Driver Handicaps: Darlington

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Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in wins at Darlington with seven and Denny Hamlin leads all drivers with a 5.4 average finish. (Photo: Getty Images)

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

MRN.com's detailed notes and statistics to help you set your fantasy racing lineup for Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Who's HOT at Darlington
• Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in wins (7) and laps led (1,736).
• Denny Hamlin, winner of the 2010 race, leads all drivers with a 5.4 average finish.
• Three-time winner Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top five in his last two starts, including a win in 2012.
• Kyle Busch, who led 265 laps last year, has scored four top 10s in his last six starts, which includes a win in 2008.
• Matt Kesneth, who has posted a 10.2 average finish in the six races since the track was resurfaced, won this event last year in his first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing.
• Carl Edwards has finished in the top 10 in his last three starts, including a runner-up in 2011.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Darlington
• Martin Truex Jr. (11.0), Tony Stewart (12.0), Brad Keselowski (13.8) each rank in the top 10 among all drivers in average finish in the six races since Darlington was repaved.
• Ryan Newman, who will make his first Darlington start with Richard Childress Racing, has posted four top 10s in his last five starts at the track.
• Last week's winner Joey Logano, who has two top 10s at Darlington in five starts, is the only driver that's made it to the final round in all six "knockout" qualifying sessions this season.
• Kasey Kahne, who leads all drivers with four Darlington poles, will return in the same car that he posted his best non-short track finish with in 2014 - eighth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• Paul Menard is one of two drivers (with Matt Kenseth) to finish in the top 10 in four of the last five races this season.
• Casey Mears tested at Darlington for Germain Racing - a team that has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
• Rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon each will be making his first Darlington Cup start.  Larson finished sixth last year in his first Nationwide start at the track and Dillon has posted an 8.0 average finish in two Nationwide starts.
• Greg Biffle, winner of two Darlington races with the Gen-4 car, has posted an 11.0 average finish in his last three track starts and has the third overall driver rating.
• Kevin Harvick, who finished fifth last year at Darlington, will be looking to turn around his luck as of late driving the same car that he led 23 laps with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before a left-front hub issue sent him to the garage.

• Tire Notes: Teams will be running the same left- and right-side tires they ran at Darlington last season.  The left-side tire has been run at Darlington since 2011 and was also used on a number of 1.5-mile tracks, including Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.

Be sure to check back at MRN.com for practice speeds Friday.

Darlington Qualifying Facts - Note: First at the Track under new "Knockout" Format

*Poles
*Best Starting Avg. 
Races Won from Starting Pos.
Kasey Kahne - 4
Jeff Gordon - 6.8
Pole - 19 times
Jeff Gordon - 3
Kasey Kahne - 8.0
Top Five - 69 times 
Greg Biffle - 2
Ryan Newman - 8.8
Top 10 - 95 times
Kurt Busch - 2 Greg Biffle - 9.5
Top 15 - 104 times
Four drivers with one Denny Hamlin - 10.1
Worst - 43rd, one time

* - Must be entered in the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington.  In the last 10 races, the winner has come from a top-10 starting position eight times, including the last two.  The average margin of victory in the last five races is 1.5 seconds. Kurt Busch set the qualifying record last season and led 69 laps en route to a 14th-place finish.

2014 Top "Knockout" Qualifying Performers (6 Races)
Driver Avg. Start Poles Final Rounds
Brad Keselowski 3.8 1 5
Joey Logano 4.5 1 6
Jimmie Johnson 7.2 0 5
Denny Hamlin 9.6 1 4
Jeff Gordon 10.2 0 4
Carl Edwards 11.3 0 5
Ryan Newman 12.3 0 3
Clint Bowyer 12.3 0 3
Jamie McMurray 12.7 0 3
Kyle Busch 13.0 1 3
Matt Kenseth 14.0 1 3
Tony Stewart 16.5 1 3

*Best Average Finish at Darlington

Last # of Races
Driver
Avg. Fin.
Two Races
Denny Hamlin
2.0
Four Races
Denny Hamlin
2.8
Six Races
Denny Hamlin
5.2
Eight Races
Denny Hamlin
5.4
10 Races
Jeff Gordon
7.0

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

Darlington Raceway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2013, 9 Races)*

