Bojangles Southern 500 Betting News and Notes

Bojangles Southern 500 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Darlington
VegasInsider.com

Darlington Raceway Data

Race #: 11 of 36 (05-12-12)
Track Size: 1.366 miles
Race Length: 501.322 miles
Banking Turns 1 & 2: 25 degrees
Banking Turns 3 & 4: 23 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 6 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 6 degrees
Frontstretch: 1,229 feet
Backstretch: 1,229 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at Darlington

Jeff Gordon 116.2
Greg Biffle 109.7
Denny Hamlin 108.3
Jimmie Johnson 100.6
Ryan Newman 100.2
Kyle Busch. 99.6
Kasey Kahne 96.7
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 92.5
Carl Edwards 92.4
Martin Truex Jr 91.5
Tony Stewart 88.1
Brad Keselowski 87.3

Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Darlington.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (181.254 mph, 27.131 seconds, 05-06-11)
2011 race winner: Regan Smith (129.678 mph, 05-07-11)
Track qualifying record: Kasey Kahne (181.254 mph, 27.131 seconds, 05-06-11)
Track race record: Kyle Busch (140.350 mph, 05-10-08)

Driver Ratings for Winners

Driver/Year (Driver Rating-Series Driver Rating Rank)

Regan Smith/2011 (62.7-28th)
Denny Hamlin/2010 (112.5-4th)
Mark Martin/2009 (85.8-12th)
Kyle Busch/2008 (85.7-13th)
Jeff Gordon/2007 (112.4-4th)
Greg Biffle/2006 (144.4-1st)

Pre-Race Driver Ratings of the year the driver won at Darlington (last six races).

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Driver Highlights - Darlington
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Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M / OH / ES Ford)

Two wins, two top fives, five top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 14.2
Average Running Position of 10.6, third-best
Driver Rating of 109.7, second-best
Series-high 254 Fastest Laps Run
310 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.342 mph, fourth-fastest
1,802 Laps in the Top 15 (70.0%), fourth-most
194 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Wrigley Toyota)

One win, one top five, three top 10s
Average finish of 17.1
Average Running Position of 11.0, fifth-best
Driver Rating of 99.6, sixth-best
160 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
391 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.333 mph, fifth-fastest
2,056 Laps in the Top 15 (79.8%), third-most
Series-high 265 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard Chevrolet)

Three top fives, seven top 10s
Average finish of 15.2
Average Running Position of 12.0, eighth-best
Driver Rating of 92.5, eighth-best
59 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-most
381 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 158.834 mph, 11th-fastest
1,758 Laps in the Top 15 (68.3%), sixth-most
196 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford)

Three top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 13.9
Average Running Position of 13.6, ninth-best
Driver Rating of 92.4, ninth-best
119 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
363 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 158.954 mph, eighth-fastest
1,633 Laps in the Top 15 (63.4%), ninth-most
204 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)

Seven wins, 18 top fives, 21 top 10s; three poles
Average finish of 11.1
Series-best Average Running Position of 6.6
Series-best Driver Rating of 116.2
172 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 159.669 mph
Series-high 2,420 Laps in the Top 15 (94.0%)
220 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota)

One win, two top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 6.5
Average Running Position of 9.5, second-best
Driver Rating of 108.3, third-best
151 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.407 mph, second-fastest
1,755 Laps in the Top 15 (79.6%), seventh-most
197 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's / KOBALT Tools Chevrolet)

Two wins, six top fives, nine top 10s
Average finish of 9.8
Average Running Position of 11.9, seventh-best
Driver Rating of 100.6, fourth-best
155 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
410 Green Flag Passes, second-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.372 mph, third-fastest
1,769 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7%), fifth-most
192 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Rockwell Tools Chevrolet)

Three top fives, three top 10s; four poles
Average finish of 14.6
Average Running Position of 11.8, sixth-best
Driver Rating of 96.7, seventh-best
165 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 158.943 mph, ninth-fastest
1,620 Laps in the Top 15 (62.9%), 11th-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

