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Driver Recommendations for 2010 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Posted by chadmusselman on May 3, 2010

Darlington Raceway is called the track too tough to tame and was NASCAR’s first super speedway.  The 1.366 mile track was originally designed to be 1 ¼ miles.  Darlington has its egg-shape because turns 3 & 4 had to be reconfigured to accommodate a minnow pond the owner didn’t want disturbed.  The track hosted its first race in 1950, the inaugural Southern 500.  That race took more than 6 hours to complete in front of 25,000 fans with a field of 75 drivers.  The track can also brag that it has NASCAR’s closest finish in history.  In 2003 Ricky Craven won over Kurt Busch by only 0.002 seconds.  Let’s hope we have a finish half that good this weekend!

This week’s recommendations:

Chaser: Jeff Gordon
No other active driver has more wins at Darlington than Jeff.  His 7 wins are way more than the 4 other drivers with two wins.  He also has 6 consecutive top five finishes at the track.  In 29 career races at Darlington Jeff has 20 top tens, 17 top fives to go along with the 7 wins.  Add that to the fact that he seems to have regained a bit of his edge, and Jeff should be the chaser you have on your team this weekend. 

Alternate Chaser: Jimmie Johnson
If you don’t have faith that Jeff will run great in consecutive weeks, then maybe Jimmie will be your man.  He has the best average finish at Darlington with a 6.9 place average finish in 11 career races.  In those races he has 9 top tens, 6 top fives and 2 wins.  Pretty amazing numbers.  He’s also averaging an 11th place finish over the last 5 races of the season, which is 4th best.  Jimmie did give up the points lead to Kevin Harvick after last week, but don’t be surprised if he gets it back after the Darlington race.

Matt Kenseth
Matt’s career numbers at Darlington aren’t that impressive with an average finish of 18th and only 7 top tens in 16 career races, but I think he’s a good pick for this weekend.  He’s managed to finish in the top ten in the last four Darlington races.  Jeff Gordon is the only other driver to be able to say that.  Matt is obviously one of the top drivers with one championship and 18 career victories.  He’d had success in Darlington over the past few years, and should be on your team this weekend.

Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton runs very well in Darlington.  He has 27 career races at the track with 2 wins, 8 top fives, and 15 top tens with an average finish of 11.5.  That’s good enough to be 8th best, right behind Jeff Gordon.  Jeff had a run of 4 consecutive races finishing outside of the top ten until last week when he finished 4th.  I think that’s a sign that he will start to get hot and have about 3 or 4 top tens in the next 5 races.  Worth the gamble to put on your team.

Dark Horse: Joey Logano
This will only be Joey’s second race at Darlington, but he held his own last year and finished 9th after starting 5th.  If he can get a decent starting position this week and get his confidence up early, look for Joey to race well and contend on Saturday night.

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