Who is Hot and Cold ahead of the Southern 500

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Maybe Darlington Raceway should alter its slogan.

Over the last 10 years, it’s been “The Track Too Tough to Tame … Twice.”

Since the 2006 season, the Southern 500 has been won by 10 different drivers. Greg Biffle was the last driver to repeat, doing so in 2005 and 2006. Before that, Jimmie Johnson swept Darlington in 2004, the last year the track played host to two races.

In this Sunday’s Southern 500 (at 6 p.m. on NBC), all but one of the previous 10 winners (Mark Martin in 2009) will compete in the race.

Earning the pole at Darlington is almost as hard. The last seven poles each were won by a different driver. The last six poles were won by a different team.

Winning from the pole?

Kevin Harvick (2014) is the only pole-sitter to win at Darlington since Dale Jarrett did it in the 1997 TranSouth Financial 400.

Here’s a look at who is hot and cold heading into the Southern 500.

Who’s Hot

Kevin Harvick: Won at Phoenix and Bristol this season and has 19 top 10 finishes in 2016 (leads the series by three). Only three finishes in 2016 worse than 15th. Finished top five in the past three races at Darlington including a win in 2014.

Kyle Busch: Average finish of 29th in the past two races but still placed in the top-10 in six of the last nine, including his fourth win of the season at Indianapolis. Finished top 10 in the last four races at Darlington. Won at Darlington in 2008.

Brad Keselowski: Finished third at Michigan, his third top-three finish in the last four races. Finished in the top 10 in 11 of the last 15 races including three wins. Won the pole, finished second last year after leading 196 laps. His 2015 finish is his only finish better than 15th in the last four races at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin: Six straight top-10 finishes (his longest string of 2016) including a win at Watkins Glen. Eight speeding penalties this season, most of all drivers. Finished top 10 in eight of his 10 career starts at Darlington, including a win in 2010. He also has finished runner-up three times. Average finish at Darlington is 6.5, best all-time among drivers with more than two starts.

Tony Stewart: Six top 10s, including a win at Sonoma, in the last 10 races. Five top-five finishes this season, only had three total in the previous two seasons combined. Darlington is one of only two winless tracks (Kentucky), his best finish at Darlington is third, twice.

Who’s Cold

Kurt Busch: Finished outside the top 10 in five of the past six races. Finished top 10 in 14 of the first 16 races this season but in only two of the past eight. Finished sixth at Darlington last year, one of only two top-10 finishes in the last 11 races there.

Greg Biffle: Finished 16th or worse in four of the last five races after finishing in the top 10 in the three straight races prior. Two-time winner at Darlington (2005, 2006). Finished top 20 in the last five races at Darlington but only two top 10s.

Trevor Bayne: Finished 24th at Michigan, worst finish in the last four races, top 12s in four of the
last eight races this season. Finished 35th in only Cup start at Darlington. Three Xfinity starts at Darlington with one top 10 (ninth in 2014).

Kasey Kahne: Only one top 10 in the past 10 races and none in the last eight. Four poles at
Darlington in 13 starts but only four top 10s. Won twice at Darlington in trucks.

Paul Menard: Finished 10th at Indy, only top 10 in the last 18 races. Only two top-10 finishes this
season. Best Darlington finish is 13th in nine starts.

Other notes of interest for the Southern 500:

  • The winner of only three of the past 10 races at Darlington got his first win of the season.
  • The winners of five of the last six races at Darlington got their first win at the track
  • Kevin Harvick, who won the Southern 500 in 2014, is the only driver to win at Darlington and win the championship in the same season since Bobby Labonte in 2000.
  • Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are the only active drivers with Sprint Cup championships who are winless at Darlington.

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Sunday Cup race at WWT Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


Twelve races remain until the playoffs begin in early September. Ten drivers have won races. The pressure to secure a playoff spot builds as the Cup Series heads into the summer months.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Six-time Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee will give the command to start engines at 3:32 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:40 p.m. … Driver intros are at 2:55 p.m. … Tim Bounds, pastor at The Crossing Church St. Louis, will give the invocation at 3:24 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by Bebe Winans and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at 3:25 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 240 laps (300 miles) on the 1.25-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 140.

STARTING LINEUP: Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 90 degrees and a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup race at this track. Kyle Busch was second. Kurt Busch placed third.


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Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway

Cup starting lineup at World Wide Technology Raceway


Kyle Busch will lead the Cup starting lineup to the green flag in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The second row will have Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. The third row has Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.

Corey LaJoie, driving the No. 9 car in place of the suspended Chase Elliott, qualified 30th after hitting the wall on his lap.

The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1.

Kyle Busch wins Cup pole at WWT Raceway


Kyle Busch collected his first Cup pole of the season and will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Busch last won a Cup pole at Phoenix in November 2019. He earned his 33rd career Cup pole Saturday with a lap of 137.187 mph on the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

“Being able to get a pole here with Richard Childress Racing, Team Chevy and everybody on this No. 8 team is good for us and just try to get some momentum rolling,” Busch said. “Our short track stuff hasn’t been the greatest this year so far, but this isn’t the short track aero package here this weekend, so that might pay dividends hopefully for us to just have a better day than what we anticipated. Just excited to have the guys pumped up and raring to go, and knowing that their hard work is paying off.”

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney, who qualified at 137.153 mph. Blaney’s car failed inspection twice before qualifying. He will lose his pit selection for Sunday’s race. His car chief also was ejected. Brad Keselowski‘s car also failed inspection twice before qualifying. He loses pit selection and had the team’s car chief ejected. Keselowski qualified 19th with a lap of 135.743 mph.

Denny Hamlin (136.903 mph) starts third and is followed by Kevin Harvick (136.766) and Martin Truex Jr. (136.360). Harvick has two top-five starts this season and both have come in the last two events.

“I think we have a little bit of work to do on our car in race trim, but a lot of it is just getting into a rhythm I think – more than anything,” Harvick said. “Qualifying, we were just a little bit tight through Turns 1 and 2, and the car was good in 3 and 4. So, we have to have a better balance, and that’s what probably cost us a little bit of speed to get the pole. But, still a good day and a good starting spot.”

Corey LaJoie, subbing for the suspended Chase Elliott, will start 30th after hitting the wall on his qualifying lap. He qualified at 134.561 mph. Carson Hocevar, making in his Cup debut in LaJoie’s car, qualified 26th with a lap of 135.220 mph.

Green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET on FS1.