Making his final start at Darlington Sunday in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET on NBC), Jeff Gordon will attempt to add to his active record of seven wins at the track "Too Tough To Tame."
Gordon ranks third on the all-time Darlington wins list behind NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (9). The active driver with the next-highest total is Jimmie Johnson (3).
The No. 24 Chevrolet driver is currently 15th on the Chase Grid, 52 points above the cutoff line. On the season, he has three top fives, 12 top 10s and three Coors Light Pole Awards.
In Need Of A Win
With two races to go before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Clint Bowyer owns the 16th and final spot on the Chase Grid — a comfortable 35 points ahead of the cutoff line. With Bowyer having such a large points lead, the drivers behind him virtually need to win one of the last two races (Darlington and Richmond) to get into the Chase. Here’s a snapshot of how some notable drivers currently off the Chase Grid have done at Darlington.
Kasey Kahne – Despite having earned four Coors Light Pole Awards at Darlington, Kahne has never won at the 1.366-mile track. In 12 Darlington starts, he has three top fives and four top 10s with a high finish of third (2005). Kahne is no stranger to the pressure of making the Chase though. Winless heading into Atlanta on Labor Day weekend last season, he took the checkered flag in a last-ditch effort to secure his spot in the Chase.
Kyle Larson – Acclaimed as one of the top young drivers in NASCAR, Larson has suffered a bit of a sophomore slump with just one top-five and six top-10 finishes in 2015. That follows a Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign that saw eight top fives and 17 top 10s. In his lone start at Darlington last season, Larson finished eighth.
Austin Dillon – Dillon, who finished 11th in his first-ever start at Darlington last year has showed some speed recently. The 2013 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion challenged for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Michigan three weeks ago, leading 19 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish.
Greg Biffle – Biffle has struggled mightily this season with just three top-10 finishes, but is a proven winner. He has 19 career victories, including two at Darlington. Biffle owns the fifth-best driver rating (105.7) at "The Lady in Black."
Aric Almirola – Almirola won at Daytona last year to qualify for the Chase when he wouldn’t have made it otherwise through points. In three career starts at Darlington, Almirola’s best finish is 19th. On the season, he has one top 10 (Dover).
Harvick eyes repeat
Kevin Harvick’s back.
Back on the track called the "Lady in Black."
Harvick returns to Darlington Raceway as its defending winner attempting to improve upon his run of eight top-two finishes in the 20 starts since his last victory (March 15, 2015 at Phoenix).
In 18 career starts at the South Carolina track, Harvick claims one win, four top fives, seven top 10s and one Coors Light Pole. His Darlington victory last year came from the pole.
Although he only has two wins and the most runner-ups (10) since Bobby Allison’s 1972 total (12), Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in most statistical categories. He ranks first in top fives (17), top 10s (21), average finish (7.5), average running position (7.5), fastest laps (923), laps led (1,406) and driver rating (119.7).
Elliott makes final Sprint Cup start Of 2015
Defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott will compete in his fifth and final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season Sunday. The 19-year-old Chevrolet driver is running a partial NSCS schedule this year as he prepares to take over for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 car next year.
Elliott’s results in his first four NSCS races: Martinsville (38), Charlotte (18), Richmond (16), Indianapolis (18).
Last season, Elliott won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Darlington in his first-ever appearance at the track.
Two to go until Chase
Drivers have just two races left to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Darlington and Richmond.
As of now, 11 drivers are qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs with wins as long as they start the next two races and remain in the top 30 in points: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
The five remaining drivers on the Chase Grid have to either visit Victory Lane or stay high enough in the points standings where they don’t get bumped by a new winner outside the top 16.
These drivers are Jamie McMurray (76 points above the cutoff line), Ryan Newman (+63), Paul Menard (+54), Jeff Gordon (+52) and Clint Bowyer (+35).
The winless drivers who have won at Darlington in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon and Greg Biffle.
The winless drivers who have won at Richmond in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.
