News & Media


Driver Reports following Aaron's 499

May 06, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

Drivers

Junior up to third, Kahne drops three spots to sixth after accident

1. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Johnson leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 383 points.
Last week: Despite a third-place finish by Carl Edwards, Johnson only saw his points lead over the Roush Fenway driver decrease by two -- thanks to a fifth-place finish of his own. It was his fifth top-five finish and seventh top-10, both of which are tops in the Series.
What he said: "It was obviously a very good day for our Lowe’s Chevrolet. We had a very fast car and I felt like we were a player all day long, and that’s awesome."
This week: In 14 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Johnson has three wins, seven top-fives and 10 top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Johnson ranks fifth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 10.7.
Last year: Johnson’s first win of the year was a historic one for Hendrick Motorsports. The No. 48 Chevrolet, after a handful of near-misses throughout the season, sped away from the pack over a series of late restarts to take the checkered flag and give team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory. The victory added to Five-Time's sparkling resume at “The Lady in Black.”

2. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Edwards is second in the standings with 342 points.
Last week: Edwards was primed to take his second victory of the season before that three-and-a-half hour delay, leading Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as cars pulled into the garage for cover. No driver was less pleased to see blue skies, but it still worked out reasonably well for Edwards. A third-place finish behind two non-Chase contenders might as well be first.
What he said: “That was crazy. I blocked everybody I could. I was doing everything I could. I blocked Matt and I thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got it.’ And then I saw Jimmie coming and I blocked him and I thought, ‘Who is that back there?’.”
This week: In nine career starts at Darlington Raceway, Edwards has three top-fives and six top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Edwards ranks 10th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.8.
Last year: When a late wreck set up a green-white-checkered finish, Carl Edwards was running in the top 10 and had a decision to make. Then-crew chief Bob Osborne called the No. 99 Ford into pit road to take four tires. Edwards, who later said he agreed with the move, lost some ground, but gained back those spots over the final two laps to finish seventh.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is third in the standings with 324 points.
Last week: It has to be a great feeling to finish 17th behind Dave Blaney and then move up a spot to third in the standings.  He’d be even closer to second-place Carl Edwards had he held on late, when he was in the top 10 on a restart with 10 to go.
What he said: “We were on that inside lane and weren’t going forward. We were going backwards. Everybody was going by on the outside, and when it’s three- and four-wide, you can’t really go up. I don’t know.”
This week: In 18 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Earnhardt has three top-fives and seven top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Earnhardt ranks ninth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.6.
Last year: Earnhardt wrestled with a loose car throughout the duration of the race, and he also had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty. But he stayed out of trouble enough to be on the lead lap late -- where he wasn’t early in the race -- and salvaged a 17th-place finish. It was his fourth consecutive year finishing outside of the top 10 at Darlington.

4. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Bowyer is fourth in the standings with 316 points.
Last week: At the midway point of the race, Bowyer was in sixth place, one spot ahead of Edwards. During the rain delay, was quoted on the FOX broadcast as saying. “I'm ready to go back racing or get the hell out of here." Option two would have been better for Bowyer, who was penalized and sent to the end of the crowd on Lap 190 for missing a lugnut. Still, he managed an 18th-place finish out of it.
What he said: “That was not the day we were hoping for. We had a great PEAK Motor Oil Toyota and I thought I waited it out and put myself in position for the win, but I got caught up in the final big mess. I hate that for the PEAK folks – we really wanted to give them a great finish today. I also would have loved a chance there at the end, but this is restrictor plate racing and unfortunately this happens sometimes at the end of a plate race. We’ll be better next weekend in Darlington.”
This week: In seven career starts at Darlington Raceway, Bowyer has one top-10 and one pole. In the past eight years at Darlington, Bowyer ranks 21st out of 49 drivers with an average place of 19.3.
Last year: Down a lap early in the 2012 Bojangles’ Southern 500, Bowyer was the beneficiary following a caution of Lap 176 (of 368) and stayed on the lead lap for the rest of the race. Bowyer, who started 26th, finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place. It was the driver’s best finish at Darlington since 2007. Bowyer acknowledged after the race that Darlington isn’t one of his best tracks, and that he was happy to leave in 11th place.

5. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Penske Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Keselowski is fifth in the standings with 314 points.
Last week: Keselowski was not pleased with his 15th-place finish. That makes two consecutive finishes out of the top-10 for the reigning champion (33rd in the Toyota Owners 400). He did move up a spot to fifth in the standings because of Kasey Kahne’s wreck, but he now trails Jimmie Johnson by 69 points.
This week: In four career starts at Darlington Raceway, Keselowski has one top-five and two top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Keselowski ranks 16th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 16.3.
Last year: Want an example of just how resilient Keselowski and his team were during 2012’s run to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship? Take a look at the Darlington race in which Keselowski, with an ill-handling car, repeatedly brushed the wall and at one point was three laps down. But the driver kept driving, the crew team kept making changes, and eventually Keselowski steered the No. 2 to a 15th-place finish, getting back on the lead lap and gaining 10 spots over the final 100 laps.

6. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Kahne is sixth in the standings with 299 points.
Last week: One day after nearly winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Kahne looked to have a car to challenge for the Sprint Cup victory. But on Lap 44, Kahne, while in second place, attempted to move down the track heading into Turn 1. Kyle Busch was attempting to move up the track, and he bumped Kahne, which triggered a massive crash. The No. 5 Chevrolet was done for the afternoon and, being one of the few crunched cars unable to get back out on the track, finished 42nd.
What he said: “Felt the No. 18 pushing me and next thing I know I was spinning. You just can’t push with these cars. We learned that at Daytona, he was pushing me and spun me in the wall and then happened again, so that is what it is.”
This week: In 10 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Kahne has three top-fives, four top-10s and four poles. In the past eight years at Darlington, Kahne ranks seventh out of 49 drivers with an average place of 11.1.

Last year:
Kahne led 33 laps and recorded his second consecutive top-10 finish at the track by placing eighth. The driver said his only minor complaint was his pit stop times, but it didn’t ruin his night -- he helped celebrate team owner Rick Hendrick’s 200th career victory.

7. Aric Almirola (No. 43)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford 

Where he stands: Almirola is seventh in the standings with 293 points.
Last week: Almirola rode to a 10th-place finish, which came as a big victory him. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver extended his current Series-best streak of top-10 finishes to four in a row and earned his highest finish ever at a superspeedway in Cup competition. Not only that, he sits in seventh place in the standings, with no reason to think he won’t stay there.
What he said: “I saw a chance at the win, and I had to take it. Before the rain delay, we ran good most of the race. We were sitting 11th when the red flag came out. That was hard to swallow. If the race finished there, it would have been a good points day for us, but we were so close to another top-10 that it was hard not to want to go back racing. When we had the overheating issue, it looked like we weren’t going to make it a fourth top-10. But, Todd (Parrott) and all the guys worked hard during the caution and fixed the problem.”
This week: In one career start at Darlington Raceway, Almirola finished 19th in 2012. In the past eight years at Darlington, Almirola ranks 22nd out of 49 drivers with an average place of 21.1.
Last year: Almirola earned plenty of stripes in his first foray into Darlington. With his No. 43 blackened by the end of the night, Almirola vowed to learn from his 19th-place showing.

8. Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Menard is eighth in the standings with 290 points.
Last week: Menard was holding on strong in sixth place on Lap 51, but ended up in 26th, four laps down. Still, because of  the even-rougher races of Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle, Menard moved up two spots in the standings to eighth and remains the highest Richard Childress Racing driver in said standings.
What he said: “Our CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet was fast today at Talladega Superspeedway. We avoided trouble early on and were able to run up front. Unfortunately, we overheated and had to spend some time in the pits putting us behind. We never gave up and where able to avoid 'The Big One' at the end to gain some spots. It was a long day in the rain, but we were able to gain a spot in the points, so we're happy with that.”
This week: In six career starts at Darlington Raceway, Menard’s best finish is 13th in 2012. In the past eight years at Darlington, Menard ranks 32nd out of 49 drivers with an average place of 26.2.
Last year: Menard led the Richard Childress Racing contingent with a 13th-place showing in the 2012 Bojangles’ Southern 500. It was Menard’s highest finish at the track in his career and his second top-15 in six starts at the track.

9. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Busch is ninth in the standings with 285 points.
Last week: Busch took the blame for triggering a 16-car incident on Lap 44 that sidelined several contenders in the Aaron’s 499. The No. 18 Toyota got too close to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet, sending it spinning into the wall and collecting a wave of cars in the process. The wreck looked eerily similar to the one from the Daytona 500.
What he said: “I don't really know what happened. I know I got in the back of the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and I guess I was 
trying to go to the outside of him, but he just moved up in front of me and I wasn't expecting it and I tried to go to the outside of him and before I could get to the outside of him I got in the back of him. I just hate that I caused a hell of a melee for everybody.”
This week: In eight career starts at Darlington Raceway, Busch has one win, two top-fives and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Busch ranks fourth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 10.0.
Last year: You knew it was a good race for Busch when the driver acknowledged that he didn’t get his first stripe until past the midway point. Busch earned his second-best finish in eight career starts at Darlington, finishing fourth. Only his 2008 win was better. He also helped Joe Gibbs Racing to a banner day, as all three JGR cars finished inside the top 10.

10. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Biffle is 10th in the standings with 280 points.
Last week: It was another difficult week for Biffle’s team. For the second consecutive race, the No. 16 team wasn’t close to finishing on the lead lap. Biffle was collected in a multicar wreck and finished 36th.
What he said: “We were trying to be cautious, but that didn’t work.”
This week: In 12 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Biffle has two wins, two top-fives, five top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Darlington, Biffle ranks third out of 49 drivers with an average place of 9.8.
Last year: Biffle started on the pole but finished 12th after getting passed multiple times in the waning stages of the race.

