Showtime Southern 500 Picks to Win – Darlington Raceway

Race: Showtime Southern 500
Date: Saturday May 7, 2011
Track: Darlington Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: FOX
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Race Handicapper,

A rather blas first hundred laps certainly turned into an exciting race. While there were quite a few wrecks, some of the most interesting entertainment on the track was the fighting between the drivers. Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman were about to kill each other according to each of their uncensored radio transmissions. I highly recommend listening to radio transmissions if you are able to. Not only are they entertaining, but they really do tell the story of what’s going through a driver’s head. It’s better than the commentators opinions of what is going on.

Needless to say, Kyle Busch took the win. Jeff Gordon was about the only person with a strong enough car to possibly beat him, but he was wrecked out by Matt Kenseth who was tapped by Paul Menard. Denny Hamlin had a great run going too, but it’s certainly hard to beat those restarts of Busch. The rest of the field was nominal at best with most people going at least 2 laps down.

This weekend, we are heading to the track “too hard to tame”. Darlington, also known as The Lady in Black, is an interesting track coming in at a 1.37 mile oval. It’s one of those tracks that is not quite a short track but not quite an intermediate track. It’s got a configuration and mind all its own. It has 25 degree banking in turns 1 and 2, 23 degree banking in turns 3 and 4, and 6 degree banking on the backstretch and frontstretch. The frontstretch and backstretch both come in at 1229 feet, making for that perfect oval shape.

This is one of those tracks where tires are important and so is track position. Similar to Richmond in that respect, we saw where some guys did much better with 4 rather than 2 tires. Tire wear will also turn into a big deal if we have the long green flag runs like we did at Richmond this past weekend.

As far as strong drivers at this track, I think that we need to look at race historical patterns at this point. Richmond proved to be a track where track winners reflected the race perfectly. If we look at winners here, we see that Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon have all had good success here. Looking at what these guys have done this year, I have to say that this may be a weekend where Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin take over again. With Denny’s strong run at Richmond, I think that he may be one to watch. Kyle Busch seems unstoppable when he gets up front, though. I think that being said, Hamlin is a better choice simply because of his consistency. Busch has a tendency to do great one weekend and not so good the next. Hamlin, on the other hand, is the defending winner of the race and did well at Richmond last weekend. I think that he can carry that consistency into this weekend and will pull away with the win.

We tend to see the results of Richmond roll into Darlington in terms of how these guys are going to run. My prediction is Denny Hamlin as the winner and Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon following close behind.

Here are the top 10 drivers after Richmond:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Kurt Busch
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Ryan Newman
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Tony Stewart

Jeff Gordon really needs a strong run this weekend. He’s struggling back in 16th place because of things out of his control. A good run here could definitely help him out. Jr. had a rough weekend at Richmond, but managed to have a decent finish because of everyone else’s shortcomings. He needs to maintain his consistent runs to be in the Chase this year. We’ll have to wait and see what The Lady in Black brings this weekend. But one things for sure, it won’t be boring, especially under the lights!

V’s Pick to Win the Race: Denny Hamlin