One top five, two top 10s
Average finish of 7.3
Average Running Position of 14.5, 13th-best
Driver Rating of 87.3, 12th-best

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet)

Three top fives, five top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 14.5
Average Running Position of 14.0, 12th-best
Driver Rating of 86.8, 13th-best
1,648 Laps in the Top 15 (64.0%), eighth-most
148 Quality Passes, 13th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 WIX Chevrolet)

Seven top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 11.6
Average Running Position of 10.7, fourth-best
Driver Rating of 100.2, fifth-best
60 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.277 mph, sixth-fastest
2,073 Laps in the Top 15 (80.5%), second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

Three top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish of 12.3
Driver Rating of 88.1, 11th-best
100 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
Series-high 424 Green Flag Passes
Average Green Flag Speed of 158.884 mph, 10th-fastest
216 Quality Passes, third-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota)

Two top 10s
Average finish of 12.3
Average Running Position of 13.8, 10th-best
Driver Rating of 91.5, 10th-best
81 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
392 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 159.098 mph, seventh-fastest
179 Quality Passes, 10th-most

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Darlington Southern 500 Storylines
NASCAR.com

There’s no time for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors to exhale as arguably the toughest two back-to-back weekends on the 2012 schedule continue this week at Darlington Raceway. The track “Too Tough to Tame” plays host to the 63rd running of Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Saturday night (FOX, live 7 p.m. ET). NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway event follows Sunday’s nail-biting Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, won by Brad Keselowski.

Darlington dates to 1950 and as the series’ first asphalt oval over a ½-mile in length ushered in the sport’s future. A couple of facts looking back on the track’s first race, won by Californian Johnny Mantz in a six-cylinder Plymouth: gas, leaded of course, cost 18 cents a gallon, the average price of a new automobile was $1,510 and the average wages were $3,210.

Regan Smith was the surprise winner of last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 – the second of three, first time winners of NASCAR’s biggest events. Trevor Bayne had won the Daytona 500 and Paul Menard scored a Brickyard 400 victory later in the summer.

Greg Biffle, Darlington winner in 2005-06, continues to head the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings by seven points over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.

Hendrick Motorsports’ quest for a 200th victory continues at Darlington where the organization has the most victories (13) and Jeff Gordon boasts the most wins (seven) among active drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. can set a career record for consecutive top 10 finishes. Earnhardt’s sixth straight top 10 (ninth) at Talladega matched his 2004 streak.

NASCAR Nationwide Series kicks off the weekend’s action, with a new – yet familiar – points leader, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse will attempt to fend of previous points leader Elliott Sadler in Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN2.

There is one more week off the track for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams. They continue to prepare for the May 18 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

Tough Accurately Describes Darlington Competition

Darlington Raceway, built in a South Carolina cotton field, is tough for several reasons. The racing line is narrow, an abrasive track surface quickly takes the “new” off a set of Goodyear tires and the track’s two sets of turns are dramatically different.

Greg Biffle, who shows no sign of abdicating his throne as the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader, looks for his third Darlington victory. Yet Biffle is under no illusion he’s got Darlington’s number. “There's no opportunity to correct or to gather it back up when you're that close to the wall, but you've got to run there because that's where all the speed is and the grip,” he said.” So if you make a little mistake or your car gets away from you a little bit, you've got a Darlington Stripe, and hopefully just a Darlington Stripe because you're going so fast, it can damage the car quickly.”

Virtually every car will show damage to varying degrees when the checkered flag falls – even the winner. Last year’s race saw the caution flag wave 11 times over the course of nearly four hours of competition.

Smith Looks To Southern 500 For 2012 Turnaround

Regan Smith caught lightning in a bottle at Darlington Raceway in 2011 winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Smith would like to duplicate that victory to turn around what’s been a dismal start to this season in which the New York native has finished among the top 15 just once in 10 starts.

