Best finish (third) came in 2011; Will have Kevin Buskirk as crew chief as Paul Wolfe serves a suspension; Will return in the same chassis (No. 838) that he finished fourth with at Phoenix International Raceway.

Kasey Kahne: Finished eighth last season in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Has combined to lead 157 laps and post an average finish of 6.0 in last two starts; Ninth-best average finish (15.4) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Will debut a new chassis (No. 739) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Aric Almirola: Finished 19th in first track start last season; Will be seeking his fifth consecutive top 10 of the season; Will return in the same chassis (No. 839) that he finished 14th with at Auto Club Speedway.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in six starts; Coming off best finish in 13th; Participated in the Goodyear tire test in February; Will return in the same chassis (No. 414) that he finished eighth with at Auto Club Speedway.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 race; Tied for the third-best average finish (11.4) and has led the most laps (322) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Finished fourth last season.

Greg Biffle: Winner of the 2005 and 2006 race with the Gen-4 car; Defending event pole winner; Has combined to lead 286 laps on the current track surface; Will return in the same chassis (No. 809) that he finished 10th with last fall at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick: Only top 10 (sixth) in last nine starts came in 2010; His two top-five finishes came with the Gen-4 car; Will return in the same chassis (No. 383) that he finished last finished 13th with at Phoenix International Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr: 11.3 average finish in three starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Second-best average finish (10.8) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Participated in the Goodyear tire test in February.

Jeff Gordon: Leads all drivers with seven wins; Has finished in the top five in seven of the last nine races; Fifth-best average finish (11.8) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced.

Jamie McMurray: Won the pole and finished second in his first track start in an Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in 2010; 15.0 average finish in three starts with EGR; 16.1 average finish in 12 overall starts.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Making first Sprint Cup track start; Will return in the same chassis (No. 815) that he finished 20th with at Auto Club Speedway.

Ryan Newman: 10.3 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; 10th-best average finish (15.4) among all drivers that have competed in the last five races since the track was resurfaced; Will return in the same chassis (No. 733) that he finished 14th with at Kansas Speedway.

Joey Logano: Coming off second top 10 in four starts; making first track start with Penske Racing; Will have Steve Reis as crew chief as Todd Gordon serves a suspension; Will return in the same chassis (No. 839) that he finished 26th with at Phoenix International Raceway.

Jeff Burton: 14.9 average finish in nine starts with Richard Childress Racing; Last of two wins came back in 1999 with R0ush Racing; Will return in the same chassis (No. 416) that he last finished 23rd with at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kurt Busch: 17.4 average finish in 16 starts; Last of five top 10s (third) came in 2010 with Penske Racing; Making first track start with Furniture Row Racing.

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Untitled Document Darlington Driver Stats

Driver Races Avg Start Avg Finish Driver Rating
Jeff Gordon 32 6.7 11.8 111.8
Greg Biffle 12 9.5 14.0 110.5
Denny Hamlin 7 10.7 5.9 109.5
Jimmie Johnson 14 12.5 9.1 105.7
Kyle Busch 8 18.6 15.5 102.3
Kasey Kahne 10 8.4 13.9 98.3
Ryan Newman 14 7.9 12.4 97.6
Martin Truex Jr. 7 24.3 11.3 95.2
Carl Edwards 9 15.8 13.1 93.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 18 17.3 15.3 90.4
Tony Stewart 20 17.1 11.8 90.0
Matt Kenseth 19 21.6 17.5 86.5
Brad Keselowski 4 16.3 9.3 84.5
Kevin Harvick 16 17.6 18.8 84.4
Jeff Burton 30 20.7 12.3 84.1
Jamie McMurray 12 14.0 16.1 83.9
Mark Martin 46 13.3 12.4 83.7
Kurt Busch 16 13.1 17.4 79.8
Joey Logano 4 14.0 20.3 78.2
Clint Bowyer 7 19.7 22.6 75.4
Mike Bliss 3 26.3 19.0 72.3
Regan Smith 5 21.8 16.4 71.6
Aric Almirola 1 13.0 19.0 67.3
David Reutimann 6 24.3 24.0 65.9
Bobby Labonte 32 16.1 16.3 64.9
Marcos Ambrose 4 12.8 20.0 63.9
David Ragan 6 20.5 22.2 63.5
Juan Montoya 6 23.8 19.7 62.5
Paul Menard 6 26.0 24.5 57.3
Casey Mears 11 21.7 29.5 56.4
Travis Kvapil 6 25.5 26.2 52.7
Dave Blaney 16 24.8 25.6 51.7
Joe Nemechek 26 26.5 25.7 50.4
Landon Cassill 2 23.5 27.5 48.6
David Stremme 6 28.2 31.2 46.9
J.J. Yeley 6 30.5 31.2 45.4
Danica Patrick 1 38.0 31.0 44.5
David Gilliland 6 34.7 30.8 44.4
Scott Speed 3 25.7 32.0 40.0
Michael McDowell 3 25.0 37.0 37.7
Josh Wise 1 30.0 43.0 27.3
Timmy Hill 0 - - -
Brian Keselowski 0 - - -
R. Stenhouse Jr. 0 - - -
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Darlington Green Flag Passes

Number of passes a driver had under green conditions in the last 8 races at Darlington.

Rank Driver Green Flag Passes
1 Tony Stewart 496
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 485
3 Kyle Busch 470
4 Jeff Burton 460
5 Jimmie Johnson 453
6 Martin Truex Jr. 437
7 Matt Kenseth 431
8 Carl Edwards 418
9 Mark Martin 415
10 Kurt Busch 401
11 Kevin Harvick 399
12 Greg Biffle 383
13 Jamie McMurray 372
14 Juan Pablo Montoya 361
15 Ryan Newman 360
16 Clint Bowyer 355
17 Bobby Labonte 349
18 Dave Blaney 340
19 Denny Hamlin 330
20 Kasey Kahne 323
21 Paul Menard 314
21 David Reutimann 314
23 David Gilliland 298
24 Jeff Gordon 297
25 Casey Mears 288
26 Brian Vickers 278
27 Regan Smith 275
28 Brad Keselowski 261
29 A J Allmendinger 256
30 David Ragan 254
31 Travis Kvapil 240
32 J.J. Yeley 200
33 Elliott Sadler 196
34 Joe Nemechek 187
35 Marcos Ambrose 171
36 Joey Logano 153
37 David Stremme 152
38 Scott Riggs 139
39 Ken Schrader 129
40 Landon Cassill 117
41 Aric Almirola 94
42 Danica Patrick 89
43 Michael Waltrip 87
44 Scott Speed 64
45 Sam Hornish Jr. 55
46 Mike Bliss 48
47 Michael McDowell 30
48 Terry Labonte 20
49 Josh Wise 1

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