Related: More on Biffle, Coca-Cola Racing Family

11. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Kenseth is 11th in the standings with 279 points.
Last week: Despite his eighth-place finish, Kenseth still earned 38 points after leading a dominating 142 laps (next highest was Jimmie Johnson at 16). He had a chance for his third win, as he led the crowd to the green flag on the final restart. Still, improved to 11th in the standings, holding on strong to one of the two Wild Card spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. 
What he said: “It could always be worse I guess. Am I disappointed? Yeah, I'm really disappointed.”
This week: In 19 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Kenseth has one top-five, eight top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Darlington, Kenseth ranks 15th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 15.6.
Last year: Darlington isn’t one of Kenseth’s best tracks, but perhaps he made a big gain last year. Winless in 19 starts, Kenseth charged through the field late to finish sixth, his best showing since 2008 -- and Kenseth’s team felt he would have finished third or fourth if not for a green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth has just one top-five at the track, but has finished sixth three times.

12. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Harvick is 12th in the standings with 276 points.
Last week: One week before Talladega, Harvick said his team was due for some good luck. And he was right -- the No. 29 rolled to Victory Lane at Richmond. But bad luck returned at the 2.66-mile track Sunday when Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet was caught up in a mega-wreck less than 45 laps into the 188-lap race. He finished 40th.
What he said:
I feel like this race was a flashback to Daytona (International Speedway). We had a great run last weekend, and I was really hoping that we could carry that momentum into this weekend, but we didn't have a chance to make it to the end. I've got to thank the Budweiser team for working so hard to try and get us back on track. Wish we could have had a better result, but that's part of superspeedway racing.”
Next week: In 16 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Harvick has two top-fives, and five top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Harvick ranks 19th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 17.3.
Last year: The good (Harvick’s driving performance) and the bad (his car’s handling) canceled each other out in 2012. The result was a middle-of-the-road 16th-place showing after Harvick started 23rd. He had worked his way into the top 10 late, but a spate of cautions necessitated multiple restarts, and the No. 29 was in no shape to keep up with some of the better cars in the field. According to NASCAR Loop Data, Harvick ranked first in green flag passes (109) in last year’s event.

Five in the rearview mirror …

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Truex Jr. is 13th in the standings with 269 points.
Last week: Truex’s seventh-place finish is just another in a string of four consecutive strong races that have vaulted the Michael Waltrip Racing driver to 13th overall and in position to compete for a Chase spot. Had he not been hit with a pit road penalty late in the race, that finish could have been even higher.
This week: In seven career starts at Darlington Raceway, Truex Jr. has one top-five and three top-10s. In the past eight years at Darlington, Truex ranks eighth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.5.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolett 

Where he stands: Gordon is 14th in the standings with 269 points.
Last week: Despite being involved in a few wrecks and spending most of the day a lap down, Gordon enjoyed some beneficiary benefits to remain relevant and pull out an 11th-place finish and earn 34 points.
This week: In 32 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Gordon has seven wins, 18 top-fives, 21 top-10s and three poles. In the past eight years at Darlington, Gordon ranks first out of 49 drivers with an average place of 8.3.

Jamie McMurray (No. 1)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: McMurray is 15th in the standings with 267 points.
Last week: With 10 laps left, McMurray had the pleasure of running in the top 10 behind Michael Waltrip, Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose. It looked like he’d have a chance to move up, but instead finished in 23rd and lost three spots in the standings.
Next week: In 12 career starts at Darlington Raceway, McMurray has three top-fives, five top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Darlington, McMurray ranks 13th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 14.6.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Stenhouse Jr. is 16th in the standings with 256 points.
Last week: Like Truex, Stenhouse was hit with a pit road penalty on a late green flag stop that proved costly. Still, the rookie driver positioned himself well towards the end of the race and ran successfully with teammate Carl Edwards for most of the race and finished 13th.
This week: Stenhouse Jr. has no starts at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Kurt Busch (No. 78)

Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Busch is 20th in the standings with 231 points.
Last week: Busch was in third place with 10 laps to go before a huge wreck that saw him roll and land on top of Ryan Newman’s car forced him to a 30th-place finish that kept him from gaining traction in the standings.
This week: In 16 career starts at Darlington Raceway, Busch has two top-fives, five top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Darlington, Busch ranks 17th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 16.9.

READ MORE:

READ: Latest on
Kenseth penalties

READ: Get more
Sprint Cup headlines

WATCH: Victory Lane:
David Ragan

WATCH: Big wreck
at ‘Dega
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Comments are currently unavailable. We’re working on the development of a NASCAR fan forum – please stay tuned.