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Race 11 – Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Preview

Posted by chadmusselman on May 8, 2008

Another Saturday night race, this time at Darlington Raceway. The recently repaved 1.366 mile oval should be faster than normal. Look for speeds to be up, and possibly the number of drivers sliding into the wall early.

Back in early March Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, and Greg Biffle did some tire testing at Darlington for Goodyear. Could this give them a bit of an edge since they have a few more laps on the new surface than other driver?

Kyle Busch
With his strong run last week, Kyle Busch was able to pass Jeff Burton in the standings to regain the top spot he once held after the 5th race of the season. He’s only raced at Darlington three times, with just one top 10 finish, so it doesn’t look too good for him Saturday night. However, Kyle has four straight top 10 finishes, three of them in the top 3, so momentum is on his side. The new surface will also be fast and slick, which are conditions Kyle loves. Will the momentum and new surface carry him to a top 10 finish or better on Saturday?

Jimmie Johnson
After climbing up to 4th in points a couple weeks ago, Jimmie has had some mediocre runs at best, and has slipped a few spots to 7th. I expect Jimmie will be back to his dominating self this week. He has eight career top 10s in only nine races. He should be running up front all night.

Jeff Gordon
Jeff has looked good in some races and didn’t get the results due to wrecks, but had the opposite happen last week when he wasn’t running very good, but found himself in 9th place when the race ended. Expect all that to be different this week. Jeff has absolutely dominated at Darlington in his career. He has seven career wins, fifteen top 5s, and eighteen top 10s in only 27 races. Look for Jeff to be challenging for the lead the entire race.

Ryan Newman
This team has been up and down all season, and can’t seem to keep a good streak going. They’ve finished 1st at Daytona and 43rd in Phoenix. They’re sitting 11th in points right now, and must string together 5 or 6 consecutive top 10s to solidify themselves in the chase. They currently have two top 10s in a row, and should have a third one after this race. Ryan has finished in the top 10 here in the last 3 races, and has 6 career top 10s in 9 career races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jr. continues to put a solid season together. Every time I think he’ll have an off week, he proves me wrong and runs well. Last season it seemed like he mailed in a couple races, but this year he seemed focused every race, for the entire race. In an interview on April 3rd Jr. said, “It’s good to have other people you’re motivated to please.” Guess he was sick of Theresa. Look for him to stay motivated and please Hendrick Racing again this week.

Four drivers with a real shot to win
· Jeff Gordon – 1st, 2nd, 2nd in last 3 – 7 career wins, 18 career top 10s, 15 top 5s, in 27 races. How can you go against that success?
· Jimmie Johnson – 3rd, 4th, 7th in last 3 – 8 career top 10s in 9 races with 2 wins, 5 top 5s. He’ll make up for the 30th place finish last week.
· Ryan Newman – 4th, 6th, 5th in last 3 – 6 career top 10s, 5 top 5s, in 9 career races. Flyin’ Ryan likes to go fast, and the new surface at Darlington will be fast.
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 8th, 5th, 8th – 4 consecutive top 10 finishes, 6 career top 10 in 13 races. He’s gonna win soon enough…

Two others that should do well
· Greg Biffle – 2 Wins in the last 3 here. Tough to go against wins, but we’ll see if he can keep it up while contract talks are ongoing.
· Denny Hamlin – 2nd, 10th in only 2 races here. He injured his hip playing basketball this week, but he won’t feel that once the adrenaline kicks in for the race.

Dark Horse
· Martin Truex Jr. – 11th and 14th place finish in his only two races here and coming off a season best 5th place finish at Richmond, Martin should have confidence on his side for this race.

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