Darlington II: News of note, schedule

Victory Lap tribute continues at Darlington; Yarborough honored Bobby Allison's Victory Lap car set for unveiling NEWS & NOTES * Victory Lap tribute continues at Darlington ... Only one driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history has won more than...

Victory Lap tribute continues at Darlington; Yarborough honored
Bobby Allison's Victory Lap car set for unveiling


* Victory Lap tribute continues at Darlington ... Only one driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history has won more than two consecutive series championships. That driver, Cale Yarborough, holds the record with three, capturing consecutive championships from 1976-78. On Sunday, Yarborough's achievement will be honored at Darlington Raceway as part of the "Victory Lap" tribute to longtime series sponsor R.J. Reynolds and the NASCAR Winston Cup era (1971-2003), prior to the start of the Mountain Dew Southern 500.

Darlington is one of many tracks Yarborough ruled during his 31-year career. But it also happens to be the only NASCAR Winston Cup track just down the road from his Sardis, S.C. home.

Growing up in his native South Carolina as a boy, Yarborough would sneak under the Darlington Raceway fence to catch a glimpse of the first heroes of the sport. It was there he became captivated by stock car racing and, later, earned his reputation as one of the greatest drivers to wheel around the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval known as "the track too tough to tame." But tame it he did, scoring five victories between 1968, his first Darlington win, and 1982, his fifth and final win.

Fans of the sport will have a chance to salute Yarborough on Sunday, as he once again takes the wheel of the No. 11 car he helped make famous for a special "Victory Lap" around Darlington Raceway. It will be a fitting tribute to one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers and a three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion.

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10: Kenseth consistency has look of a champion ... Matt Kenseth has been No. 1 in the NASCAR Top 10 since the fourth race of the season (Atlanta, March 9), a run of 21 consecutive race weeks. You don't have to look too long at the statistics to figure out what has kept Kenseth at No. 1. He has a series-leading 19 top-10 finishes, the latest a fourth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway this past Saturday night. Kenseth also shared the lead for most top-five finishes (10) with Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet).

* Harvick, RCR on the move ... Since the Sonoma, Calif. race on June 22, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) has moved from 11th in the points to third -- his highest points standing since coming to NASCAR Winston Cup in 2001. The key, Harvick said, is communication. "Everything is coming together for us," he said. "We know how quickly this kind of thing can turn around so I really don't like to talk about it. I feel like everyone at RCR and on this team has really stepped up this year. We are communicating better. With Todd (Berrier) at crew chief and Gil (Martin) managing the team, everybody is working together to make sure these cars are perfect."

* Busch's crew wins McDonald's/POWERade weekly award ... The pit crew for Kurt Busch certainly played a part in his victory at Bristol this past Saturday night. Busch's crew won the weekly's McDonald's/POWERade Pit Crew Championship Award, worth $20,000. Busch's car spent 233.373 seconds in the pits, the lowest total among teams competing in this particular contingency program.

* Winston Leader Bonus reaches $250,000 ... Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) was the last driver to collect the Winston Leader Bonus, via his victory at Darlington in March 2002. Thus, it has been 55 races since the NASCAR Winston Cup point leader won a race and took home the NASCAR Winston Cup Leader Bonus, which now stands at a record $250,000. The bonus is paid when a race winner also is the series points leader. Kenseth has the only shot at the bonus this week. The previous record bonus was $190,000, collected by Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) via a win at Indianapolis in 2000. The $10,000 bonus is available following every NASCAR Winston Cup race. If the point leader does not win the race, the bonus rolls over to the next week.

* Bristol night race weekend's best bet on cable ... The Sharpie 500, televised this past Saturday night from Bristol by TNT, was the most-watched program of the week on cable, with 5,958,000 viewers. (Figures from TNT and Nielsen Media Research.)

* Allison's "Victory Lap" Tribute Car to be Unveiled ... On Friday at Darlington Raceway, 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison, long-time leader of the racing "Alabama Gang," will unveil a special "Victory Lap" tribute car honoring his NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship and four career victories at Talladega Superspeedway. Allison will be joined at an 11 a.m. press conference by Talladega Superspeedway President Grant Lynch for the unveiling, and will participate in pre-race festivities prior to the start of the EA Sports 500 at Talladega on Sept. 28.


Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) has scored four top-10 finishes in the last four races at Darlington, the only driver to do so. Elliott has a 9.04 finishing average in 50 races at Darlington, the best among active drivers with more than three starts at the track. Elliott has five victories and five poles at Darlington; both numbers are fourth-best all-time. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has scored 13 top-10 finishes in the last 16 races at Darlington, including six victories. His 5.95 starting average at Darlington is the best of all drivers. Gordon is tied with Cale Yarborough for the most Mountain Dew Southern 500 victories, each with five. ... Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) has won three races at Darlington since the start of the 1997 season; all three of those victories though, came in Darlington's spring race.


* "Running well at Darlington takes a lot of patience. I really worked hard last season on learning patience for places like Darlington. If you're not patient, you'll end up with the right side of your car smashed in or your tires bald in a couple of laps." -- Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet).

* "One of the things I hate the most is watching the end of a race on TV. Last week [at Bristol] we had potential and the night ended prematurely. I really don't care to watch any more races on TV." -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford).

* "I'm totally OK with moving [race] dates around. I hope some of these [other] tracks will start moving dates around to suit the temperatures of the season and the schedule. The Southern 500 is the Southern 500. I really don't think [the move to November in 2004] is going to have that big of an effect." -- Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).

* "I'd like to be the last Southerner to win the Southern 500 on Labor Day [weekend]." -- Tennessee native Sterling Marlin.

* "It's not like the Southern 500 is going away. It just has a new date [next year]." -- Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet).


In the 2000 season, Darlington's two NASCAR Winston Cup races were won by Pontiac drivers: Ward Burton and Bobby Labonte. That ended a long streak of Pontiac frustration. Prior to 2000 the last previous Pontiac victory at Darlington was in 1963 when Joe Weatherly won the Rebel 300.


Darlington has earned its reputation as a daunting race track through the years. Exhibit A: There has been only one caution-free race at Darlington, the 1963 Southern 500. Fireball Roberts won, averaging 129.784 mph in a Ford.


What: Mountain Dew Southern 500. (NASCAR Winston Cup Series race No. 25 of 36.)
Where: Darlington Raceway; Darlington, S.C.
When: Sunday, Aug. 31, 1 p.m. ET.

TV: NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite

Race length: 500 miles/367 laps.
Track layout: 1.366-mile banked paved oval.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday--Practice, 11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m. Qualifying--3:05. Saturday--Practice, 10:30-11:15 a.m. and 12:10-12:55 p.m.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Bobby Allison , Elliott Sadler , Cale Yarborough