Team Chevy Darlington preview

Darlington Raceway 500

This track has a lot of historic character and tradition, which makes it a special stop on the tour...

Mark Kent

CHEVY RACING AT THE TRACK-DARLINGTON RACEWAY JEFF CHEW, MARKETING MANAGER, NASCAR, CHEVY RACING: ““We look forward to bringing the Team Chevy Racing Display back to Darlington Raceway, because, as we saw last year, the race fans who visit the track ‘Too Tough to Tame’ are very interested in experiencing all of the newest Chevy products. Also, racing is a very important part of Chevy’s long history, and sharing that heritage with our fans is very important to us. We’ve added more elements to the display this year, like the latest GM Performance Parts crate engines and Chevy accessories and performance parts that fans can purchase from their local Chevy dealer, to go along with interactive games, digital photography and other activities for fans of all ages.”

TEAM CHEVY AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY – MARK KENT, DIRECTOR, GM RACING: “With the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season now in full swing, we are looking forward to this weekend's race at the Darlington Raceway.

“This track has a lot of historic character and tradition, which makes it a special stop on the tour. Fans and drivers have nicknamed it the ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’ for good reason since it certainly presents its own set of challenges for our Chevy teams and our team of General Motors engineers.

“Darlington has a unique and somewhat egg-shaped design with different configurations at each end of the oval, requiring the crews to set-up their cars’ handling in a way that will be effective at both ends. The right balance in the chassis, which provides the right tools to negotiate those tricky turns that are completely different, plays heavily in the success factor. It’s also really important to achieve the high speeds necessary to run right against the wall and carry the momentum down the straightaways.

“Our General Motors engineers have been working closely with our Chevy teams’ engineers and chassis and handling specialists to provide the teams with important data as they work on those set-ups for Saturday night’s race. We also work together to ensure the Chevy engines are making maximum horsepower from start to finish.

“Given the new points system this year, delivering a race-winning performance at every track is critical. With 38 victories and 19 poles for Chevrolet drivers at this track, we are looking forward to continuing our winning ways there this weekend.

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: / ASP Inc.

“Racing under the lights at Darlington is not only a NASCAR fan favorite, but a favorite for us every year.”


JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – 2ND IN STANDINGS: “With Darlington being a one-time race, it's tough to know how to unload. I was just in some team meetings at Hendrick Motor Sports, and drivers, crew chiefs were all present, and we're trying to figure out what we go back with. When we raced there last year, our cars were completely different; technology has changed so the setups are different. The tire that we're running on is different. We don't really know what to show up with, and with the practice sessions like they are now and the four sets of tires that we get, there's not a clear strategy going into the weekend what to do. This is obviously a very special Mother's Day for my family with it being Chani's first Mother's Day. Obviously my mom has done so much for myself over the years and has really raised her boys right. It's always good to do something nice for her and be able to celebrate that with her. It's just going to be an awesome day."

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY SUGAR-FREE/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 4TH IN STANDINGS: “Darlington is a slick track. It is a difficult track to drive around. It is real smooth, and you have to find that edge. There is a lot of load change like driving into Turn 1 and then the load comes out of the car through the center and then the load increases on the exit of Turn 2. The car just really changes a lot as you are going around the corner, and it can just snap on you.”

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – 5TH IN STANDINGS: “The track was originally not designed for the cars to be running as fast as they are today. The track’s very narrow and you carry a lot of speed. From a driver’s standpoint, it’s very challenging just to keep the car off the wall, but it’s also a lot of fun to drive, too. 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 to 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 and really (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. 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. It’d be pretty awesome [to win at Darlington] 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 to. We’ve been close at Darlington, but we’ve just got to put that check in the right box.”

CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 BB&T CHEVROLET – 7TH IN STANDINGS: “She (Darlington Raceway) has definitely been kind of a love/hate relationship with me. We have run well there and have also struggled. We have good car, but just can’t get everything put together for a solid finish. Hopefully we can capitalize on that this year. We really need a good run there. In the past, the month of May hasn’t been really good to this team and Darlington is a big part of that. When I first came here, we didn’t always have the best package. Until last year when we were good and I just flat out wrecked it. We had a good car off the trailer and I wrecked it in practice. Then during the race, we suffered a brake problem. I think it was a brake line or something broke and we had to pit twice under green-flag conditions during the race. You know, it was just on those bad races, a bad weekend overall. You can’t afford to have those anymore. It’s so important to be solid week-in and week-out. If we want to be a championship contender, which I think we are, you can’t have those 32nd-place finishes on your resume. You need consistently and wins.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – 8TH IN STANDINGS: “I look forward to Darlington. It’s one of my favorite race tracks. The tire test was a good tire test. Just for us, when we went down there, was to validate what they had and make sure because of the situation with the asphalt that the track hasn’t changed that necessitated a tire change and it didn’t. So it was an opportunity to do down there and validate things for Goodyear and work on our race car at the same time.”

Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day.

