Preview: Bojangles Southern 500

Preview: Bojangles Southern 500

by April 10, 2014 0 comments

DARLINGTON, SC – Saturday’s race will mark the 65th running of the historic Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

This season there have been seven different winners in the first seven races, and more than likely the trend will continue as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes on the “Lady In Black.” Due to the change in this year’s points system, drivers have gone all-out and settling for only wins. So, who’s most likely to reach Victory Lane this weekend? Well, here’s who I think.

Jeff Gordon who currently leads the points standings and was also part of the raceway’s media day has an average finish of 7.4 out of the last nine races at Darlington Raceway. He has also seen Victory Lane on seven occasions. With Gordon’s career not exactly coming to an end but without a doubt slowing down, another victory at Darlington Racing would just be astronomical and fitting if say he retires within the next few years. Gordon is winless this season, but if I picked anyone for this weekend, Gordon would be the driver.

However, Denny Hamlin who won in 2010 and has an average finish of 5.5 in the last eight races at the raceway would also be a great pick. Hamlin has had his share of injuries lately and sits 13th in the standings, but he’s probably more driven than anyone else in the garage. Plus, Joe Gibbs Racing always flexes their muscles when they visit Darlington County. With 354 laps led at Darlington, Hamlin ranks third out of most laps led in the last nine races. Besides Hamlin winning the Sprint Unlimited and his Duel race at Daytona International Speedway back in February, Hamlin is winless this season when it comes to points racing.

Another driver who has yet to reach Victory Lane this season is three-time Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson. He currently sits seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standings and only has two top-five finishes this season. Very uncharacteristic of the No. 48 Lowe’s team, but if they want a momentum booster and a possible spot in the Chase, then Darlington Raceway would be a great place to start. Johnson has an average finish of 9.4 at Darlington and ranks fourth in the driver ratings. In the last nine races at Darlington, Johnson has led 316 laps.

Look out for Matt Kenseth who won last year’s event. Kenseth currently sits second in points and has an average finish of 10.8 in the last nine races at Darlington. He only ranks eighth in most laps led at the track “Too Tough To Tame” among active drivers, but ever since he’s gotten behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, he and his team have been extremely strong.

When it comes to spoilers, Greg Biffle is a great pick. It’s been a while since Biffle has seen Victory Lane at the track. In fact, he hasn’t won at the raceway since 2006 and he does only have an average finish of 13.7, but he ranks third for best driver rating and first win it comes to most laps led. In the past nine starts at Darlington Raceway, Biffle has led 632 laps. That’s 19.1% of laps led which is quite a feat at such a tough track.

This year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 will certainly be one to remember no matter who wins. Who knows, maybe Furniture Row Racing will find Victory Lane again or even Germain Racing with Casey Mears who tested last week at the raceway. Anything can and the way things are going this year will happen on Saturday night.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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