Ride the wave? Be careful
Among the most legendary tracks on the schedule, Darlington Raceway has earned two well-deserved nicknames. "The Lady in Black" is known to leave marks along the sides of the numerous cars that will brush against its walls, outfitted with trademark red and white stripes. The unique egg-shaped layout provides different challenges in each set of turns but does not offer much comparison for fantasy owners looking for a similar track.
Unlike other sites, Darlington requires drivers to race the track while giving and taking with those around them. It is indeed "The Track Too Tough to Tame."
Practice sessions: Friday, April 11 at 11:30 a.m. EDT, 2 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, April 11 at 6:10 p.m. EDT
Race: Saturday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Shape: Egg-shaped oval
Length: 1.366 miles
Turns 1, 2: 25 degrees
Turns 3, 4: 23 degrees
Frontstretch: 6 degrees
Backstretch: 6 degrees
Brian Vickers | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
After several years of sluggish performances at Darlington, Vickers finally put together a top-10 performance back in 2010. After qualifying third, he would spend 94 percent of the race running in the top 15, easily a career best. Vickers started eighth the following year but had the driver side shredded off in a bizarre brush-up with David Ragan. An extended absence from Auto Club Speedway didn't keep Vickers from recording a top-10 there a few weeks ago and shouldn't alter his outlook for Darlington.
Ryan Newman | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
In terms of average finish, Darlington is Newman's third best track and tops among sites where he's yet to record a win. Over the last five years, he's scored the third-most points with The Lady in Black and is one of only two drivers with four top-10s during that span. Newman has now gone four races without a top-10 finish, although bad luck has played a part. While Newman has yet to fully tame Darlington, he's certainly flirted a few times.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 Sports Clips Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Don't let Hamlin's 13th position in points fool you. He's been a threat in several races this season and has been sharp at Darlington. After winning the 2010 race, he finished sixth the following year and has been the runner-up each of the last two seasons. During that time, he's never qualified or held an average running position worse than eighth at the site.
Jamie McMurray | No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet | Chip Ganassi Racing
While the last two seasons haven't been as successful for McMurray at Darlington, he was impressive in the two prior trips. He captured the pole in 2010 and finished as the runner-up after pacing 71 laps as one of only three drivers to run the entire race in the top 15. Jamie Mac added another top-10 in 2011 with 13 laps led. If not for a cut tire last week at Texas Motor Speedway, McMurray likely would own two top-10s in his last three starts.
Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Team Penske
Logano is coming off a victory last week in Texas to give him a fourth top-five finish in seven races this season. He's also led multiple laps in all but one contest thus far. All that said, Logano is just 18th among all active drivers in average running position at Darlington with three finishes outside of the top 20 in five starts. Logano has been a house of fire since the second half of 2013, but you may want to pass at Darlington, pending his practice speeds.
Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Among all tracks on the Cup schedule, Bowyer's worst average finish is at, you guessed it, Darlington. In eight starts he's only recorded one top-10, although he's finished 11th each of the last two years. Bowyer comes in riding his first two top-10s of the season, so there's a chance he can turn this thing around after all. As with Logano, Bowyer needs to show something in practice before earning a start.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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