’Dega Victory Gives Keselowski Much-Needed Momentum

Don’t expect Talladega winner Brad Keselowski to slow down at Darlington Raceway. He finished third in last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500, 12th in 2010 and seventh in 2009 – his first NASCAR Sprint Cup start at the 1.366-mile track. Keselowski’s second victory of the season was good news for his Penske Racing team, which had been plagued by early season mechanical problems. That’s the biggest reason Keselowski remains outside the top 10 in points – but not far out of a qualifying spot for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. He gained one position to 12th and trails 10th-place Clint Bowyer by just three points. Keselowski stands first in line for one of the Chase’s two Wild Card qualifiers. Penske’s two Darlington wins came in 1975 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison at the wheel of the organization’s AMC Matador.

Only Tony Stewart has won more races (seven) in 2011-12 than Keselowski, who shares second on the two-season victory list with Kyle Busch at five wins apiece.

Junior Must Regain Darlington Edge To Continue Top-10 Streak

Dale Earnhardt Jr. must reverse his recent Darlington trend – two finishes outside the top 15 in his past three starts – to add to a career-matching top-10 streak that reached six races on Sunday at Talladega. Earnhardt finished 14th in last year’s Darlington race. He was fourth in his first start with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, his fourth consecutive top 10 at the South Carolina track. Earnhardt stands third in NASCAR Sprint Cup points.

Hendrick Motorsports’ quest for its 200th victory could end at Darlington. Jeff Gordon’s seven victories include three consecutive wins in 1995-96. Gordon produced HMS’ most recent Darlington win in 2007. Jimmie Johnson swept both races in 2004, the last time the track scheduled two races in the same season.

JGR Good At Darlington As Kyle Busch’s Fortunes Improve

Joe Gibbs Racing owns victories in two of the past four Bojangles’ Southern 500s and three wins overall. Kyle Busch gave Toyota its first Darlington victory in 2008 while teammate Denny Hamlin won in 2010. JGR’s other win, by Bobby Labonte, came in 2000. Hamlin and Busch have combined for three victories this season. Busch won at Richmond on April 28 and finished second to Keselowski at Talladega to join partner Hamlin in the top 10 in the points standings.

One Win Down, To Remain On Stewart’s ‘To-Do’ List

Three-time series champion Tony Stewart has failed to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on just two tracks on the current schedule: Darlington and Kentucky Speedway, which staged its inaugural race in 2012. Stewart erased Las Vegas Motor Speedway from his “to-do” list in March. Stewart’s Darlington record is so-so: three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 19 starts. His best finish, third, came in 2009. Stewart finished seventh in last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Patrick Returns To Series To Face Biggest NASCAR Challenge

Danica Patrick faces her greatest challenge since coming to NASCAR as she competes in her second Sprint Cup race on Saturday. Her No. 10 Chevrolet, prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, has a guaranteed starting position by virtue of owner Tommy Baldwin’s 33rd ranking in Owners Championship standings. Patrick finished 38th in her series debut at Daytona in February. She will do double duty also competing in Friday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Berth On Line At Darlington
Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 is a last-chance race for automatic admission to the May 19 Sprint All-Star Race. Drivers yet to qualify include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton and former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte. Absent a Darlington win, a driver still can qualify via fan vote or transfer from the Sprint Showdown race.

Mother’s Day Special To NASCAR Competitors

NASCARMedia.com has a photo gallery of drivers with their mothers, including a picture of Denny Hamlin with his mom in Darlington’s Victory Lane with the Southern 500 trophy: http://bit.ly/nascar-moms-photos 

Here are several comments from drivers about Mother’s Day and their moms:

Denny Hamlin: "She was very critical to me getting where I'm at for sure. If it wasn't her arguing with my dad all the time saying we had to keep going, then we probably wouldn't have been. It's a great weekend for her.”

Jeff Gordon: “It’s a very special time around our house and with my family and my mom and my dad. We give thanks to them because they sit there and watch us with our kids and laugh at us and say, ‘Yeah, see? You didn’t know we went through all this, did you?’”

NASCAR Sprint Awards Returns To Vegas

NASCAR announced Monday that the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards – and all of Champion’s Week – will return to Las Vegas, Nev., and remain there for the next three years. For the fourth-consecutive season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will take place at Wynn Las Vegas on Friday, Nov. 30, a culmination of a week-long celebration for the series champion – and NASCAR fans. As in past years, fans can expect the traditionally exciting and interactive week of activities.

