DARLINGTON, S.C.- This week NASCAR drivers set their sights on Darlington Raceway for the Showtime Southern 500 on Saturday night. After an exciting Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway last weekend, fans will get another dose of excitement under the lights at Darlington on Saturday evening.
For drivers to win at Darlington, it takes plenty of patience and, almost as equally important, keeping your temper in check. The later is definitely a challenge for some as witnessed last weekend. Which poses some interesting questions; Did Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya really settle things after Richmond? Can Kurt Busch last 500 miles without another meltdown? Will "The Lady in Black" bring Martin Truex Jr. some luck with his new pit crew? These questions, among others, will be answered after 500 miles under the lights on Saturday.
My picks for this Saturday night's "showdown after sun down" are after the jump. Be sure to share your picks and let's compare results on Monday.
Jeff Gordon - He has tamed "The Lady in Black" a total of seven times in his career, five more than any other active driver. Gordon also adds to his resume twenty-one top-10 finishes in thirty career attempts and is clearly one of the favorites to win.
Alternate pick; Matt Kenseth - Despite not having a win at Darlington, Kenseth is still a solid pick this weekend for those owners looking to play it safe. Kenseth is one of the more patient drivers in the series and typically doesn't make mistakes by aggressive behavior during the race. Also, he has proven consistent at Darlington with five consecutive top-15's.
Ryan Newman - Owners will have to hope that he and Montoya do not have a score to settle on Saturday and Newman will not have to be constantly looking to see who is behind him. Newman has recorded six top-5 finishes in twelve attempts at Darlington. While Newman doesn't fit the "mold" of being patient or keeping his cool in the cockpit, he remains successful at this track.
Mark Martin - The veteran has made forty-four trips to Darlington and has come away with two victories and twenty-six top-10's during his career. Martin's most recent win at Darlington was in 2009, after the track had been resurfaced - which should equate to him being a threat to win.
Alternate pick - Brad Keselowski - Going with a bit of a stretch here with Keselowski since he just two races under his belt in Cup at Darlington. One of those attempts did result in a top-10 finish for though. With that said, if you have used too many of your Group B picks on other drivers I think Keselowski is worth a look at for Saturday.
David Ragan - He has definitely been more consistent over the last four races and may have turned the corner on a "make-or-break" season for the young driver. Ragan has done well at Martinsville and last week at Richmond, where Roush-Fenway Racing typically doesn't perform well, he had a fourth place finish. Ragan does have a top-5 and top-10 finish with just four races under his belt at Darlington.
Alternate pick - Regan Smith - We all know that Smith would be a Chase contender if qualifying results are taken into account but he needs to carry-over those results come race day. While his average finish of 22nd place at Darlington is nothing to get excited about he has been a pleasant surprise to many this year. Smith doesn't need good luck or even a golden horseshoe but he does need to shed the bad luck that has plagued him frequently on race day.
Don't forget to read Matt's stat-based race preview. It's an excellent companion to the fantasy preview. You can read that here.