BUSCH: Darlington: Round 12 preview

* Two-time series champion Larry Pearson returns to family's favorite track DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 9, 2006) -- As the NASCAR Busch Series celebrates its 25th season in 2006, it's only fitting that Darlington Raceway -- NASCAR's oldest ...

* Two-time series champion Larry Pearson returns to family's favorite track

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 9, 2006) -- As the NASCAR Busch Series celebrates its 25th season in 2006, it's only fitting that Darlington Raceway -- NASCAR's oldest superspeedway -- puts out the welcome mat. The track is one of only seven to host series events since 1982 and this weekend is perfect timing for a reunion between the historic venue and a Spartanburg, S.C., racing family.

Larry Pearson, a two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion (1986-87), is returning to the egg-shaped track to visit his brother Ricky, the crew chief for Tim Sauter's No. 36 Lester Buildings Chevrolet. Ricky also has two series championship rings, having served as crew chief for his brother's title runs in the No. 21 Chevrolet-Pontiac combination.

The owner of that team? Their father, one of NASCAR's all-time greats and three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion David Pearson, who had a short but successful history in the NASCAR Busch Series.

"Darlington's one of my favorite, if not the favorite track, I really liked," Larry said in February at Daytona International Speedway where he and three other former NASCAR Busch Series champions gathered to kick off the 25th season.

"I only won one race there, but still that remains as my favorite. Strictly from the traditional (aspect), the Darlington races, I mean, the track's been there since 1950."

Larry Pearson competed in 18 races at Darlington and registered three top fives, nine top 10s and two Busch Poles to go along with his win in the spring race in 1995. He came back to win from the 36th starting position, the worst starting spot for a NASCAR Busch Series winner at Darlington.

His father ran in only six NASCAR Busch Series races, five of those in the inaugural 1982 season. He finished third in the first series race held at Darlington on April 3, one of four top-five finishes including a win at Rockingham later that season. He also posted four top-10 finishes and captured three Busch Poles in those six races.

"The best (driver) I possibly ever saw, and probably still think, is David Pearson," said Jack Ingram, the series' first champion. David Pearson bested Ingram in four of those six races, including the 1982 Darlington event where Ingram finished fourth.

Today, Larry Pearson is still driving, but his vehicle of choice isn't a stock car. He owns a company that teaches driver's education to high school students.

"I do miss it," he said of his NASCAR Busch Series career. "I miss it a lot. I miss seeing different people, different friends. I miss the competition of it. [But] I enjoy the heck out of [teaching driver's education.] I love kids. Me and the little teenagers I teach, we have a blast. It's a lot of fun. That's helped me get over not driving race cars."