Tony Stewart

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET 10TH IN STANDINGS: “[The prestige of getting a win at Darlington] “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 Pearson and 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.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 12TH IN STANDINGS: “I think Darlington’s a cool place. It’s always very tricky, but it’s fun. I think it is the hardest race track to get onto the pit lane. Leaving is not so bad, but I think it’s the hardest place to get into the pit lane. Darlington is a track where people learn to give and take because if you try to go side-by-side into turn one then the guy on the outside is usually going to hit the fence. We’re looking for a clean race and a good finish for the Target team going into this weekend.”

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 CARQUEST/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – 13TH IN STANDINGS: “Darlington is known as one of the tougher tracks on the circuit. All the drivers like it because it’s a track that really puts the race into the driver’s hands. It’s intense for sure. I’m a driver that likes to slide my car all around the race track, but that’s impossible at Darlington. If you slide at all, you’re going to end up in the wall for sure. I really have to work on my driving style for this race and Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys will really have to work on a setup that gives me the best of both worlds. It’s tough. It’s only a two-day weekend but it’s a grueling one. It’s the kind of challenge that I look forward to.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 TURTLE WAX/MENARDS CHEVROLET – 15TH IN STANDINGS: “They will probably have to rename it now [the Track Too Tough to Tame]. Since it was repaved, it’s a totally different race track. The old surface had no grip at all; the tires would wear out in a couple laps and you would slide everywhere. Now, you run as fast as you do at the end of the run as you do at the beginning. You still have to run up by the fence which leads to right side damage and the infamous ‘Darlington stripe.’ Driving a foot off the wall, things are still going to happen. It’s not as tough as it used to be, but it’s still pretty tough. Darlington is definitely a throwback race track. You drive into this little town and all you see is this huge race track. It definitely allows you to feel the roots of NASCAR.”

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 16TH IN STANDINGS: “That track can just reach out and bite you so easy and you have to race the track. It’s a one-groove race track typically so it’s not one of those tracks -- it’s just one of those tracks where you can be riding around by yourself and just make the slightest little bobble and you’re in the wall. We’ve seen it just eat up race cars and competitors over the years. It’s just one of those tracks that you have to stay on your toes at all times because it can be a very tough track. It’s not as tough these days as it used to be when the pavement was extremely worn out. You were really on the edge. As the pavement wears each and every year, it starts to get back more and more to the too tough to tame. It’s definitely one of those tracks that challenges your nerves. You have to be really committed. It’s a fast race track, but you have to be really committed to the line that it takes to go fast around there, which is right up next to the wall. You have to be committed to the gas, especially qualifying. To me, you just have to be able to go for it there and then just to get the balance right you have to keep that car on the edge through the corners and then compromise because one and two is totally different than three and four for what it takes to get the car through the corners.”

Mark Martin, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Mark Martin, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 20TH IN STANDINGS: “With no disrespect to any other race track, Daytona is the centerpiece of our sport but, Darlington, to me, has the most historic meaning of anywhere we go. Darlington has changed. It is not the way it was 40 years ago, but, it is the way it was 30 years ago. It still has that character. There are no fluke winners at Darlington. It requires you as a driver to push hard, but penalizes you when you push too hard. You have to be precise. It is a track that people that like to drive race cars like to go to. Some of the race tracks we race on, you are a rider more than a driver. This is the type of place where you can make a difference in the car. When I go there, I look at it as a huge challenge because I know that if I operate at 100 percent of my capability and my car’s capability, we’ll get the best finish we can. If I am at 97 percent, then we’re not. That extra three percent at Darlington gets you something. It did for Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. It is the same race track. I know the suites are cool, but, to me, going there is like stepping back in time and you don’t have all that there. It is just a race track that was built around a pond that is the same way it was then. I think that has some special meaning to it.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 24TH IN STANDINGS: "Darlington has been a good track for me, and a place that I really like to race. We won the pole there last year, ran up front all night and led a lot of laps. I hope that we can back up that effort and improve one spot from our second-place finish in this event last year. Darlington is unlike many of the other tracks that we will race all year. We run so close to the wall there in the corners to carry speed, you just try not to hit too hard when you get that “Darlington Stripe”, that seems to be inevitable.

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET – 29TH IN STANDINGS: "It might be one of the toughest tracks, but Darlington is one of my favorites, dating back to when I raced in the former Busch Series. The past two races have been somewhat encouraging for us with 15th and 17th-place finishes in Talladega and Richmond. It's not where we want to be, but considering what we endured the previous six races our Furniture Row Chevrolet is heading in the right direction. We need to stay patient and get as many points as possible. We have a lot of ground to make up, but I am confident that we'll get it done."

DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 GOLDEN CORRAL CHEVROLET – 32ND IN STANDINGS: "I’m excited to go to Darlington. Our team has a lot of momentum right now, and Darlington has always been one of my favorite tracks because of its history and uniqueness. Everybody has to change driving style to be successful there. You race to not make mistakes on the racetrack instead of racing other people. There will be guys hitting the wall all weekend. You just have to take care of your car all weekend and not get excited to early."

-source: team chevy

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports
Tags childress racing, jeff gordon, jimmie johnson, sprint cup