Showtime Southern 500 Preview and Pick to Win

Race: Showtime Southern 500
Date: Saturday May 8th, 2010
Track: Darlington Raceway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: FOX

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Darlington is one of the oldest tracks on the circuit with a lot of history behind it. It’s home to Earnhardt’s senior favorite racing. He was notorious here and let it be known that this was one of his best and most fun tracks. Known as the track that is “too tough to tame”, Darlington is also home to the closest margin of victory ever with the 2003 finish between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch. It is definitely one of the most exciting places for everyone involved. This isn’t just one of those tracks that just the drivers love or just the fans love. Darlington is equally appreciated by everyone from the garage to the fans at home watching on FOX.

This particular track is 1.366 mile oval with 25 degree banking in turns 1 and 2 and 23 degree banking in turns 2 and 4. The frontstretch and backstretch stand at 1229 feet each with 3 and 2 degree banking respectively.

What makes Darlington different than most other tracks is its configuration. Prior to repaving, this track used to be even more treacherous than it is now. The thing about Darlington is the line that the drivers have to run. Where you may see some guys better on the high side and some guys better on the bottom, drivers don’t necessarily have that option here. There aren’t 3 or 4 different grooves that these guys can run on. The high side is where they are pretty much forced to run here.

This track is very narrow. It looks big, but there is little room to run 3 wide here. Even at a short track like Richmond last weekend, you see drivers going three wide into the turns. You won’t see that here. Correction: You may see that here, but the end results won’t be pretty.

Tire wear is absolutely the key here. Running so high and so close to the wall, tires have the tendency to wear unevenly and catch more debris than they would on the bottom of the track. I dare to say that Goodyear has its work cut out for them this weekend.

If we take a look at the historical winners, there are few active drivers who have multiple wins. The biggest standout and my pick for this weekend is Jeff Gordon. Undoubtedly, he’s got the talent win here. He’s done so seven times already. He’s been strong week in and week out this year and just needs that place where he can shine and Darlington is it for him. Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin all run well here too.

Here’s a recap of your current top 12 in the points after Richmond:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Greg Biffle
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Kurt Busch
9. Jeff Burton
10. Mark Martin
11. Carl Edwards
12. Clint Bowyer

There are only 10 points separating Harvick and Johnson. Darlington is going to change that. Look for another exciting night race at Darlington this Saturday!

Who do you like to win the Showtime Southern 500? We’d love to hear your opinion! Post your thoughts in our NASCAR Handicapping Forum today!