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Jeff Gordon
1. Denny Hamlin
1. Jeff Gordon - 8.1
2. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
2. Denny Hamlin - 8.6
3. Greg Biffle
3. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Busch - 9.0
4. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kyle Busch
4. Jimmie Johnson - 9.9
5. Kyle Busch
5. Jeff Gordon
5. Greg Biffle - 10.3
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Jeff Gordon - 2982
1. Kyle Busch - 337
1. Jeff Gordon - 111.8
2. Kyle Busch - 2790
2. Tony Stewart - 300
2. Denny Hamlin - 108.9
3. Jimmie Johnson - 2504
3. Greg Biffle - 291
3. Greg Biffle - 107.5
4. Denny Hamlin - 2488 
4. Carl Edwards - 279
4. Jimmie Johnson - 107.5
5. Greg Biffle - 2441
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 273
5. Kyle Busch - 106.2

*Must be entered in the Bojangles' Southern 500.
*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during 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 Loop Data Book (pdf)

Season Loop Data Leaders

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Brad Keselowski
1. Jeff Gordon
1. Jeff Gordon - 9.5
2. Joey Logano
2. Kevin Harvick
2. Denny Hamlin - 10.1
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Matt Kenseth - 10.5
4. Jeff Gordon
4. Carl Edwards
4. Kyle Busch - 10.9
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Brad Keselowski
5. Brad Keselowski - 11.1
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Denny Hamlin - 1861
1. Jeff Gordon - 576
1. Joey Logano - 108.1
2. Matt Kenseth - 1852
2. Brad Keselowski - 531
2. Jimmie Johnson - 106.6
3. Jeff Gordon - 1768
3. Denny Hamlin - 496
3. Brad Keselowski - 105.1
4. Brad Keselowski - 1767
4. Matt Kenseth - 467
4. Kyle Busch - 103.6
5. Joey Logano - 1705
5. Kevin Harvick - 463
5. Jeff Gordon - 102.8

*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Early In a Run: *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.


MRN.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Ryan Newman
Pete Pistone: Matt Kenseth 
Dustin Long: Denny Hamlin
John Singler: Jeff Gordon

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by Current Standings

Jeff Gordon: The active win leader at Darlington with his last of seven victories coming in 2007.  He also leads all active drivers in laps led (1,736) and average start (6.8).  Gordon's crew chief Alan Gustafson is a previous Darlington winner with Mark Martin in 2009 and will lead Gordon for the fourth time there after scoring a third-place finish with him last season.  Gordon, who has an 11.8 average finish in the last five races, will debut a new car (chassis No. 861) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Matt Kenseth: After 19 previous starts at Darlington with Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth was finally able to score a win at "The Track Too Tough to Tame" last year in his first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing.  Kenseth won the race minus crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who was serving a one-race suspension.  Ratcliff called one Darlington Sprint Cup race in 2012, leading Joey Logano to a 10th-place finish.  In the last five races at Darlington, Kenseth has posted an 11.0 average finish.

Carl Edwards: Recorded his second consecutive seventh-place finish at Darlington last season and third consecutive top 10.  He's finished in the runner-up position twice and has posted an average finish of 12.5 in 10 starts.  Last year's finish came in his first track start with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who was part of Kurt Busch's team when Busch nearly won the race in an exciting finish in 2003.  This weekend, Edwards will return in the same car (chassis No. 874) that he finished eighth with at Phoenix International Raceway.

Joey Logano: After scoring the win this past Monday at Texas Motor Speedway, Logano will look to carry the momentum to Darlington where he finished 22nd last season in his first track start with Team Penske.  Logano, who does have two top 10s in four Darlington starts with his former Joe Gibbs Racing team, will debut a new car (chassis No. 903) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.  On Friday, Logano will look to continue his streak of making it to every final "knockout" qualifying round since the format was implemented.

Kyle Busch: Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, Busch has posted four top 10s at Darlington, including a win in his first start with the team.  He's coming off a sixth-place finish after dominating the race, leading 265 laps.  He still holds the title as the youngest Darlington winner at 23 years, 8 days. Busch's average finish in the last five Darlington races is 12.4 and he's led a total of 588 laps in nine overall starts.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Last year, Earnhardt posted his second top 10 in six Darlington starts with Hendrick Motorsports.  His first top 10 with HMS in 2008 equaled his best finish, fourth place, in 19 overall starts.  This weekend, Earnhardt will return in the same car (chassis No. 745) that he last finished 24th with at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson's last of three wins at Darlington came in 2012 after leading 134 laps.  He started second and finished fourth last season to lower his average finish in the last five races to 11.6.  This weekend, Johnson will return in the same car (chassis No. 824) that he finished sixth with in Las Vegas.