Harvick stays hot; pads points lead ... Kevin Harvick (No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet) won his third race in his last four outings last Friday night at Richmond. The win kept his points lead at a comfortable cushion over Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet). There are just three races left before the NASCAR Busch Series stand-alone portion of the schedule begins. Harvick is one of seven drivers attempting to run a full season in both the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, so his 313-point lead over Bowyer is a luxury considering the possible roadblocks that lie ahead with travel, mainly due to the unpredictable summer weather. A missed race at Nashville last June due to a rain postponement arguably cost Carl Edwards (No. 60 Henkel Ford) the title. Harvick hasn't run at Darlington since 2004, and has one top five and three top 10s in seven career NASCAR Busch Series races at the track. Menard, Sauter, Wood keeping pace ... Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) comes to Darlington fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, not only his highest ranking of the season but the best of his 79-race career. He was in 13th place in the points as recently as six races ago. Menard's rise has been punctuated by four top-10 finishes in his last five races. After a slow start to the year, Johnny Sauter (No. 00 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) now stands ninth in the points. He has been in the top 10 for five of the last six weeks and has improved his standing after each of the last three races. Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/American Red Cross Ford) is 10th, and has held a top-10 position in the points in all but one week this season. Menard's best Darlington finish came in the fall race in 2004 when he was 12th. Sauter's best finish was fifth in the spring 2003 race while Wood had a forgettable 35th-place finish in his first series start at the track last spring. Sorenson grateful for Mom's support ... Just two years removed from ASA and ARCA competition since his rise in NASCAR, 20-year-old Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) is quick to point out how influential his mother, Becky, has been as Mother's Day weekend approaches. "My mom took care of a lot of the business side of my racing career," Sorenson said. "She did all that stuff and worked for my dad (Brad), too. Dad and I joked sometimes that she liked racing so much that she liked it even more than we did." Becky Sorenson agreed. "It has been fun watching him grow up through the years and every series he competed in was always very family-oriented, so it made it a great experience for all of us [including daughter Ashley]," she said. "I don't know if you can ever really pay your parents back," Sorenson said. "There is probably nothing you could ever do to match what they did for 15 years when I was growing up racing. A lot of money was spent and time taken to help me through it all. I definitely will never forget everything they did and still do for me." Season's final scheduled test at LMS .... Nearly 50 NASCAR Busch Series teams were scheduled to participate in the fourth and final scheduled test of the season this week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This year, NASCAR set a schedule for when and where each of its national series tests at tracks that host NASCAR events. Those tests are the teams' only opportunities to test at those tracks. LMS is one of four tracks -- and the second of two 1.5-mile tracks -- that series teams can utilize for tests this season. Daytona International Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway already have hosted tests. Teams select two of the three available days to test. Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ameriquest Ford) was the fastest in the Tuesday's opening afternoon session with a speed of 185.542 mph (29.104 seconds). Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) posted the day's fast time with a lap of 29.012 seconds (186.130). Testing concludes Wednesday night. This Week's NASCAR Busch Series Leaders ... Through 11 races of the 35-race season: • Driver points leader -- Kevin Harvick (1,799) • Closing in on Top 10 (Jon Wood 10th -- 1,192 points) -- Jason Leffler (-4), Burney Lamar (-25), Reed Sorenson (-39) • Owner points leader -- Richard Childress (No. 21) -- (1,808) • Money won -- Kevin Harvick ($467,475) • Laps led -- Kevin Harvick (407) • Miles led -- Kevin Harvick (523.58) • Victories -- Kevin Harvick (3) • Busch Poles -- Denny Hamlin, Jason Leffler, J.J. Yeley (2) • Top-five finishes -- Kevin Harvick (8) • Top-10 finishes -- Kevin Harvick (10) • Raybestos Rookie Leader -- Burney Lamar (+20 over John Andretti) • Races led --Kevin Harvick (7) • Weeks in Top 10 -- Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, J.J. Yeley (11) IN THE LOOP: Wallace ready for Lady in Black... Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) is 14th in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings heading to Darlington, and could be a factor Friday night, according to NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics. Wallace, who finished second in last year's race, was first in Average Running Position one year ago (3.082) and second to race winner Matt Kenseth in Driver Rating (125.7) Kenseth posted a 127.9 Driver Rating. Wallace was second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run at the egg-shaped oval (159.217 mph) and was 10th among the Fastest Drivers by Straightaway (158.999) on the frontstretch and fourth on the backstretch (170.447). He was fastest in Turn One (152.632), third-fast in Turn Two (155.451) and seventh-fast on Turns Three and Four (136.224). He was best on restarts (158.680) in an event that saw six cautions last year and was tied for 10th in Quality Passes with nine. For the complete Loop Data statistics report and a glossary of category terms, go to www.nascarmedia.com. ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Mark Martin (No. 6 Ameriquest Ford), the NASCAR Busch Series' all-time leader in wins (47), captured eight of those victories at Darlington, the most of any driver. Martin, who is tied with Tommy Ellis for the all-time lead in Busch Poles with 28, has eight starts from the pole at Darlington, also first. Martin has 12 top fives and 16 top 10s in his 26 career races there (tied for third in series history). Martin also has led the most laps (972). ... Last year's race winner, Matt Kenseth, has the best average finish among drivers who have started at least five races -- 4.6. Kenseth has started 11.