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Re: Bojangles Southern 500 Betting News and Notes

Driver Notes & Quotes for The Southern 500 at Darlington
NASCAR.com

GREG BIFFLE ON DARLINGTON: “I’m really excited about Darlington this weekend. It’s been a good track for us and we always run well there. We run inches off the wall at speeds we run at mile and a half tracks. It’s a tough race track, which may mean a little bit more for us in the points if we can have a good night.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-749 Last ran Bristol – finished 13th; Backup: RK-786 Last ran Homestead – finished 35th.

CARL EDWARDS ON DARLINGTON: “Darlington has been one of my favorite race tracks since my first trip there. It’s an intimidating place and there is a ton of history there. A win at Darlington in the Sprint Cup Series would be one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. We were so close last year, which makes me even more motivated to go back there and win that trophy on Saturday. I think our program is strong right now and I’m excited to go there.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 team will carry the Ford EcoBoost paint scheme this weekend. The crew will be unloading chassis RK-815 which is a new car.

MATT KENSETH ON DARLINGTON: “Darlington is a challenging track since you get so much speed going into the turns that many cars throughout the weekend end up with “Darlington stripes” down the side after brushing the wall. Darlington is just a great race track with a lot of history surrounding it where we race fast with narrow lanes, and track position near the end of the race is really important. I’ve had some great races at Darlington, and I’m hoping that our Zest Ford has a strong run Saturday night.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-806 (Brand new chassis)

ARIC ALMIROLA ON DARLINGTON: “I am really looking forward to getting to Darlington and working with Mike Ford again. We were really strong at Talladega and I feel really good about the direction we are heading. This is a weekend where we really have to all work together. It’s one of those tough tracks. You’ve got to run right up against the wall to get the most speed out of your car, so you’ve got to get the handling of your car just right or you’re flirting with trouble. I think we will be fine and I am looking forward to getting back to the track. In addition to it being my first Cup race at Darlington, it’s also going to be a special weekend because we’ll have Gravely on our No. 43 Ford for the first time. They’re a new partner of Richard Petty Motorsports and Petty’s Garage, so we want to have a good showing for them and keep that paint scheme clean.

ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team will race chassis No. 742 this weekend. The chassis was used at various intermediate tracks in 2011, most recently at the Kansas race in October.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 743 for the 367-lap race at Darlington Raceway. This DEWALT Ford Fusion was run at Bristol earlier this year.

KEVIN HARVICK ON DARLINGTON: “The track was not originally designed for cars to be running as fast as they are today. The track’s very narrow and you carry a lot of speed. From a driver’s standpoint, it’s very challenging just to keep the car off the wall, but it’s also a lot of fun to drive.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 374 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis was built new for competition in 2012, and was driven by Harvick at Auto Club Speedway in March where he collected a fourth-place finish in the rain-shortened event.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 347 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last seen on track at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, where Menard drove it to a 10th-place finish. This chassis was also used in competition in 2011 at Auto Club Speedway, Dover International Speedway (May) and both events at Pocono Raceway.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 393 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet, built new for the 2012 season, was utilized in March at Auto Club Speedway where Burton finished in the 22nd position in the rain-shortened Auto Club 400.

JIMMIE JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 681 serves as the primary for Johnson at Darlington. This chassis won at Kansas last season in addition to four other 2011 starts. Chassis No. 669 serves as the backup.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-682 - The Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway will mark the second start for Chassis No. 39-682 this season. The first came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. An ill-handling racecar and an unusually long green-flag run – the final 234 laps ran caution-free – meant Newman’s crew didn’t have much of a chance to apply chassis adjustments. So Newman finished a disappointing 21st.

The chassis made two runs in 2011, both of which resulted in top-20 finishes. The car debuted at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September. Although Newman qualified in the top-10, he struggled with track position for most of the day and finished a disappointing 20th. Chassis No. 39-682 returned to action for last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After qualifying 14th, Newman ran as high as second, and in the top-10 for the most of the day, before finishing 12th. The chassis was updated for the 2012 season before making its first start at Texas.

TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 14-708 - This is a brand-new racecar that has never turned a wheel on the racetrack, but it has seen numerous hours in the wind tunnel. The Southern 500 marks Chassis No. 14-708’s on-track debut.

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 557 - This weekend’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 will be the first race of the 2012 season for this chassis. The team used this particular chassis during the mid-April tire test at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Prior to the 2012 season, the car was used as a road-course car. Hendrick Motorsports built this chassis with a universal clip, which allows for greater adjustments with the geometric points on the chassis. As such, the team converted the car from a road-course car to an intermediate-track car for this season.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops®/Tracker Boats team will bring Chassis #1112 to Darlington Raceway this weekend. This chassis raced in last year’s Brickyard 400, leading five laps and finishing fourth. This chassis also saw track time during last fall’s race at Chicagoland Speedway, finishing 38th due to an engine failure.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1111 to Darlington Raceway this weekend. This chassis made its debut in last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading two laps and finishing 31st after an accident put the No. 42 four laps down. This chassis also earned Montoya’s first top-10 of the 2012 season, finishing eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway.

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary Chassis No. 727 raced to a 13th place finish at California. Chassis No. 721 is the backup and previously served backup duty at Las Vegas, Fontana, Texas and Kansas – but never raced.

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Darlington Southern 500 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

This week the drivers head to Darlington, South Carolina for a Saturday night race at the most storied track in NASCAR. Since 1950, NASCAR drivers have been racing at Darlington and along the way a few names have been attached to it such as ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame‘ and ‘The Lady in Black‘. Just by those names alone, it should tell you that it’s a pretty unforgiving track that presents some of toughest challenges drivers have on the circuit.

The difficult challenge the drivers have comes from the four differing turns around this 1.366-mile egg-shaped track. Turns one and two are different from three and four in distance and banking creating a dilemma for the teams in how they set up the car. It’s nearly impossible for a car to be set up perfect for all four turns, so they have pick where they want to be the best at which is usually turns three and four.

Turn four is where the ’Lady in Black’ issues most of her ‘Darlington Stripes‘, which is when a driver smacks the wall and their car gets stamped with a little piece of Darlington on it for the rest of the race, if able to still run. This Lady a mean old angry woman, but commands respects from each and every one of the drivers like no other track.

One lady that gets a chance at meeting the Lady for the first time is Danica Patrick who makes her second Cup appearance of the season. The hype from Daytona when she made her Cup debut in February is long gone, but the publicity machine will start churning out some releases on Wednesday to help make Saturday’s race one that attracts a broader audience than usual.

“I know it’s going to be hard," Patrick said last week regarding Darlington. "I know there’s going to be some frustrating moments and some moments that I’m probably going to feel a little embarrassed, but I’m there to get my Darlington stripes and move along.”

Patrick finished 38th in the Daytona 500 and is having some moderate success during her learning period while driving in the Nationwide series where she‘s 11th in points with one top-10 finish. Although she’s driven on almost every type of track around the world in Indy and stock cars, nothing will be able to prepare her for the ’Lady in Black” Saturday night.

Darlington isn’t know for having surprise winners, but last year Regan Smith won with odds of 500-to-1. It was the largest odds of any winner in the history of NASCAR betting in Las Vegas. There weren’t many takers in the odds and the few that did make the wagers didn’t bet over $5, but nevertheless, Regan Smith proved to all bettors that a long shot can have a shot against the odds ’The Lady in Black’ stacks against them.

The driver to key on this week is Denny Hamlin who currently sits fourth in points, 27 behind points leader Greg Biffle. Hamlin not only has a great past history at Darlington, but also comes in as one of the more formidable drivers on all tracks. He’s got two wins already through 10 races and has a 6.5 average finish at Darlington that includes a win in 2010.