Brad Keselowski: Posted his best finish, third place, at Darlington in 2011 for his only top 10 in four track starts with Team Penske.  His other top 10 came in in his first start driving for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009, when he finished seventh.  This weekend, Keselowski will look to bounce back from a 32nd-place finish last season driving a new car (chassis No. 904) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Brian Vickers: Vickers' lone top 10 (10th) in nine Darlington starts came in 2010 when he was driving for Red Bull Racing.  This weekend will mark his first start at the track since 2011 and first with Michael Waltrip Racing.  Vickers will be driving a new car (chassis No. 808) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Paul Menard: Menard has yet to post a top 10 in seven Darlington starts but will look to turn that around with his recent run of top 10s this season.  Menard, who has finished in the top 10 in four of his last five starts in 2014, will debut a new car (chassis No. 463) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.  The team will be able to lean on data gathered by one of the Richard Childress Racing alliance teams - Germain Racing, which recently tested at Darlington.

Ryan Newman: Will make his first track start with Richard Childress Racing.  He's tied for the second-best average finish (10.2) in the last five races at Darlington.  He's finished in the top 10 in four of his last five starts and has led 325 laps in 15 races overall.  This weekend, Newman will return in the same car (chassis No. 441) that he finished seventh with at Phoenix International Raceway.  The team will be able to lean on data gathered by one of the RCR alliance teams - Germain Racing - which recently tested at Darlington.

Austin Dillon: Will be making his first Darlington start in the Cup Series, driving the same car (chassis No. 453) that he finished 16th with in Las Vegas.  Crew chief Gil Martin, who said Darlington is "the race I want to win more than anything," led Kevin Harvick to a top-five run there last season.  The team will be able to lean on data gathered by one of the RCR alliance teams - Germain Racing, which recently tested at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin: Has finished in the top six in his last four Darlington starts, including a win in 2010.  He leads all drivers in average finish in both the last five races (4.8) and overall (5.4).  In the last two races, Hamlin has finished second both times.

Tony Stewart: Tied for second in best average finish (10.2) in the last five races at Darlington, all coming in his only track starts with Stewart-Haas Racing.  He finished 15th last season, snapping a streak of two consecutive top 10s.  Stewart posted his best finish, third place, twice - in 2009 and 2012. This weekend, Stewart will return in the same car (chassis No. 848) that he finished 33rd with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway due to a malfunction with the right-rear spring.

Kyle Larson: Rookie Larson is coming off his second top five in the last three races this season and will look to continue the momentum when he makes his first Darlington Cup Series start.  Last year, Larson finished sixth in his first Nationwide start at Darlington.

Greg Biffle: Biffle's last of two wins at Darlington came in 2006 when he led 170 laps en route to the checkered flag.  He won his second Darlington pole in 2012 and led 74 laps before finishing 12th.  Biffle, who posted the last of his five Darlington top 10s in 2011, will debut a new car (chassis No. 903) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Clint Bowyer: Has finished 11th in his two Darlington starts with Michael Waltrip Racing.  His best finish came in 2007 when he placed ninth after starting from the pole driving for Richard Childress Racing.  This weekend, Bowyer will return in the same car (chassis No. 804) that he finished 15th with at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Marcos Ambrose: Posted his only top 10 in five Darlington starts in 2012 when he took the checkered flag in ninth place.

Kasey Kahne: Kahne has posted one top 10 and an average finish of 12.5 in two Darlington starts with Hendrick Motorsports.  He leads all drivers with four poles, the last one coming in 2011 with Red Bull Racing where he went on to lead 124 laps en route to a fourth-place finish.  Kahne, who has an average finish of 14.2 in 11 overall starts at Darlington, will return in the same car (chassis No. 829) that he finished eighth with at Las Vegas.

AJ Allmendinger: Will make his first Darlington start with JTG/Daugherty Racing in search of his first top 10 there.  His best finish, 17th, in six previous starts came in 2009 with Richard Petty Motorsports. The team will be able to lean on data gathered by one of the Richard Childress Racing alliance teams - Germain Racing, which recently tested at Darlington.