For the first time, a winless driver CAN clinch a spot in the Chase. If a repeat driver wins at Darlington, a winless driver would need to have a 45 point lead on the fifth-highest of the winless drivers (or 44 points, depending on tie-breakers). If there is a new winner, a winless driver would need to lead the fourth-highest winless driver by 45 points (or 44, depending on tie-breakers).
History Lesson: Nod to the greats
The concept of a "throwback weekend" could not become a reality without cars that look the part. To that end, a majority of teams are adopting retro paint schemes this weekend with classic designs and logos.
Here’s a look at some of the paint schemes that pay homage to cars from years past.
Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford
The Miller High Life scheme is a throwback to NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison’s 1983 championship season.
Austin Dillon – No. 3 American Ethanol Ford
Dillon’s colors this week honor grandfather – and team owner – Richard Childress, who started 285 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as a driver.
Kasey Kahne – No. 5 HendrickRideAlong.com Chevrolet
The No. 5 paint scheme honors the No. 5 All-Star Racing Chevrolet driven by Geoffrey Bodine in 1984, Rick Hendrick’s first year in NASCAR.
Trevor Bayne – No. 6 AdvoCare Ford
Bayne’s car is a tribute to the 1998 No. 6 Ford driven by Mark Martin to a career-high seven wins.
Sam Hornish Jr. – No. 9 Winn Dixie Ford
Winn Dixie joins Hornish with a scheme reminiscent of the one Mark Martin drove to Victory Lane 39 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota
The red-and-white paint scheme is similar to the No. 11 driven by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough in the 1970s.
Clint Bowyer – No. 15 Buddy Baker Tribute Toyota
This hand-painted scheme is the same as the No. 15 driven by Buddy Baker in 1974.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 17 Cargill Ford
The No. 17 is a replica of the No. 17 driven by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson for Holman-Moody from 1968-71, when he won two of his three championships.
Jeb Burton – No. 23 Estes Toyota
Burton’s paint scheme honors the colors his father Ward drove to victory in the 2001 Southern 500 and 2002 Daytona 500.
Chase Elliott – No. 25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
The design of the No. 25 honors Elliott’s NASCAR Hall of Fame dad, Bill, and the car in which he won the Winston Million in 1985.
Josh Wise – No. 32 Corvetteparts.net Ford
Wise will run the paint scheme used by Ricky Craven when he beat Kurt Busch in the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington in the closest race in NASCAR history. It was also the last time the No. 32 visited Victory Lane.
Landon Cassill – No. 40 #Snap Honor Chevrolet
Sterling Marlin ran this "Proud to be an American" paint scheme in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
Kurt Busch – No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet
Busch honors car owner Gene Haas’ first paint scheme, with driver Jack Sprague in 2002.
Kyle Larson – No. 42 Mello Yello Chevrolet
The iconic Mello Yello paint scheme was originally featured in "Days of Thunder" and later run by Kyle Petty.
Aric Almirola – No. 43 STP Ford
Almirola’s sponsor and colors honor boss Richard Petty, and his 1972 Plymouth – the first year of the historic pairing.
Justin Allgaier – No. 51 Brandt Chevrolet
Allgaier’s red paint scheme is a nod to racing legend A.J. Foyt’s car driven in the 1970s.
David Ragan – No. 55 Ol’ Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Ragan is honoring his father Ken with a paint scheme he raced in 1987.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet
The Valvoline paint scheme honors one driven by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough in the early 1980s, including his 1982 Southern 500 win.
Click here for a photo gallery of the original paint schemes.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
Final round culminates at Darlington
Largely consider a success amongst the competitors, the fourth and final round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program will be held this Saturday, Sept. 5 at Darlington Raceway in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 (NBC at 2:30 p.m.). The four drivers competing for the final $100,000 cash bonus in the Dash 4 Cash finale are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez, Richard Childress Racing teammates Brian Scott and Ty Dillon, and JR Motorsports driver and 2014 series champion Chase Elliott.
Elliott is the defending winner of last season’s race at Darlington and is still looking for his first victory this season.
Scott has made six series starts at Darlington posting one top 10 and an average finish of 17.7. His best finish at Darlington in the NXS was seventh in 2012.
