By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Hamlin has three Darlington wins
- Ford leads manufacturers wins
- Edwards is winless at track
When it comes to NASCAR Nationwide Series racing at Darlington Raceway, the track has seen 25 different winners in the previous 50 series races it has hosted. Mark Martin lays claim to the most Nationwide wins at Darlington with eight, but he’s not slated to compete in Friday night’s Royal Purple 200 series event at the track. The driver who will be in Friday’s race with the best handle on the track is Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin comes into this weekend’s Royal Purple 200 as the series’ most recent winner, claiming victory a week ago at Richmond International Raceway. He comes into Darlington with three Nationwide wins at the track, including this race a year ago. Hamlin’s won three of the last five Nationwide events from the South Carolina track, all from the pole starting spot.
It is no surprise that Hamlin leads the Nationwide circuit in several categories at Darlington, including driver rating, average running position, average finish and percentage of laps led.
Do not go ahead and hand the winner’s trophy for Friday’s race to Hamlin, though. Nationwide racing at the track has a tendency to be close. As a matter of fact, five of the last six races there have provided victory margins of less than a second.
Hamlin may hold the honor of being the most successful driver among those entered for Friday’s race, but Ford has been the most successful manufacturer, boasting 16 trips to victory lane. That plays into the favor of Roush Fenway Racing, even though none of its current stable of drivers have visited Darlington’s victory lane following Nationwide Series competition.
“I think that this race track will be one that can really showcase our engines and how much everyone has worked on these race cars,” Roush Fenway driver Carl Edwards said. “I am very optimistic about our chances in the Nationwide race on Friday night.”
Edwards heads into the weekend still in search of his first series win at the track, but he does have a couple of third-place finishes there, the most recent one coming in 2009.
Edwards’ RFR teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is not only seeking his first Darlington win, but also his first series win, overall. Stenhouse Jr. only has one previous Nationwide start at Darlington, coming last season. In that race, he wrecked in finished 37th.
I think that this race track will be one that can really showcase our engines...
“I think I was driving a little too hard the last time I was there,” he said.
Stenhouse Jr. is also looking to rebound after he slipped from a tie with Justin Allgaier for the series points lead to a tie with Aric Almirola for the fifth spot . Both Stenhouse Jr. and Almirola find themselves 17 points behind Allgaier, who still claims the top spot.
“We’ve got the speed, and if we stay focused and minimize our mistakes, we know we can win this championship and win some races,” Stenhouse Jr. said.
The green flag is expected to fly for the Royal Purple 200 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday. Live television coverage is slated to get underway at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The race can also be heard on MRN and Sirius XM channel 90.