On the same note, Biffle has to be considered as well. While he hasn’t won a race yet this season, he has finished fifth or better six times in 10 races this season. Biffle also won back-to-back years at Darlington in 2005 and 2006. Biffle’s run this year is reminiscent of his 2005 season when he won six races and finished runner-up in the standings.

“I’m really excited about Darlington this weekend," said Biffle who will be running the chassis he finished 13th with at Bristol. "It’s been a good track for us and we always run well there. We run inches off the wall at speeds we run at mile and a half tracks. It’s a tough race track, which may mean a little bit more for us in the points if we can have a good night.”

If you had to pick one driver who ’The Lady in Black’ treated as her favorite, it would probably be Jeff Gordon who has won at Darlington seven times, including being the only driver to ever win four straight Southern 500‘s when the race was considered one of the crown jewels of the sport.

“I’m always excited about the trip to Darlington,” Gordon said earlier this week. “This has been one of my favorites since I started racing in NASCAR.

“It’s a track you have to attack. It’s a track you have to respect because you are on the edge. Those ingredients have suited me and our team well over the years. This is a very tough track and it’s a challenge just to stay off the walls. It’s a big transition (from straightaway to apron to turn) that is very narrow. The track can reach out and bite you in a hurry.”

Beyond just the wins, Gordon has figured a way better than most to get around the track and avoid the wrath of it with minimal Darlington stripes. Until his 12th-place finish last season, Gordon was on an unbelievable run of seven straight top-5 finishes at Darlington.

This season Gordon has had a terrible stretch of bad luck sitting 23rd in points with only two top-10 finishes on the season. It would almost seem appropriate that the Lady’s favorite driver get better on her track. If Gordon does so, it would be the 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports. It would only seem fitting that Gordon be the driver to get the win since he posted 85 of those Hendrick wins.

It could be said that Dale Earnhardt Jr is having a career year even though he hasn’t won any of the last 139 races. He’s currently third in points and has chance to finish in the top-10 for the seventh straight race which would be an all-time best for him. He has never won at Darlington, but does have the advantage of having crew chief Steve Letarte’s Darlington knowledge. Letarte was Gordon’s crew chief and never finished worst than fifth while in charge, including Gordon’s last win there.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #24 Jeff Gordon (10/1)
2) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
3) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (14/1)
4) #16 Greg Biffle (8/1)
5) #2 Brad Kieslowski (15/1)

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Driver Handicaps: Darlington
By: Jeff Wackerlin

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

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 6.5 average finish.
• Mark Martin, winner of the 2009 race, leads all drivers entered in this weekend's race with 26 top 10s.
• Jimmie Johnson, who swept both races in 2004, leads all drivers in average finish (8.5) that have competed in the last 10 races.
• Carl Edwards is coming off his second runner-up finish in the last four races.
• Ryan Newman has finished ninth or better in seven of his last nine starts.
• Kyle Busch has scored two top 10s, including a win in 2008, and led 278 laps in his last four starts.
• Two-time winner Greg Biffle is second among all drivers in the Driver Ratings.

Keep an Eye On at Darlington 

• Brad Keselowski has posted a 7.3 average finish in three starts at Darlington.
• Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. each have a 12.0 average finish in the five races with the COT chassis at Darlington.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in the last six races in 2012.
• Matt Kenseth has finished in the top five in four of the last five races in 2012.
• Kasey Kahne, who is coming off his best finish and fourth straight top 10 of the season, led the most laps and finished fourth last year at Darlington.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Kasey Kahne
Pete Pistone: Greg Biffle
Ricky Hamber: Denny Hamlin
John Singler: Kevin Harvick

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Darlington unless noted)

Greg Biffle: Coming off fifth top 10 (eighth) in 11 starts; Won back-to-back races in 2005 and 2006; Fourth among drivers entered in this even in laps led (639); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 749) that he finished 13th with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Matt Kenseth: Last of seven top 10s (10th) came in 2009 when he won the pole; Recorded four-straight top 10s from 2006-2009; 18.1 average finish in 18 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 806) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: 15.8 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Recorded four-straight top 10s from 2005-2008; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 711) that he last finished third with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Denny Hamlin: Winner of the 2010 event; Leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish; Second-best average finish (5.8) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis.