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Untitled Document Darlington Driver Stats

Driver Races Avg Start Avg Finish *Driver Rating
Jeff Gordon 33 6.8 11.5 111.8
Denny Hamlin 8 10.1 5.4 108.9
Greg Biffle 13 9.5 13.9 107.5
Jimmie Johnson 15 11.8 8.8 107.5
Kyle Busch 9 16.9 14.4 106.2
Kasey Kahne 11 8.0 14.2 99.1
Ryan Newman 15 8.8 12.3 95.8
Martin Truex Jr. 8 21.9 11.4 94.8
Carl Edwards 10 15.9 12.5 93.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 19 17.2 14.9 91.4
Matt Kenseth 20 20.9 16.7 90.9
Tony Stewart 21 17.2 12.0 89.6
Kevin Harvick 17 17.2 17.9 86.9
Jamie McMurray 13 14.8 16.1 82.6
Kurt Busch 17 12.4 17.2 82.4
Brad Keselowski 5 18.2 13.8 81.5
Clint Bowyer 8 18.9 21.1 78.0
Joey Logano 5 17.2 20.6 76.5
R. Stenhouse Jr. 1 14.0 18.0 69.7
Brian Vickers 9 17.4 27.1 67.6
Aric Almirola 2 15.5 19.5 65.8
David Reutimann 7 25.6 25.7 63.8
David Ragan 7 22.0 24.6 60.0
Paul Menard 7 24.4 23.7 60.0
Marcos Ambrose 5 15.0 22.8 59.7
A J Allmendinger 6 19.8 28.3 56.4
Casey Mears 12 21.5 30.1 56.0
Travis Kvapil 7 25.9 25.7 54.3
Dave Blaney 17 25.5 25.7 51.8
Reed Sorenson 6 31.7 29.2 50.2
Joe Nemechek 27 27.1 25.9 48.4
David Stremme 7 29.7 32.4 46.9
Landon Cassill 3 26.3 28.3 45.9
David Gilliland 7 33.9 30.6 44.6
Danica Patrick 2 39.0 29.5 44.0
Josh Wise 2 32.0 40.5 33.7
Cole Whitt 1 39.0 38.0 30.9
Justin Allgaier 0 - - -
Michael Annett 0 - - -
Alex Bowman 0 - - -
Austin Dillon 0 - - -
Parker Kligerman 0 - - -
Kyle Larson 0 - - -
Ryan Truex 0 - - -

*Last 9 Races
Untitled Document Laps Led in the Last 9 Races at Darlington

Rank Driver % of Laps Led Laps Led
1 Greg Biffle 19.1 632
2 Kyle Busch 17.8 588
3 Denny Hamlin 12.0 354
4 Jimmie Johnson 9.5 316
5 Kasey Kahne 9.2 304
6 Jeff Gordon 6.1 203
7 Ryan Newman 5.0 164
8 Matt Kenseth 3.9 130
9 Martin Truex Jr. 3.3 98
10 Carl Edwards 2.8 94
11 Jamie McMurray 2.6 87
12 Kurt Busch 2.1 70
13 Kevin Harvick 1.5 49
14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1.1 36
15 Jeff Burton 0.9 31
16 Joey Logano 1.0 19
17 Clint Bowyer 0.5 16
18 Tony Stewart 0.4 12
19 Brian Vickers 0.4 10
20 Bobby Labonte 0.1 4
21 Dave Blaney 0.1 3
21 David Reutimann 0.1 3
23 Travis Kvapil 0.1 2
23 Joe Nemechek 0.1 2
23 David Ragan 0.1 2
26 Landon Cassill 0.1 1
26 David Gilliland 0.0 1
26 Casey Mears 0.0 1
26 J.J. Yeley 0.0 1

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Darlington Green Flag Passes

Number of passes a driver had under green conditions in the last 9 races at Darlington.

Rank Driver Green Flag Passes
1 Tony Stewart 563
2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 547
3 Jeff Burton 528
4 Martin Truex Jr. 510
5 Kyle Busch 492
6 Jimmie Johnson 485
7 Carl Edwards 480
8 Matt Kenseth 469
9 Kevin Harvick 457
10 Greg Biffle 452
11 Jamie McMurray 439
12 Kurt Busch 437
13 Clint Bowyer 435
14 Ryan Newman 423
15 Bobby Labonte 415
16 Dave Blaney 413
17 David Reutimann 396
18 Denny Hamlin 395
19 Casey Mears 386
20 Paul Menard 374
21 Kasey Kahne 357
22 David Gilliland 351
23 Jeff Gordon 337
23 Brad Keselowski 337
25 Travis Kvapil 308
26 David Ragan 298
27 Brian Vickers 278
28 A J Allmendinger 256
29 Joe Nemechek 255
30 Reed Sorenson 252
31 Joey Logano 233
32 J.J. Yeley 232
33 Marcos Ambrose 218
34 David Stremme 189
35 Aric Almirola 173
36 Danica Patrick 165
37 Landon Cassill 160
38 Michael Waltrip 87
39 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 84
40 Sam Hornish Jr. 55
41 Josh Wise 52
42 Michael McDowell 37
43 Timmy Hill 26
44 Terry Labonte 20
45 Cole Whitt 5

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