Darlington: Nationwide Recap

May 6, 2011
by Lee

The time has arrived for technical stay in the groove racing at Darlington Speedway for the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers. Darlington is 1.36 mile superspeedway that can race like a short track. The drivers will have to run up top in the groove near the wall for 147 laps tonight in the Royal Purple 200.

Qualifying was rained out earlier today, but no worries about getting the race in tonight. The rain has moved on and the weather should be perfect for the race tonight. With no qualifying, the field was set by practice speeds, and leading the drivers to the green will be Kyle Busch. Starting next to Busch will be Clint Bowyer. How these front starters, and the rest of the field, conserve their tires will be a major story of the race. Darlington shreds tires and lap times fall off after just a few laps.

The cars are fired and the pace laps are complete, green flag is out and the leaders head into turn one. Kyle Busch gets through the turns cleanly and jumps out to a one car length lead. Bush just beats Edwards back to the line to lead the first lap. Through turn one Edwards now grabs the lead. The field has gotten single file. Reed Sorenson almost got turned by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. but made a terrific save in three.

Competition caution will be thrown at lap 25 to check tire wear.

Lap 17 and Edwards gets caught up in traffic and Busch gets the lead. Lap 18 and Kahne gets the lead from Busch. Both Busch and Edwards earned the Darlington Stripe while ESPN was at commercial. Busch is reporting handling problems with his car as he did hit the wall fairly hard.

A lot of cars in the field need major adjustments when the caution comes out. Top three are within a second and a half, the next cars are over four seconds behind.

Lap 26 and we get the competition caution. Kahne will lead the cars down pit road for fuel and tires. A couple of drivers take only two tires including Elliot Sadler who leads the field off of pit road. Most of the field took four tires, fuel, and adjustments.

Lap 32 and Jason Leffler gets the jump, but Busch now jumps to the lead off of two. Big pack of cars running together now back into one in the middle of the pack, but everyone sorts it out and we continue on.

I said earlier that Bowyer was starting second, but he actually had to go to the back of the pack at the beginning of the race. He would have started second, but a change moved Bowyer to the back of the field. On lap 39 Bowyer has now made it back to the top ten.

Lap 45 and we get the first on track reason for a caution with Chris Buescher losing a tire from an earlier mishap with another car. The tire exploded and has destroyed the right side front of his car. Most of the front runners stay on the track and back half of the field will pit. Lucky dog for the caution is Scott Riggs.

Lap 52 and we get the green with Kyle Busch leading them back up to speed. Busch gets a great jump and pulls in front of Edwards into turn one. Edwards rallies back and is on the tail of Busch back to the start finish line.

Lap 54 and Edwards gets past Busch going into turn one. Kahne is looming in third as well as the top three are basically nose to tail.

Lap 64 and while ESPN was at commercial Kahne jumped to the lead. So far it is a three car show.

Mid Race Stats:

Leaders: 4 for 7 Lead Changes

Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 25 Laps

Cautions: 2 for 10 Laps

Average Speed: 127.363 MPH

Lead Lap Cars: 25

Lap 75 and a caution for debris is out. With the way Darlington eats up cars along the wall, I do not really doubt debris cautions at this race track. The leaders are going to be in for service on this caution. Kahne leads them off of pit road, and our first sighting of the night of Denny Hamlin as he rolls off second. Busch comes off pit road third.

Lap 80 and Kahne gets the jump and leads the field off into the turn. Lap 82 and the top five is Kahne, Hamlin, Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Sadler.

Seems as of the last couple of races, the back half of the race has not had a lot to writer about. It seems like it is setting up that way again.

Lap 88 and we get a caution. ESPN is at commercial, so not sure what brought that out. See, write that I do not have much information to write at the moment and the caution comes out. Back from commercial and Michael Annett hit the wall and destroyed the car. He made it back to pit road. Leaders are in and strategy is going to be varied. Bowyer leads them off pit road with no tires. It is about to get interesting.

Lap 95 and Sadler gets us back underway from the fourth caution. Huge wreck on the back stretch with Brian Scott taking a huge hit on the inside wall and destroys the front of his car. Brad Keselowski is involved as well. This all started with Aric Almirola getting bumped into the wall and losing it back in front of the field. Carl Edwards got a piece of it as well and has damage to the front and rear of the car. Almirola got the bump from Bowyer coming off the turn two. Bowyer did nothing wrong, but a small groove and cars going for the same real estate caused this wreck.

CodeSpotter contest code is horsepower.

Lap 103 and back to green with Sadler and Justin Allgaier battling for the lead. Allgaier gets the best of Sadler and maintains the lead. The top five is Allgaier, Sadler, Steven Wallace, Kenny Wallace, and Hamlin.

Lap 108 and Sadler gets the lead going into one. Fuel strategy is starting to be talked about. Will anyone have what it takes to go the distance? Sadler opens up a ten car length lead now.

Kahne who led a lot of laps early and looked dominant is now in the 10th position on lap 119. Field is kind of jumbled from pit stops.

Lap 121 and the battle for the lead is on. Kyle Busch has caught Sadler and they are nose to tail going through four. Lapped traffic is in front of them, and Hamlin is about ten car lengths behind.

Lap 123 and put Busch into the lead over Sadler. The top five is Busch, Sadler, Hamlin, Allgaier, and Stenhouse Jr.

Ten to go and the top five is Busch, Hamlin, Sadler, Allgaier, and Steven Wallace. Busch has a three second lead over Hamlin. Now Edwards has collected the wall again, but no caution at this point. Looks like Edwards day is done at this point.

Final lap with Rowdy Busch leading the way down into turn one. Busch gets back to the line to claim the victory. The top five is Busch, Hamlin, Sadler, Allgaier, and Steven Wallace.

A decent race tonight with some comers and goers throughout the night. I thought Kahne was going to be the car to beat all night, but again it ends up being Rowdy. Tomorrow night should be much of the same interesting racing.

Here are the final race stats:

Leaders: 5 for 11 Lead Changes

Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 49 Laps

Cautions: 5 for 28 Laps

Average Speed: 119.364 MPH

Lead Lap Cars: 11

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