* Mothers Day Madness: Darlington Raceway records earliest sellout in track history * Terry Labonte to make final start at Darlington NEWS AND NOTES A New Holiday Tradition ... April 29 will go down as a historic day at Darlington Raceway,...
* Mothers Day Madness: Darlington Raceway records earliest sellout in track history
* Terry Labonte to make final start at Darlington
NEWS AND NOTES
A New Holiday Tradition ... April 29 will go down as a historic day at Darlington Raceway, and not for something that happened on the track. Rather, track president Chris Browning announced a sellout for Saturday's Dodge Charger 500 -- the earliest sellout in Darlington's 57-year history.
Even more impressive is the fact that 3,000 new seats were added to the track during the off-season. The new Brasington Tower grandstand in Turn 1 has increased the total capacity to 63,000. The new addition will make Saturday night's crowd the largest in track history. Fans attending the race will be part of the newest holiday tradition on the NASCAR schedule.
The Mother's Day weekend race is one of a few races on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule that have developed into holiday traditions. The Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway has been associated with Memorial Day since the track was opened in 1960, the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway has been run on Fourth of July weekend since 1959 and the first race Michigan International Speedway has always been associated with Father's Day.
"In The Loop" -- Track Data Shows How Dale Earnhardt Jr. Won Richmond ... Despite leading only 47 of the 400 laps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) captured his first checkered flag of the season at Richmond International Raceway. Earnhardt was near the top of many of the loop data categories for Saturday night's race. Earnhardt was second in Driver Rating (129.5), first in Consecutive Passes Without Being Passed (25), third Fastest Driver Early in a Run (121.333 mph) and was near the top speed on almost every part of the track -- Fastest on the Frontstretch (128.918 mph), second Fastest on the Backstretch (130.958 mph), second Fastest in Turn 2 (111.627 mph) and fifth Fastest in Turn 3 (119.076 mph) and Turn 4 (104.677). One of the most telling stats was Earnhardt's Speed on Restarts -- he was third quickest with an average speed of 120.729 mph the first two laps under green. Earnhardt passed Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet) for the victory just four laps after a caution.
Tony Stewart continues to dominate the season-to-date loop data statistics. The defending series champion has the highest Driver Rating (112.8), Average Running Position (8.381) and Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap (3,219 of 3,283 laps 98.05%). He has also registered the Fastest Lap 346 times this season, leading Greg Biffle, who has had the Fastest Lap 282 times.
Setting The Field: Top 35 In 2006 Owner Points "Locked In" ... Each week in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, teams ranked in the top 35 of the current car owner point standings are guaranteed starting positions, creating a "bubble" consisting of teams on the downside of 35th, trying to reach that position.
Following a 32nd-place finish at Richmond, the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, owned by Ray Evernham and driven by Jeremy Mayfield, has slipped into the 35th and final locked-in position. The team is 73 points ahead of the No. 55 NAPA Dodge owned by Doug Bawel and driven by Michael Waltrip, which is the first team outside of the "bubble." Waltrip will have to earn his spot in the field based on his qualifying time for the fourth consecutive race.
Chevrolet Extends Lead In Manufacturers' Standings ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored the third consecutive victory for Chevrolet, which extended its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship to 15 over Ford. Greg Biffle, who finished fourth, was the highest finishing Ford driver. Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) finished eighth, the top honors among Dodge drivers. Chevrolet leads the field with six victories this season, Dodge has three and Ford has one.
On the Right Track ... Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are the only drivers to score seven top-10 finishes in the first 10 races this season. Not surprisingly the two sit first and second in the point standings. ... Johnson has four consecutive top-10 finishes at Darlington, the longest active streak. He swept both races at the track in 2004, making him the only repeat winner in the track's last 10 races. ... Kevin Harvick has scored five top-10 finishes in the last six races. During that period, Harvick has climbed from 23rd to fifth in the point standings. ... Kasey Kahne has captured two Bud Poles in his three career starts at Darlington. He finished 13th and third in those two races. ... Kyle Petty leads all active full-time drivers with 48 starts at Darlington. His father, Richard Petty, is the all-time leader with 65 career starts at the track. ... Jeff Gordon has six Darlington victories in 25 career starts, the most of any active driver. He is third on the all-time Darlington win list behind David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (9). ... Carl Edwards has finished in the top 10 in both of his starts at Darlington.
Raybestos Rookie Update ... Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet) finished second in the Crown Royal 400 and recaptured the lead for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. Hamlin's finish was the highest by a rookie since Kyle Busch won at Phoenix International Raceway last November. Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) finished 10th in the race, but fell back to second in the point standings for only the second week this year. He trails Hamlin by five points.