Dillon has made two starts at Darlington posting a best finish of 10th last season.
Suarez’s will make his series track debut at Darlington Raceway.
There’s also a special program attached to this one race: One fan will be randomly paired with each of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers. Whichever driver wins the D4C bonus, that accompanying fan will also with $100,000 from XFINITY. The four fans who won the sweepstakes to participate: Desiree Amadeo from Lunenburg, Mass.; Kurt Kolstad from Alexandria, Minn.; Catherine Sanders from New Braunfels, Texas; Daniel Clifford from Hauppauge, New York.
Teams grab paint schemes for throwback weekend
Several of the NASCAR XFINITY Series teams have opted to go with throwback-themed paint schemes this weekend at Darlington Raceway. One such example is Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford team, who happens to be leading the NASCAR XFINITY Series car owner standings by 86 points over its nearest competitor.
Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford will have a new paint scheme that will be an ode to the famed Hertz / Shelby GT350H "Rent-A-Racer" program from the 1960s, and will feature a black scheme with gold racing stripes.
Driver Joey Logano will pilot the fashionably decorated Ford this weekend. Logano has made four starts at Darlington, posting one win (2012), three top fives and an average finish of 5.5.
"I’m pretty excited to run this special Hertz paint scheme," said Logano, a four-time NASCAR XFINITY Series winner this season. "Anytime you can get behind the wheel of a car that has a new look to it, people take notice."
Elliott returns for another dance
Leaping to second in the series standings following his ninth top five of the season last weekend, Chase Elliott heads back to Darlington Raceway, famously known as ‘The Lady In Black’ for a repeat dance for which Elliott intends to result in another victory.
Elliott’s performance last season was career defining. It was his second consecutive win of his 2014 rookie season, and he outraced some of the best in the business throughout the day ultimately passing veteran Elliott Sadler on the final lap, much to his chagrin. The win confirmed Elliott’s driving prowess and set the course for what resulted in a championship year for the 19 year old.
This season, Elliott rests 16 points behind series standings leader Chris Buescher, but is still looking for his first victory of 2015. In 23 starts, he has posted nine top fives and a series leading 19 top 10s. His average finish this season is an 8.9 – third-best among championship contenders.
Expect Elliott to continue to close on Buescher in the points over the next five tracks (Darlington, Richmond, Chicago, Kentucky and Dover) because Elliott (5.3) has better combined average finish at those venues than Buescher (12.0).
RFR’s Buescher righting the ship
For the third consecutive race, Roush Fenway Racing driver Chris Buescher’s NASCAR XFINITY Series points lead has dwindled. Buescher now holds a 16-point lead over second-place Chase Elliott and 19 points over third-place Ty Dillon. This weekend the 22-year-old series standings leader needs to right the ship for the final stretch of the season.
Buescher’s performance at Darlington last season determined purely by start and finish would be misleading. The pilot of the No. 60 Ford started sixth and ran in the top 10 for the first 60 laps until he was caught in a multi-car accident relegating him several laps down and causing him to finish 34th.
This weekend, look for Buescher to rebound from his 2014 Darlington performance. In the first 23 races of last season, Buescher finished outside the top 15 in five races (excluding Darlington) at those same tracks (Bristol, Texas, Road America, Kentucky and Watkins Glen) this season he has posted a positive place differential, bettering his finish in comparison to last year on average by 14.6 positions.
Dillon still in championship hunt
Despite dropping to third in the standings following his seventh consecutive top-10 finish, Ty Dillon is still right in the thick of the championship hunt with 10 races to go.
Dillon is 19 points behind series standings leader Chris Buescher and just three points behind second-place Chase Elliott.
Dillon heads to Darlington for the third time in his career this weekend. Dillon’s previous two starts saw one top 10 and an average finish of 11.5 at the famed 1.37-mile track.
Dillon’s 19-point deficit is not insurmountable. In 2012, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 19 points back from the standings leader following the 23rd race of the season and came back to win the title that year.