Kevin Harvick: Last of five top 10s (sixth) came in 2010; Led 47 laps last year before a late-race incident took him out of contention; 18.9 average finish in 15 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 374) that he last finished fourth with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Martin Truex Jr: Coming off second top 10 (10th); 14.5 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis.

Tony Stewart: Coming off 10th top 10 (seventh) in 19 starts; 11.0 average finish in three starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 708) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Last of nine top 10s (second) came in 2009; Swept both races in 2004; 13.8 average finish in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 681) that he last finished 10th with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Kyle Busch: 13.3 average finish and 278 laps led in four starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Won the 2008 race after leading 169 laps.

Clint Bowyer: Won the pole and scored only top 10 (ninth) in 2007; 24.5 average finish in six starts; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing in the same car (chassis No. 727) that he last finished 13th with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

Carl Edwards: Coming off second runner-up finish in eight starts; Started fourth and led 57 laps last year; Third-best average finish (11.2) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 815) in the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Brad Keselowski: 7.3 average finish in three starts; Best finish came last season in third; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 810) that he finished fifth with at Phoenix International Raceway in March.

Ryan Newman: Has finished ninth or better in seven of his last nine starts; Fourth-best average finish (11.8) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 682) that he last finished 21st with at Texas Motor Speedway.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in five starts; 26.8 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 347) that he last finished 10th with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Joey Logano: Finished ninth in his first start in 2009; 23.7 average finish in three starts.

Jamie McMurray: Coming off second consecutive top 10; won the pole and finished second in 2010; 5.5 average finish and 84 laps led in two starts with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (12.0) among all drivers that have competed in the five races with the COT chassis; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1112) that he finished fourth with at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Fifth-place finish in 2010 is only top 10; 18.8 average finish in five starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1111 that he last finished eighth with at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

Jeff Burton: Last of 16 top 10s came in 2010 in eighth; Swept both races in 1999 with Roush Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 393) that he last finished 22nd with at Auto Club Speedway in March.

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Re: Bojangles Southern 500 Betting News and Notes

Southern 500 Preview and Picks
By Greg Engle

There is no rest for the weary as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.

Darlington Raceway is the site of Saturday night’s Southern 500 - NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway event. Known as the track “Too Tough to Tame”, the abrasive surface of the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval provides challenges to teams seen nowhere else.

It’s a challenge that Greg Biffle is ready to take on. After a forgettable 2011, Biffle is on a roll. With one win and six Top-5 finishes in the first 10 races, Biffle is leading the points after surviving the carnage for a fifth-place showing at Talladega last weekend.

Biffle has two wins at Darlington and knows how to add to that total Saturday night. He’s under no illusion that he’s got Darlington’s number, though.

“There's no opportunity to correct or to gather it back up when you're that close to the wall, but you've got to run there because that's where all the speed is and the grip,” he told the media.” So if you make a little mistake or your car gets away from you a little bit, you've got a Darlington Stripe, and hopefully just a Darlington Stripe because you're going so fast, it can damage the car quickly.”

Denny Hamlin is hot and getting hotter. Like Biffle, he had 2011 season he’d rather forget. But with Tony Stewart’s championship-winning crew chief, Darian Grubb, on board, Hamlin has two wins this season. He won here in 2010 and could tame Darlington again Saturday night.

Don’t count out the latest series winner, Brad Keselowski. Keselowski has two wins this season, including a surprise win at Talladega. He finished third here last season and could easily go all the way to Victory Lane Saturday night.

Head-to-head

Matt Kenseth vs. Carl Edwards: Both of Greg Biffle’s teammates are capable of winning Saturday night. But neither has won at Darlington before. In fact, Kenseth, who currently sits second in the standings, has struggled here finishing outside the Top 10 in the last three races, including a 23rd-place showing last season.

Edwards on the other hand, is struggling this season, but has three Top-5 finishes in the last five races at Darlington, including a second-place performance last season. Look for Edwards’ good fortune to continue at Darlington with a solid finish ahead of Kenseth.