J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), David Stremme (No. 40 Lonestar Steakhouse Dodge) and Brent Sherman (No. 49 Serta Dodge) follow in the rookie standings.
One Final Hurrah ... Looking at the many career accomplishments of former series champion Terry Labonte (No. 44 Kellogg's Chevrolet), it is hard to avoid running across Darlington Raceway. It is the site of Labonte's first career start (Sept. 4, 1978), his first career win (Sept. 1, 1980) and last career win (Aug. 31, 2003). This weekend, Labonte will attempt to make his 54th (and final) career start at the "Track Too Tough to Tame."
"Naturally, Darlington has always been one of my favorite tracks," Labonte said. "It was where I ran my first race and where I was able to get my first win. Ironically, it's also the last place I won. I'm just looking forward to going back and running down there one more time."
To honor Labonte, Darlington track president Chris Browning will present him with a special memento during pre-race ceremonies. The piece will include souvenir program covers from the significant Darlington races throughout Labonte's career.
Pit Crew Spotlight: Steve Addington ... In his first season as a crew chief in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Steve Addington had the opportunity to lead a team with former series champion Bobby Labonte behind the wheel. After Labonte left Joe Gibbs Racing for Petty Enterprises, Addington was forced to work with a driver with a little less experience -- Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate J.J. Yeley. Almost a third of the way through the season, Addington, a Spartanburg, S.C. native, has Yeley and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet sitting 22nd in the point standings and third in the competitive Rookie of the Year standings.
Where In The World Is Ken Schrader? ... If it has gas, four tires and faces a green flag, Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) will hop in the cockpit and drive it. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' oldest -- and arguably the busiest -- competitor just can't resist racing, driving in a variety of series each season, despite the inherent demands of NASCAR's top series.
The chart at left illustrates the hectic nature of Schrader's schedule thus far this year. This week is relatively light for Schrader -- following the Dodge Charger 500 Saturday night, Schrader will head to Greenwood, Neb. for some NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series action. Sunday night is Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace Night at Nebraska Raceway Park. Schrader will race in the Super Late Model division while Wallace will race in the Home Pride Pro Modified division.
Schrader's 2006 race totals to date
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- 10
NASCAR Busch Series -- 6
Budweiser Shootout -- 1
Copper World -- 2
Short track (dirt, late-model, etc.) -- 17
From The Archives ... Darlington Raceway began holding spring events in 1957. One of the more unusual of those spring races took place in 1963. The race had featured convertibles for the previous six races. The event was the only time convertibles appeared on the circuit from 1960 through 1962. Raceway president Bob Colvin thought it was good idea to stage something a little different so, with the convertibles gone in 1963, Colvin came up with a plan to stage the 300 miler in two parts -- 110 laps each -- with a separate complicated point system he developed on his own. Defending series champion Joe Weatherly won the first race and finished second to Richard Petty in the second race to earn 197.8 "Colvin" points to win the race overall. Fireball Roberts finished third in both events and picked up 191.7 points for second overall. Petty finished sixth in the first race and won the second for 187.9 points and a third place overall finish. NASCAR suggested to Colvin that the event would be better served if it went back to the official scoring system in 1964. Colvin, always the showman and innovator, gave it a shot his way, but went back to the NASCAR system the following year.
On Deck: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series' 22nd annual all-star event is on Saturday, May 20 -- the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Lowe's, a 1.5-mile oval, has been part of the schedule since 1960. It has hosted the non-points all-star event since its 1985 debut; the only exception was 1986, when the event was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ... Mark Martin is defending champion.
Next race: Dodge Charger 500 (Race No. 11 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season)
The track: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C. (1.366-mile oval.)
The date/time: Saturday, May 13, 7:05 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 6:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite
Posted awards: $5,400,769
Race length: 367 laps, 501 miles.
Track layout: 1.366-mile oval.
2005 winner: Greg Biffle
2005 polesitter: Kasey Kahne
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 1,521. 2. Tony Stewart 1,466. 3. Matt Kenseth 1,422. 4. Mark Martin 1,345. 5. Kevin Harvick 1,313. 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1,305 7. Kasey Kahne 1,274. 8. Kyle Busch 1,237. 9. Jeff Gordon 1,216. 10. Casey Mears 1,168.
Practice/Qualifying Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 12:05-1:35 p.m. Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Final Practice 6:30-7:30 p.m.