Darlington entry notes

FORTY SIX ENTRIES READY FOR DARLINGTON'S TRANSOUTH FINANCIAL 400; MARTIN, EARNHARDT, WALTRIP, ELLIOTT TOP STATISTICAL CATEGORIES Strong Entry Also Ready for Diamond Hill Plywood 200 DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 17) -- Seven former ...

FORTY SIX ENTRIES READY FOR DARLINGTON'S TRANSOUTH FINANCIAL 400; MARTIN, EARNHARDT, WALTRIP, ELLIOTT TOP STATISTICAL CATEGORIES Strong Entry Also Ready for Diamond Hill Plywood 200

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 17) -- Seven former winners and three rookies are among the 46 drivers entered in the historic 41st running of the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway, Sunday, March 23. In addition, 45 entries have been received for the Diamond Hill Plywood NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Among the entries for Round Six of the NBS are defending race winner Mark Martin's Winn-Dixie Ford -- the only former winner of a Darlington Busch Series race on the list -- and defending NBS champion Randy LaJoie's FINA Chevrolet. Seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt, gunning for a record-tying seventh triumph in the springtime classic, heads the TranSouth Financial 400 list. He notched wins in 1982, 1986-87, 1990 and 1993-94. He'll be joined by defending race champion Jeff Gordon, who will try to win his third straight NASCAR Winston Cup race at Darlington; Sterling Marlin (1995), Darrell Waltrip (1977, 1979, 1981, 1984); Bill Elliott (1985, 1992); Ricky Rudd (1991); and Lake Speed (1988). Rookie of the Year candidates Mike Skinner, Robby Gordon and David Green get their first shot at Darlington in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. Green may have a leg up on his other rookie contenders due to his NASCAR Busch Series experience at the track "Too Tough To Tame." The landmark event will be the last in which the start/finish line will be in its original position (since 1950) before being "switched" to the backstretch later this year to accomodate expansion of the facility. Busch Pole Award Qualifying to determine the top 25 positions in the TranSouth Financial 400 is scheduled for Friday, March 21. The 293-lap race gets the green flag on Sunday, March 23, at 1 p.m. Busch Pole Award Qualifying to set the full field of up to 43 cars for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 will also be held on Friday. The 147-lap race gets the green flag at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The following are some informative tidbits on the drivers entered in the 1997 TranSouth Financial 400: ** Here's an incredible statistic. Bill Elliott has had a great run of top five (9 times) and top 10 (14 out of 18 races) finishes. His average finish is 6.5. However, he's not tops in the category. Amazingly, Mark Martin, in 16 TranSouth Financial 400s, has 11 top five results and 15 top 10s for an average finish of 6.1. While he's finished well, Martin has yet to win a TranSouth Financial 400. He's been runnerup four times! ** Elliott, however, has completed 6,329 of a possible 6,384 laps since his first race in 1978 for an incredible 99 percent completion ratio. ** Waltrip has logged 7,400 laps in the race, which translates into 10,108 miles, more than any other active driver. ** In the "most laps led" category, it's Earnhardt, who has been up front for 1,455 laps in 14 different TranSouth events. ** While Earnhardt has led the most laps, Waltrip has shown the way in the most consecutive events up front -- 14, from 1975-1988. ** On six occasions, the driver leading at the halfway point has gone on to win -- Waltrip in 1979 and 1984, Earnhardt in 1986, Lake Speed in 1988, Harry Gant in 1989, and Jeff Gordon last year. ** Terry Labonte will try to become the third active driver to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship, then capture the TranSouth Financial 400 the following year. Earnhardt did it in the 1987 and 1994 events while Labonte's teammate, Jeff Gordon, did it last year. ** Dave Marcis, who at age at 56 is the race's oldest entry, has competed in more TranSouth races than any other driver. Since 1969, Marcis has made every race, with a pair of thirds being his best effort. The 1997 version will be his 29th event. ** Bill Elliott and Geoff Bodine, with three each, head the list of active drivers with the most pole positions. Elliott and Earnhardt are the only active drivers to win from the pole, Elliott in 1985, and Earnhardt in 1993. Earnhardt has come from the worst starting position to win, going off the line 15th in the 1990 TranSouth event. ** Ward Burton holds the track qualifying record at 173.797 mph (28.295 seconds) set prior to last year's TranSouth Financial 400. The 400-mile race record of 132.703 mph is held by Darlington's all-time winner David Pearson, in the 1968 event. ** In the last 20 years, only one driver has managed to win the TranSouth Financial 400 in consecutive years. Earnhardt did it in 1986-87, and again in 1993-94. Richard Petty and Pearson are the other drivers in history to do it. Jeff Gordon has the chance this year. ** How tough is it to develop consistency at Darlington? Not one driver who finished in the top five in the 1995 TranSouth Financial 400 found themselves in the top five in 1996. Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Craven, Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte will try to break that skein in 1997. Great reserved seat tickets are available for both the TranSouth Financial 400 and the Diamond Hill Plywood 200. For seat selection call (803) 395-8499.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Ricky Craven , David Green , Dave Marcis , Richard Petty , Harry Gant , Mark Martin , David Pearson