Tony Stewart vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Both drivers are winless here, and each has an agenda.  Stewart wants a rebound from a poor finish at Talladega last week while Earnhardt wants  to continue his streak  of six consecutive Top-10 finishes, which ties his career best. Neither driver has a Darlington record to brag about, but look for Earnhardt to do whatever he can to continue the momentum as he gets closer to his first win since 2008.

Bottom line

Nineteen races at Darlington have been won from the pole - the most productive starting position. Dale Jarrett was the last driver to win from the pole in 1997.The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 43rd, in the track’s inaugural race in 1950 by Johnny Mantz. That race, however, had a 75-car field.

Picks

Greg Biffle (+900)
Brad Keselowski (+1,200)
Denny Hamlin (+1,200)

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Re: Bojangles Southern 500 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Practice Notes - Darlington

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Practice 2     Qualified     Darlington '11*
1     Greg Biffle     8/1     2nd     2nd     1st     8th
Notes: Two-time winner with 14.2 average finish; strong average times in practice using Bristol car.

2     Denny Hamlin     10/1     16th     13th     8th     6th
Notes: 2010 winner with track best 6.5 average; best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice.

3     Jimmie Johnson     6/1     7th     4th     2nd     15th
Notes: Two-time winner with 9.8 average finish; Using winning Kansas chassis from last season.

4     Martin Truex Jr.     25/1     6th     12th     6th     10th
Notes: His fast practices have translated well to race day all season; stellar average speeds in practice.

5     Dale Earnhardt Jr.     15/1     19th     18th     24th     14th
Notes: Going for career record seven straight top-10 finishes on season; using third-place Fontana car.

6     Jeff Gordon     8/1     13th     28th     12th     12th
Notes: Seven-time winner, coming at all stages of career; 18 top-5 and 21 top-10 finishes in 29 starts.

7     Carl Edwards     8/1     4th     3rd     7th     2nd
Notes: Two-time runner-up, including losing late battle to Regan Smith in 2011; using new chassis.

8     Kyle Busch     8/1     26th     15th     5th     11th
Notes: 2008 winner, his only top-5 finish in seven starts; best 10 consecutive lap average in practice 1.

9     Brad Keselowski     12/1     18th     11th     15th     3rd
Notes: 7.3 average finish in three starts showing this is his kind of track; using fifth-place Phoenix car.

10     Kevin Harvick     10/1     1st     29th     23rd     17th
Notes: 2003 Runner-up with an 18,9 average finish in 15 starts; using fourth-place Fontana chassis.

*Note: Because Darlington's 1.336-mile configuration is so unique, there isn't a track to compare it too, but Las Vegas and Texas would be the closest to start with because of the banking.

Betting Notes

It appears very clear that Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin have the best cars for Saturday's Southern 500, but the best car doesn't always win. I had come into the week with high regards for Jeff Gordon and when he didn't practice particularly well, all I could think about was getting some high adjusted prices on him because of it. Gordon's been a driver who has taken poor handling cars at Darlington into top five finishes and will likely do the same this week.

The driver that has captured most of my attention this week for a big payout is Martin Truex Jr who had great average speeds in practice which is essential part of the story on long runs at Darlington with the old or new surface.

I also have to take a stab at betting Dale Earnhardt Jr. It may seem like a bad idea since he's never won at Darlington and he hasn't won in ages -- what is it? 140 straight now? But his car has the look of one that will be competing late in the race because of average speeds, similar to Truex Jr.

Matchup of the Week: Martin Truex Jr -125 vs. Mark Martin

For somewhat of an equal price, this one looks to be very cheap with a driver that could win the race. Martin has tons of experience on the track, winning in 2009, but Truex Jr has held his own with lesser cars in the past obtaining a 12.3 average finish in six starts.

I would look to bet on Truex Jr against every driver other than Biffle or Hamlin. Because of Earnhardt Jr's consistency run and a great practice, he should also be considered in several matchups if not going against the aforementioned that also includes Truex Jr.

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