The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Diamond Hill Plywood 200 by Cami Starr -- Thursday May 11, 2006

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Race Trax: Diamond Hill Plywood 200

Cami Starr · Thursday May 11, 2006


On Track

The Diamond Hill Plywood 200 is the twelfth race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the 1.366 mile Darlington Raceway just once in the 2006 season. Darlington Raceway is one of only seven tracks to host Busch Series events since 1982; Geoff Bodine visited Victory Lane in that first race here. Mark Martin has the most wins (8) in the series at Darlington, and will be in the race on Friday. The track is an egg-shaped oval with twenty-five degrees of banking in turns one and two and twenty-three degrees of banking in turns three and four. Both the frontstretch and backstretch measure 1,229 feet with two degrees of banking. Drivers will race 147 laps (200 miles) on Friday night. The field will include 2005 race winner Matt Kenseth.

49 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Friday’s race, with the Top 30 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. 2006 owner points determine who is in this group for qualifying purposes the remainder of the season. The entry list includes seventeen full time Nextel Cup drivers. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team’s time. Martin also holds the record for poles at Darlington with eight.

Kevin Harvick increased his already large lead in the point standings to 313 with his third win of the season last weekend at Richmond. His Cup and Busch teammate Clint Bowyer holds the second position, with other Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin in third and fourth. Paul Menard is the highest ranking Busch regular in the standings. He is currently fifth heading into Darlington.

What to Expect

With Friday’s race being a one day show, drivers that need some extra practice time to get acclimated to the track might come up a bit short. Impound races also present a problem for teams who have to race their way into the race. The setup they use for qualifying doesn’t usually transfer into a solid race setup, so some of those drivers may find trouble early. Darlington is known for being a tire eating track and with the limited number of sets the Busch Series can use, crews and drivers will have to be on the top of their game to get the most mileage out of them as they can. Experience will be key, so look for another race where the full time Cup drivers will probably prevail.

Who to Watch

By winning three out of the last four races it’s hard to count out Kevin Harvick. He’s never won at Darlington, but with the momentum he has right now you can’t overlook him. Mark Martin is making his third Busch Series start this Friday. With eight wins at Darlington, he knows what to do to get the job done here. Last year’s race winner Matt Kenseth should also be a player on Friday. Like Martin, he tends to show the patience needed to save his tires. On the Busch regular side, look for Kenny Wallace to put in a good showing. He was the runner-up to Kenseth here last year.

Did You Know

  • Paul Menard comes to Darlington fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, not only his highest ranking of the season, but the best of his 79-race career.
  • Last year’s race winner, Matt Kenseth, has the best average finish among drivers who have started at least five races "" 4.6. Kenseth has started 11.
  • After winning the Busch Pole at Richmond, Jason Leffler is tied for the series lead in Busch Poles (two). His 76 laps led last Friday night are the most this season for a series regular.

You Don’t Say"¦

"I have always liked Darlington from the first time I got there. It’s a very unique track, very narrow. It seems to fit my driving style even in the (NASCAR NEXTEL) Cup Series. I’ve got some top 10s in the Southern 500 and a lot of history there. I like going to Darlington because I can get in my pick-up truck, grab an iced tea and a bag of sunflower seeds and I can be there in less than two hours, so it puts me in a good mood just going there." *Kenny Wallace* on some of the reasons he loves racing at Darlington

“Darlington is a neat track, because it’s so different than the others we’re used to racing on. You’ll hear drivers say ‘no grip’ a lot on their radios, which is pretty typical. The track really wears down tires fast. They’ll last for a few laps, and then you’re fighting the ‘no grip’ issue again. There isn’t a tire that would last at Darlington. I could take my rental car out there and the tires would be gone after 10 laps.” *Kyle Busch* on what makes Darlington unique

"At that place it seems like every lap you are going to get a Darlington stripe, and when you do it is usually big. The bottom line is that you know there is a good chance of it happening, so you just have to be on top of your game every lap so that when it does happen, you are ready to regain control." *Clint Bowyer* on being prepared for a Darlington stripe

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