* Loop Data Likes Kenseth At "The Lady In Black" * Mother's Day Tradition Started With Braun Racing Associate Sponsor ...
* Loop Data Likes Kenseth At "The Lady In Black"
* Mother's Day Tradition Started With Braun Racing Associate Sponsor
#@In The Loop: Recent Results Show Kenseth Is The One To Watch At Darlington
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Dish Network Ford) is one driver who will relish the last NASCAR Busch Series race at Darlington Raceway before the historic track gets resurfaced.
Kenseth has been brilliant at the South Carolina mainstay, grabbing a win in 2005 and a runner-up finish last season. He already has two wins this season and almost picked up a second at Richmond International Raceway last Friday night.
This weekend, if recent history is any indication, look for Kenseth to make a charge during the Diamond Hill Plywood 200.
Kenseth has by far the best pre-race Driver Rating at Darlington -- 131.7. The second-best Driver Rating belongs to Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) at 117.1.
His Average Running Position is 4.296, which is second-best in the series, but tops among those drivers who have run each of the past two races at Darlington.
Kenseth also has the most Fastest Laps Run (37), the fastest Speed in Traffic, the third-most Laps in the Top 15 (268) and the second-fastest Green Flag Speed.
With a win in last year's race at Darlington, Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) is another driver to watch. Hamlin, who earned a 128.1 Driver Rating in his win last year at Darlington, has an average Driver Rating of 110.9 (sixth-best).
Hamlin's Average Running Position of 6.558 is third-best of any driver who has run in each of the last two races here. His 294 Laps in the Top 15 are most of any driver.
Then there's the all-time NASCAR Busch Series leader in wins and poles, Mark Martin, who will drive for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Martin has run two NASCAR Busch Series races this season -- finishing fifth and 12th, respectively, in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford -- and amassed impressive numbers in his series start at Darlington last season.
In his fourth-place finish, Martin had an Average Running Position of 6.429, a Driver Rating of 111.1 and 13 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions).
Twice As Nice: For Shane Huffman (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet), things are better in twos. The JR Motorsports team will be taking chassis No. 022 to Darlington. It's been run twice thus far in 2007 and Huffman posted two top-10 finishes in it.
Sponsor Helped Start Mother's Day: Braun Racing drivers Dave Blaney (No. 10 Camping World Toyota) and Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) will sport associate sponsorship from the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) this weekend. An idea by a member of that group over 100 years ago led to Mother's Day. Frank Hering had the idea for a special day that would provide formal recognition for mothers. In 1904, he verbalized publicly his idea of a "national day of honor for Mothers" but it would take 10 years for it to become a reality. Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1914, requesting a presidential proclamation making the second Sunday in May Mother's Day throughout the country. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 10, 1914 the first official Mother's Day.
Big Week For Owen: Keeping with the Braun Racing Mother's Day theme, Trent Owen, Blaney's crew chief and nephew of the great Richard Petty, is preparing to become a father for the second time. His wife is scheduled to give birth to a boy on May 8th. It adds to the big weekend for Owen, who is from Darlington, S.C. This is his first fulltime season as crew chief, but he also acted as crew chief last year for Blaney for seven races, including the fall race at Lowe's Motor Speedway where both got their first series win.
Final Test Of Season Upcoming: The NASCAR Busch Series will have an open week next weekend before resuming racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 26, but the series' last of four scheduled test sessions for 2007 will be held at Lowe's May 14-15. The test will be the second on a 1.5-mile track -- teams tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in early February. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will also be testing the Car of Tomorrow at Dover International Speedway those same days.
Bowyer Makes Big Leap: Clint Bowyer (No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet) collected his second win in the last three races with his victory at Richmond last Friday night. The win allowed him to make a 10-place jump in the points to 15th; he's now 77 points out of 10th place. Standings leader Carl Edwards (No. 60 Scotts Ford) finished 13th at Richmond, the first time this season he did not register a top-10 finish. The Director's Take: Darlington
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT DARLINGTON: FROM JOE BALASH, NASCAR BUSCH SERIES DIRECTOR
"Darlington is an egg-shaped track. Because of the differences in its shape as opposed to an oval, teams will have to compromise on their setups. If both ends are identical, you're setting the car up for one type of track.
"But here, teams and crews will try to get a balance on the car based upon the differences on both ends of the race track. You may see some cars handle better in Turns 1 and 2 as opposed to Turns 3 and 4.
"The teams that are able to capitalize and nail the set up should be those competing for the win."
Rookie Spotlight: Ragan Takes Slight Edge Over Montoya To Darlington
* Ragan Rules: David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford) has maintained his lead in the NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie standings for the second week in succession but it's precarious at best as the series heads to Darlington. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) is second, just one point behind Ragan. The largest lead between first and second was six points following Bristol.
* Montoya Surging: Ragan hasn't given any quarter to Montoya as far as his slim lead is concerned, but the Colombian star has been slightly better over the last couple of races to creep closer to the top spot. Ragan had a 35th-place finish at Phoenix three races ago, rebounded with a fourth at Talladega and had a respectable 14th last Friday at Richmond. Montoya, however, has been a tick more consistent, bettering Ragan with a 21st at Phoenix, a seventh at Talladega and an 11th at Richmond, his best back-to-back finishes of the year.
* Santos With The Program: Bobby Santos made his series debut and his debut in the Raybestos Rookie program last week at Richmond. He sat on the provisional pole for a length of time before being bumped to seventh on the starting grid. He finished 30th for the Bill Davis Racing/Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports effort.
Ford Can Make Up Ground At Darlington
With its win last Friday night at Richmond courtesy of Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet has put together the first three-race winning streak of the season and in the process has been able to build a 10-point distance between its first-place ranking and that of second-place Ford in the Bill France Performance Cup standings.
The two manufacturers are beginning to pull away from third-place Dodge and fourth-place Toyota; however, they remain separated by only four points heading to Darlington.
Ford should be favored to make up some ground this week if its performance at Darlington is any indication. Ford has 16 wins at the "Lady in Black," most of any manufacturer and from 1999-2002, won seven consecutive races. Ford has also won two of the last three series races at Darlington.
But Chevy captured this race last year while Dodge had a win in 2004, giving three different manufacturers wins in the last three races at the track.
The Race: Diamond Hill Plywood 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: May 11, 20071
The Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN2, 8:00 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval
Race Purse: $1,088,013
2006 Winner: Denny Hamlin
2006 Pole: Denny Hamlin
Schedule: Thur., May 10 -- 3:30 -- 4:10 p.m., Rookie Practice; 4:20 -- 5:20 p.m., Practice, 6:30 -- 7:30 p.m., Practice; Fri., May 11 -- Qualifying 5:05 p.m. (Impound).