Chevrolet has eight wins and 84 points following Kevin Harvick's win at Richmond last Friday, building on its lead in the Bill France Performance Cup Standings. Ford has moved into second place with 63 points and has one win this season. Dodge is third by one point (62) and has two wins. Chevy has the most NASCAR Busch Series wins at Darlington (13), but hasn't won since sweeping in 2003. ... Two NASCAR Busch Series teams are based in South Carolina -- Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch are in Spartanburg while Johnny Davis Motorsports is in Blacksburg. Kertus Davis, who this week will drive the No. 34 Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly Chevrolet, is from Gaffney, S.C. ... After winning the Busch Pole at Richmond, Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Chevrolet) is tied for the series lead in Busch Poles (two). His 76 laps led last Friday night are the most this season for a series regular.

Mark Martin's appearance at Darlington will be his first in the NASCAR Busch Series at the track since 2000 when he swept both races that season from the Busch Pole. ... Tony Stewart (No. 33 Dollar General Chevrolet) hasn't started a NASCAR Busch series race at Darlington since 1998. ... Todd Kluever (No. 06 3M Ford) will make his first start at Darlington and although he has never raced there, the track will always be special to him since he won his job at Roush Racing by beating nine other drivers at Darlington at the 2004 "Gong Show."


"There isn't a tire that would last at Darlington. I could take my rental car out there and the tires would be gone after 10 laps." -- Kyle Busch (No. 5 Lowe's/Sta-Green Chevrolet). "At that place it seems like every lap you are going to get a Darlington stripe, and when you do it is usually big. The bottom line is that you know there is a good chance of it happening, so you just have to be on top of your game every lap so that when it does happen, you are ready to regain control." -- Clint Bowyer. "He won his first and only ARCA race on Father's Day two years ago, so he owes me." -- Becky Sorenson, mother of Reed Sorenson, on her son racing on Mother's Day weekend. FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES "25 SEASONS RUNNING" ARCHIVES

The fifth NASCAR Busch Series event ever held was known as the TransSouth 200 and took place at Darlington International Raceway on April 3, 1982. The race marked one of only six times David Pearson entered a series event. Pearson was known as the master of Darlington and anticipation was high he would have a good showing there.

Harry Gant took the pole for his first of 14 career top starting spots. The field of 23 cars included Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and his brother Glenn, short-track ace John Anderson and veteran J.D. McDuffie, who also was making one of his rare series starts.

Geoffrey Bodine and Jody Ridley put on a duel for the lead late in the race with Bodine picking up the win. Ridley finished second. Pearson came home third one lap down. Bodine won $8,650 and averaged 129.018 mph for the 200-mile event.


"I can't count out Darlington. It was a challenging, driver's racetrack. In those days, Darlington was turning them away. It was just slam-packed." -- 1990 NASCAR Busch Series champion Chuck Bown on his favorite tracks.

Note: A NASCAR Busch Series "25 Seasons Running" Media Kit CD is available at-track each race weekend and also on-line at nascarmedia.com. A CD can also be obtained by contacting NASCAR PR.


Following an off-week, the NASCAR Busch Series returns on May 27 at Lowe's for the CARQUEST Auto Parts 300. Kyle Busch won last year's race while Kasey Kahne captured the Busch Pole. FX will carry the race beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Fast Facts

What: Diamond Hill Plywood 200 (Race No. 12 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C.

When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Friday, May 12.

Track Layout: 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.

Race Length: 200 miles/147laps.

Posted Awards: $1,068,115.

TV: FX, 8 p.m., ET.

Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2005 Winner: Matt Kenseth.

2005 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson.

2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 1,799. 2. Clint Bowyer 1,486. 3. Carl Edwards 1,417. 4. Denny Hamlin 1,381. 5. Paul Menard 1,359. 6. Kyle Busch 1,340. 7. Greg Biffle 1,314. 8. J.J. Yeley 1,294. 9. Johnny Sauter 1,241. 10. Jon Wood 1,192.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., May 12 -- Practice, 8:30 -- 9:45 a.m.; "Rookie Practice," 9:45 -- 10:15 a.m.; Final Practice 10:30 -11:30 a.m. Qualifying 5:05 p.m. (Impound).

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Geoffrey Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Jon Wood , Tim Sauter , Johnny Sauter , J.J. Yeley , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Kertus Davis , Clint Bowyer , Burney Lamar , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Todd Kluever , John Anderson , Harry Gant , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , David Pearson , J.D. McDuffie
Teams Phoenix Racing