Chevy drivers look forward to Darlington

Team Chevy Racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TEAM CHEVY IN THE GARAGE DARLINGTON RACEWAY – PAT SUHY, MANAGER - CHEVROLET RACING OVAL TRACK GROUP: “This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams face-off against a unique track, South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway. At 1.366 miles, it's a blend of superspeedway and short track, with a wide sweeping set of turns in corners three and four, and a much tighter pair in one and two.

“The nickname ‘Lady in Black’ refers to the walls of Darlington, which gradually turn from freshly-painted white to shades of gray and black with scuff marks as the 500-mile Cup race wears on. Drivers looking for the most speed flirt with the high line, and have a tendency to brush the safer barrier with their right rear tires at turn exit. Darlington is also tagged as the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame’ because of the speedway’s reputation for inconsistency and unpredictability.

“Our Team Chevy teams are off to a great start in the first ten races of the 2012 season, and are definitely up to the challenge at Darlington. So far this year, a Chevrolet has led 42% of all laps (that's 1323 for those of you who are counting), and they've accounted for 46% of the fastest green flag laps. That means that more often than not, a Chevy is either leading the race or is the fastest car on the track, or both. Our teams and drivers are the best in the business and it shows.

“The race this Saturday night will be a hard fought battle. Given the speed our teams have shown and the overall success they've had at this track, I wouldn't bet against seeing one of our drivers collecting another win for Team Chevy.”

TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT: DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 3rd IN STANDINGS: “Darlington is a slick track and can be tough to get around. I hope we can go there and have a great run. We were good there last year, and I hope we can keep our consistency going. We feel confident we can win pretty much anywhere when we get it right."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – 5th IN STANDINGS: “As you go to Darlington, obviously you see the deep history of the sport and it’s probably the place highest on my list to try to get my first win there, so I’m looking forward to going there this weekend. It’d be pretty awesome just for the fact that everyone knows the significance of the Southern 500 and to win at Darlington is something as a driver that you want to check off your checklist when you have the opportunity. We’ve been close at Darlington, but we’ve just got to put that check in the right box.

“Well, any lap around Darlington is a lap where you have to be paying attention to what’s going on because you can get yourself in trouble at any point on the race track. You carry a lot of speed into Turn 1 and you run right up the banking right up next to the wall and right back into the throttle. As you come back down the hill you might have to breathe the throttle a little bit, but it’s a lot of fun coming out of Turn 2 as it kind of shoots you down the backstretch. Turns 3 and 4 are probably the hardest because you carry so much speed off of (Turn) 2 into (Turn) 3 and the line kind of moves around a bit there. It’s probably the easiest place to get in the wall. Well it’s pretty easy to get in the wall anywhere, but definitely the easiest place to get into the wall is the middle of (Turns) 3 and 4.”

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 7th IN STANDINGS: “A lot of it has to do with the history of the track. If you can say you won a race at Darlington – that’s a feather in your cap. That’s something to be proud of, knowing that you’re in a group of drivers with names like (David) Pearson and (Richard) Petty – the pioneers of our sport who you hear stories about the races they ran there and the races they won there.

“Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day. You don’t see a lot of guys who have a lot of success there. You see only a handful of guys who religiously run well there. That just shows you how difficult Darlington is to get a handle on. If you can have a good day and win there, it’s a track that’s like winning at Bristol. It’s the same type of feeling – knowing that you conquered something that’s very hard to obtain.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – 8th IN STANDINGS: “I think of all the sacrifices my parents made, especially my mom for myself and my brothers to race. She raised a house hold of three boys and missed out on a lot of girly things if you will with three rough and tough boys racing. I appreciate all of her sacrifices. I love her to death. Mother’s Day has a whole new meaning for my situation more directly, with being a father and what it means to Chandra. I’m very excited about Mother’s Day. “The old (Darlington) track when it was worn out and ugly, nasty to drive we were great there. Since they have repaved it, it’s been a bit of a challenge. It’s just so tough to pass there. I think your race strategy, fuel strategy, tire strategy is really more important than speed in the car. So hopefully, we play that game right and put ourselves in a great position at the end of the race to win.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO 39 WIX CHEVROLET – 13th IN STANDINGS: “Well, I’ve always said this is one of my favorite racetracks. I really look forward to it, just racing the race track and the competition. The way you drive this race track, it’s rewarding in several different aspects, but it can reach out and bite you at any second. It has always been my favorite track because you are always adjusting. You adjust to the tires, the bumps, the character of the track. The fact that you are running right next to the wall is challenging. It’s the most challenging track we have, and that is why I enjoy it the most.

