This week finds the stars and cars of NASCAR close to home. They're just up the road in Darlington. That is one tough track. A snake of greasy, black asphalt set down admid the old cotton fields.
She stands silently on the sandy soil, weeping, waiting, as she's done since 1950, for the next group of men who think they can tame her. This will be the 106th try for the eager suitors. What makes them think they will be rewarded?
The famous, egg-shaped, oval was repaved before last year's race. Kyle Busch won that race, setting a new record for the fastest race at Darlington. The Rowdy one had led one lap total in his three previous starts here.
Tony Stewart has also led just one lap total....in his last nine races here. Kasey Kahne has won three poles in his six Darlington starts. There hasn't been a winner from the pole since Dale Jarrett did it back in 1997.
Kurt Busch has one top-5 in 12 races here. I think he'll improve on that Saturday night. Denny Hamlin has been in three races here, and leads all active drivers with a 6.3 average finishing position.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished 11th, or better in his last six Darlington starts. Will this be where he gets back on track? Nah. John Andretti needs to run 168 laps to have completed 100,000 in his career. At his present rate of start-and-parking, he'll reach that milestone in October.... of 2011.
Best guy, AJ Allmendinger, will have Best Buy aboard his #44 RPM Dodge this week. Denny Hamlin will be protected with Farm Bureau Insurance on the #11 Toyota. Is it just me, or does Denny seem like he pouts a lot?
Star Trek, The Movie, returns on David Stremme's #12 on Saturday. Alas, no warp speed. The #99, of Carl Edwards will be carrying 'Up', The Movie. Damn! A movie. I was hoping 'Up' was what he was going to do with that damn duck.
Guess who is currently leading all three NASCAR series in wins. That's Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World trucks.