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NASCAR

Jeff Gordon Needs to Get Back to His Winning Ways at Darlington Raceway

To say that Jeff Gordon is not having the year he intended in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing is a major understatement.  With only two finishes in the top ten so far this year and six finishes worse than 20th.  He is 23rd in points and unless Jeff Gordon wins a bunch of races he will miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the second time in his career. Last week’s race at Talladega was typical of his year so far.  He got caught up in a crash and ended the race early finishing 33rd.  This week he must begin turning his season around.  This week NASCAR returns to the “Lady in Black”, Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

The Darlington Raceway is one of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit that is not like any of the other tracks.  No cookie cutter track this weekend.  The Darlington Raceway is almost a true oval track except turns 1 and 2 are wide and sweeping, where turns 3 and 4 are tight like a true oval.  There is 25 degrees of banking in turns 1 and 2 and 23 degrees of banking in turns 3 and 4.  The front and back stretch has 6 degrees of banking.  Drivers and their crews will be working hard during practice to get their cars to be fast at both ends of the race track.  Since each end is so different they will not get their cars perfect.  Some cars will be really good in turns 1 and 2 while others will be good in turns 3 and 4.  The track is 1.366 miles in length and the race is 367 laps.

The Darlington Raceway has been known in the past for being very hard on tires.  Since the track was repaved before the 2008 season tires have not been as much of a problem but tire strategy will still be important.

This is the last race for a driver to win and qualify for the All-Star Race.  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton and AJ Allmendinger all need to win to qualify.  If they don’t they would need to win the fan vote.

Jeff Gordon needs to gain ground in the standings in order to have a chance at making the chase.  His best chance would be to get multiple wins, get into the top 20 and get in with a wild card spot. This track should favor him in that endeavor as he is the top rated driver here with a Driver Rating of 116.2. The next highest rated driver is our current points leader Greg Biffle with a rating of 109.7.  That is a big difference.  Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in wins here with seven.  Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson have won twice here.  Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 races at Darlington, more than any other organization.

This week might be the week for Jeff Gordon to get back to the winners circle and get Hendrick Motorsports their 200th. win.

If you can’t make it to the track watch it Saturday night on Fox at 6:30 PM ET.  Let us know who you think will win by ranting below.

Brian Berg Jr. is  the Lead NASCAR writer for RantSports.com

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Don’t forget NASCAR Day on May 18th.

Top 12 Driver Rating at Darlington

Jeff Gordon………………………… 116.2
Greg Biffle………………………….. 109.7
Denny Hamlin………………………. 108.3
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 100.6
Ryan Newman……………………… 100.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 99.6
Kasey Kahne………………………… 96.7
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 92.5
Carl Edwards………………………… 92.4
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 91.5
Tony Stewart…………………………. 88.1
Brad Keselowski……………………. 87.3

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Darlington