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Published on May 5th, 2011 | by Shannon Baxter

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The Showtime Southern 500 At Darlington: Preview

Coming off his second win of the year at Richmond, Kyle Busch would love to get his third win of the season at Darlington.  With one win at Darlington and three top 10’s, that could very well happen.  His win at Richmond Saturday night moved him to third in points, just 30 points behind leader Carl Edwards. Kyle Busch was also third in points coming to Darlington in 2010.  With the exception of Las Vegas Motor Speedway (engine troubles) and Talladega Superspeedway (accident), the No. 18 team has been in contention to win every race this year.

The 2010 Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington was the last race of that season for Brian Vickers. Suffering blood clots, he was forced to give up his ride.  Missing 25 races last year, Vickers said that being out of the car revived his passion for racing.  “It definitely strengthened my conviction, my drive for racing,” he said.  With only one career top 10 finish at Darlington, Vickers is hoping to turn his luck around and get a top 5 for his Red Bull Racing team.  Vickers has posted three top 10 finishes this year, and sits 26th in the Sprint Cup points standings.

Earlier this week, four members of Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 56 team were replaced.  Having a loose wheel at Richmond caused the team to finish two laps down in 27th place, after leading 11 laps and having a solid top 5 car all night.  “If the job is not getting done, then a change needs to be made”, said Martin Truex Jr.  Truex has one career top 10 at Darlington and one top 10 so far this season.

Carl Edwards is currently leading the Sprint Cup points standings with five-time champ Jimmie Johnson a close second.  Edwards has never won at Darlington. He has an average finish of 15th.  Johnson on the other hand has two Darlington wins and an average of finish of ninth.

Will Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team take the points lead at Darlington?  Not if Denny Hamlin has anything to say about it. While Hamlin has only two top 10 finishes this year, he usually runs well at intermediate tracks. Hamlin needs his luck to turn around this weekend. Sitting 17th in points, Hamlin would surely love to gain points on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch.

To finish first and tame The Lady in Black, a driver must first finish.  Stamina will play a big factor in the race.  Being a 500 mile race with the temperature being in the mid 80’s, Darlington is going to be a very hot and long race.  Passing at Darlington is difficult, so it will be up to the crew chiefs to determine whether they pit for tires or keep track position. I’m sure we will see many strategies during the race.

Last but not least, drivers will have to contend with the famous Darlington stripe.  The closer to the wall the driver is, the faster he will go around the egg-shaped track. The driver who pulls into victory lane will surely have a signature Darlington stripe.

Who do you think will tame The Lady in Black?

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