Wallace displays skills at Road America
Darrell Wallace Jr. tied his best finish of the season (fifth) this past weekend at Road America and closed the gap between himself and Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings leader Daniel Suarez to 20 points.
Wallace has posted two top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 12.3 in 2015.
This will be both Wallace and Suarez’s series track debut at Darlington Raceway this weekend.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.
Big Name Stars To Watch – This weekend at Darlington Raceway there will be several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars competing in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 – Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and last weekend’s Road America winner Paul Menard.
NASCAR XFINITY Series in South Carolina – The NASCAR XFINITY Series has run 69 races among three tracks (Darlington Raceway 54, Rambi Race Track 13 and Greenville-Pickens Speedway 2) in the state of South Carolina. The first NASCAR XFINITY Series race in South Carolina was at Darlington Raceway in 1982 and the event was won by Geoff Bodine (Pontiac, 129.018 mph).
South Carolina Drivers – A total of 133 drivers that have competed in a NASCAR national series race have their home state recorded as South Carolina. Of the 133 South Carolina drivers, 27 have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Of the 27 South Carolina drivers that have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series only four have won on the circuit – Larry Pearson (15 wins), Jason Keller (10), Butch Lindley (6) and NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson (1). Of the four, only Larry Pearson has won at Darlington (1995) in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK Series
Jones leads points race
Erik Jones shook the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings like a polaroid picture, vaulting from third to first after his win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last Sunday. He holds a three-point lead over Matt Crafton who remained second with a runner-up finish in the Great White North. Tyler Reddick – the standings leader entering the race – fell to third after a 19th-place showing and is 15 points behind Jones. There are eight races left for the championship clash to play out.
Jones’ victory at CTMP continued the streak of NASCAR Next members/alumni winning there. Chase Elliott won the inaugural Truck race at CTMP in 2013 and Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag there last year.
Erik Jones, Loop Monster
For the greater part of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, Erik Jones has dominated the loop statistics. Still, he was not seeing the final results indicated by his gaudy peripheral numbers.
The loop data indicated Jones would likely make a run at the top spot in the NCWTS standings, and now, he’s sitting in first.
Jones leads the NCWTS in average running position (4.4), fastest laps (468), laps led (691) and driver rating (122.8). The 19-year-old Michigan native also tops the charts in average start (3.8) and average finish (6.2).
In comparison, Matt Crafton ranks second to Jones in all of the aforementioned categories: average running position (6.3), fastest laps (345), laps led (461), driver rating (114.0), average start (7.5) and average finish (6.6, tied with Tyler Reddick).
Hemric Posts fifth straight
Another top-10 finish for Daniel Hemric.
The No. 14 NTS Motorsports driver placed fourth at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday, tying his career best finish set last week at Bristol and in May at Dover.
Hemric has posted five straight top-10 finishes, a streak which includes three top fives. He has registered a top-10 result in nine of his last 10 races.
Hemric ranks fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, 35 points behind Johnny Sauter for fourth and 90 points behind Erik Jones for the lead.
Kennedy rides momentum
Ben Kennedy tied his career-best finish by placing third in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Kennedy also posted a third-place result in February at Atlanta and in March 2014 at Martinsville. The No. 11 Red Horse Racing driver and 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year ranks 10th in the point standings.
"This is awesome for our team," said Kennedy after the race. "It’s a big momentum shift for us and hopefully we can carry it on to Chicagoland (Speedway)."
Strong showing for Canadians
Canadians Alex Tagliani (Montreal, Quebec) and Cameron Hayley (Calgary, Alberta) got the chance to race in their native country and did not disappoint the hometown crowd. Tagliani led eight laps and finished fifth, while Hayley led 13 laps and placed seventh.
"It was great leading laps in front of my hometown crowd," Hayley said. "I love racing in Canada, and the support I had all weekend from the great fans up here was fantastic."
Tagliani is not scheduled to run in another NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race this season, but Hayley is a regular on the circuit. A NASCAR Next alumnus, Hayley ranks sixth in the NCWTS points race and third in the NCWTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. In 15 starts this season, he has three top-five and eight top-10 finishes.