“Winning a Southern 500 at Darlington has always been a goal of mine. For me, personally, it ranks right up there with the Daytona 500, the Brickyard and the Coca-Cola 600, as a race I want to win before I retire. I’ve always considered myself to be a driver who appreciates the history of our sport and someone who respects the drivers, the races – really, everything that has come before us. The Southern 500 is part of this sport’s heritage. It’s tradition. It has been such an important race and the track has been such a legendary place to race that, to be added to the list of drivers who have won it – David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty – is a dream of mine.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/PPG CHEVROLET – 14th IN STANDINGS: “Darlington is definitely a throw-back race track. You go to this little town and you don’t see anything except that huge race track. It definitely gets you to feel the roots of NASCAR. The only places I feel you can kind of ‘luck into one’ (win) is at restrictor-plate tracks. At every place else, you have to be good, you have to have a good car, good calls, and drive well. Darlington fits the bill.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 16th IN STANDINGS: “Darlington is a place I really enjoy racing. The track is so different from anywhere else that we race. I have been fortunate that I have had a lot of good runs and we even sat on the pole there a couple of years ago. Our mile and half program has really started to make some improvements this season so I am hoping that Darlington is one of the places that we can show-off that hard work with a good finish. There is so much history at a place like Darlington, and it is such a unique place with the shape and layout of the track. Each end of the race track is so different, it makes it a challenge for team to get the right set up. Hopefully we can continue some of the momentum that we have had the last few weeks and head to the All-Star and Coca-Cola 600 weekends at home in Charlotte with a solid finish for our Bass Pro Shops team.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 17th IN STANDINGS: “The old track you had to be really patient and look after the car and it would pay off in the long run. With the new asphalt it’s completely different. You pretty much have one groove. You can move up one or two grooves in (turns) three or four. But in (turns) one and two it’s pretty much single groove so you have to really maintain track position at Darlington.”

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 BB&T CHEVROLET – 18th IN STANDINGS: "It will constantly remind you who the real boss is. The interesting thing about Darlington is you have to attack it. That is the only way to run fast; you have to attack. If you go there and try not to hit something, you aren't going to run fast enough. You are always on the edge. You can't leave something on the table at Darlington because there is a lot of speed by going and being aggressive."

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 ROCKWELL TOOLS CHEVROLET – 19th IN STANDINGS: “We’ve run some solid races here and had a lot of success in qualifying, but it’s still a very tough racetrack. Even with a good car, you are probably going to hit the wall at some point. I think everyone does. It’s so fast; you just always have to be working the wheel to stay off the wall.

“It was great to have Rockwell Tools on board for the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck race at Rockingham, and I’m glad they’re stepping up to the Cup series. The (No.) 5 team has a lot of momentum right now, so I hope we can give them another win this weekend.”

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 23rd IN STANDINGS: “I'm always excited about the trip to Darlington. 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. Darlington is the 44th competitor. There is very little room for error here and you're doing everything possible to go fast but stay off the wall. And that is when you are out there by yourself. If we drove by ourselves for 400 or 500 miles here, we would still probably hit the wall at some point. The challenge goes up 10-fold with other cars on the track. This is definitely a track you have to respect and do everything you can to stay off the wall and survive. At the same time, you have to be faster than the competition."

KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. CHEVROLET – 25th IN STANDINGS: “It’s typical Darlington. You don’t race the competition, you race the racetrack. With the mental focus there and the physical drain that it puts on the body, it just adds up to Darlington being one of the toughest tracks there is on the circuit.”

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/CSX PLAY IT SAFE CHEVROLET – 27th IN STANDINGS: "I'm looking forward to going back to Darlington a lot. It will be the first time I've ever gone back to someplace as the defending champion in the Cup Series. It definitely comes at a needed time for us. We've been struggling a little bit, and we want to get our stuff going back the right direction again, and get back towards the front. I know we have a good setup for there. Looking forward to it a lot.

"They've changed a lot since then. But, there's also stuff that you can do that is still relevant to that. As much as anything it is the confidence that you know what you want the car to feel like when it comes race-time. Because you know that, it seems like it makes it a little easier to get to that point.

"You always carry a little bit of momentum in because of something like that. Even if it was three years ago that you won at Darlington, you still go back there thinking 'Ok, I feel really good about coming to this place because it is someplace I am comfortable at'. I've always liked racing there. I've always had pretty good luck there when it comes to having fat cars there. It is certainly something between Talladega and Darlington; we can use that to build and get back on track and learn some stuff that will help get the Furniture Row Chevy going forward."

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – 59th IN STANDINGS: “I’m told it’s not going to be so much about the track and getting comfortable and getting up to speed or feeling good, that it’s going to be more about learning how to pass there and how that works because it’s one lane and one groove. I believe its high in (turns) one and two and low in (turns) three and four. Just going to two-wide in one and two can cost you a second a lap, so it’s a matter of being smart about when you’re supposed to let off and give the position up for the sake of overall time. Getting used to that is going to be the hardest thing. Other than that, it’s a new track for me, so feeling out the rhythm of the race is going to be another challenge.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Richard Petty , David Pearson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, gordon, harvick, johnson, menard, montoya, patrick, stewart