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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington

Who… was the mother celebrating in victory lane this year?

Since 2005, Darlington Raceway has been the host of the Mother’s Day weekend NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Ever year, the mothers of the drivers in the lineup for the race are given the opportunity to give the command to start the engines, and the winning driver’s mother gets a trip to victory lane. This weekend, Mary Lou Hamlin, mother of Denny Hamlin, got to go to victory lane TWICE. Hamlin swept the Darlington races on Friday and Saturday night, and the smile on Mary Lou’s face was brighter than the lights that lit “The Lady in Black.” Mary Lou is a hit with race fans on Twitter and can usually be found at the No. 11 merchandise trailer outside the track. There’s no doubt this is a victory that this racing mom will remember for years to come.

What… happened to Jimmie Johnson?

Jimmie Johnson went from on top of the world and winning three of the first five races, to suffering a DNF in two of the last three. Granted, crashes happen. However, Kevin Harvick was the one who made the comment about Johnson having a horseshoe shoved up his “you-know-what.” Johnson doesn’t crash. He’s either in front of the wreck, or somehow finds a way to navigate through it. The Texas fall race last year was an exception. Johnson has been considered to be in a “slump” as of late. Take out the wrecks, however, and his last four finishes have been 10th, second, third and ninth. That’s not much of a slump, those just aren’t race wins. Jamie McMurray made a comment over the scanners Saturday night that the No. 48 team would probably rebound from these wrecks by winning the next four races. Would that really surprise anybody?

Where… was the green-white-checkered finish?

Several races this season have featured green-white-checkered finishes, with Talladega even using all three attempts at a GWC finish to finally complete the race. Many times, it has bitten the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet (Martinsville and Phoenix, anyone?). Now, when Jeff Gordon needed it the most, there was no late caution. It was a caution (and a pit-stop mistake) that hurt Gordon in the first place. It seems as though Gordon has a black cloud hanging over his head that has kept him from victory lane this season. Though Gordon has handled it well, it’s easy to see the frustration on his face after every loss. Eventually, everything is going to fall his way and he’ll go to victory lane. That can’t happen soon enough for Gordon.

When… will Hamlin finally win on a Sunday?

Hamlin won both the Monday races earlier this season and now has a win on a Saturday night. Though this isn’t necessarily a concern for the team, it’s an amusing statistic to look at. It’s highly unlikely that it’s high on the No. 11 team’s list to win on a Sunday. They want to win every race every weekend no matter what day it ends up being run. However, now that Hamlin’s knee is no longer an issue (at least in the racecar), it’s an interesting statistic that many people will be keeping an eye on.

Why… was Kyle Busch singing in his car on Saturday at the track “Too Tough to Tame.”

Heck, it probably feels like an eternity since he’s won, period! Right? When Kyle Busch took the lead for the first time Saturday night on lap 206, he came over the team scanner and sang the jingle of his sponsor for the night, Doublemint: “Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun.” With all the discussion about the “New Kyle vs. Old Kyle” after his win at Richmond last week, it definitely left many people raising their eyebrows and laughing at the sudden perkiness in typically moody driver. The bottom line is that Busch is happiest when he’s winning the race. Otherwise, it’s not good enough. It’s not a matter of new vs. old Kyle as much as it is a matter of winning vs. losing Kyle. Night and day.

How… many laps has Gordon led at Darlington?

Gordon surpassed Cale Yarborough on Saturday for the most laps led at Darlington with 1,720. It’s a very impressive statistic, yet he still failed to lead the one that matters the most. Gordon has seven career victories at Darlington Raceway, but hasn’t won there since 2007. Only three Darlington races have been run since then, but it must seem like eternity to a driver who makes it look easy.