There are only two races left before the start of the Chase. Will we get a new winner that knocks someone out of the Chase who is trying to get in on points or will the next two race victories be claimed by drivers who are already qualified thus letting those without a win make it on points? Those questions will be answered after the Darlington and Richmond checkered flags fly.
BOJANGLES’ SOUTHERN 500
After taking a week off the series heads to Darlington Raceway for the running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500. The track also known as ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’ and ‘The Lady in Black’ moves back to its Labor Day Weekend date this year. Daryl Waltrip said ‘This ain’t no lady’ during a broadcast once and he is spot on. You will hear them talk about the Darlington stripe this weekend, which is the mark that is left on a car and the wall when a car brushes up against it. The reason for this is the way the track is configured. It is more egg shaped than oval and when you come off the corner you better remember that or you will find yourself in the wall.
I am looking forward to this race as many drivers will be going to retro paint schemes this weekend. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be running Mark Martins 1998 scheme with Valvoline as his sponsor. Jeb Burton will be running his father Ward’s black and yellow scheme, and Brad Keselowski will drive a Miller High Life car painted like the one Bobby Allison drove back in the 1970’s. Those are just a few of the paint schemes you will see this weekend. In all at least 29 drivers will have some type of retro paint scheme, so you will really need to focus to know who is who on the track.
Kevin Harvick: I am picking Kevin Harvick to finally return to victory lane this weekend at Darlington. He won this race last year after leading 238 laps and has finished in the top five here in his last two starts. He has finished second ten times this season to go along with his two wins and it is time for him to get back to victory lane. Kevin will be driving a retro Budweiser car this weekend.
Matt Kenseth: Matt won this race two years ago and has three straight top ten finishes here. The Joe Gibbs teams have been outstanding the past two months and this is another track they all seem to excel at. Matt always seems to have one of the best pit crews in the business and he never gets excited during a race. After losing an engine early at Bristol, Matt will be looking forward to getting back on the track.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff leads all active drivers with seven wins at Darlington. He has also finished in the top five in eight of his last eleven starts here and would love to pick up a win before the start of the Chase which would guarantee himself a spot no matter what happens at Richmond. This might be his best shot at picking up a win in his final season.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has three wins and nine top ten finishes in his sixteen starts here. This team really needs to step up their program and stop making mistakes on pit road if they want to have a shot at winning another championship this season. Miscues during the Chase can knock a driver out in a hurry and the time to stop making those mistakes starts now, not when the Chase gets underway.
Ryan Newman: Ryan has a 63-point lead over Aric Almirola who is the first driver on the outside of Chase. If we don’t get a new winner in the next two weeks Ryan will once again make the Chase without a win as he enters. I think he is pretty safe and Darlington is one of the tracks he really runs well at consistently. He has seven top five and eleven top ten finishes in his sixteen starts at this track and is looking for his first win here.
Denny Hamlin: Denny has one win at this track and has finished in the top ten in seven of his nine starts here. As I said before, the Joe Gibbs teams have all looked very good the past two months and they will all have a shot at picking up a win this weekend. If Kevin Harvick is the favorite to win his second championship this year, he will see all of the JGR drivers in his rear view mirror looking to take that championship away from him.
Carl Edwards: Carl is still looking for his first win at Darlington but, he has finished in the top ten in seven of his eleven starts including two second place finishes. I think this team is still working on some communication issues and getting the right adjustments made on their car as the races progress. Still not bad for a team that is in their first year together.
Kyle Busch: Kyle has been the driver to beat almost every week for the past two months. In that time he has four wins and moved himself into the top thirty in points and he is now Chase eligible. He has a 46-point lead over Cole Whitt and that should be enough for him to make the Chase. He still needs to be careful early in the races because finishing towards the end of the pack could knock him out if he has two bad races in a row. At the end of the race he can go for the win again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Dale has nine top ten finishes in his twenty starts at this track and he finished second here last season. He has a top ten car every week it seems and that should be good enough to make it through the first round of the Chase but, teams will need to keep improving as the Chase wears on if they want to be in the final round at Homestead-Miami.
Tony Stewart: Tony is still looking for his first win at Darlington where he has finished in the top ten in twelve of his twenty-two starts. This team seems to be doing a little better and has qualified well and run well early in races lately but, then they lose the handling on the car or have some other issue on pit road or on the track and then they end up finishing the races a few laps down.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR DARLINGTON RACEWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Kevin Harvick
- Jeff Gordon
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Carl Edwards
- Kyle Larson
- Austin Dillon
- Tony Stewart
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Ryan Blaney
- Chase Elliott
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY
- Kevin Harvick
- Jeff Gordon
- Jimmie Johnson
- Denny Hamlin
- Carl Edwards
Dark Horse: Kyle Larson
Stay Away From: Kasey Kahne