Column: A date with the Lady in Black

Published 11:24 am Saturday, May 13, 2006

By Staff
Another Saturday night race is on tap for us this weekend friends, and this race fan loves it. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is right in the middle of a stretch in their schedule that has four night races in five weeks, but before we get into this week, I can't help but recap the racing action from Richmond.
Last week, we saw Kevin Harvick flat out dominate the first 75 percent of the race only to be out-witted on pit strategy thus opening the door for Dale Earnhardt Junior to capture his first victory of the season. The racing action was great and thankfully there weren't any accidents caused by someone using their bumper to make a point.
Rookie Denny Hamlin, driving at his home track for the first time with the big boys, had a very impressive second place finish. About the oddest thing I saw Saturday night was Tony Stewart on pit road before the race with Mojo, his pet monkey. Quite the change from seeing the cameras pan up and down pit road showing the drivers and their wives or girlfriends during the national anthem sharing a quiet moment before the start of the race. To each his own right?
This weekend we are off to the state of South Carolina and a small town there called Darlington. This quaint little town is the home for the oldest super speedway that NASCAR currently has on its schedule.
Often called “The Track Too Tough To Tame” Darlington is, to old-timers in the sport, a driver's track. The pavement there is old and is so abusive on tires that the drivers must rely on skill and agility to keep from getting into the wall and drive away with a “Darlington Stripe.” The stripe is nothing more that a black streak on the freshly painted concrete walls, but I guarantee you we will hear about it at least a dozen times by Larry and Darrell in the Fox broadcast booth.
The tires will give up precious grip very early during each run and because of that we will have many caution flags for cars into the wall, the result of a blown right front tire. The favorites here are generally the drivers that have logged thousands of miles on the Lady In Black's treacherous pavement where the fast way around her is right up against the wall. Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Dale Junior come to mind. Kevin Harvick is on a roll, and though I said this last week, look for him to be up front at the finish.
Another driver, and definite fan favorite, who wouldn't surprise me to have a good chance to win is Bobby LaBonte. The fans would rip down the fences if he were to take the Petty car to victory lane. Sooner or later the track is going to need new pavement but I sure hope they don't change the banking or alter the configuration.
Ryan Newman took the local spot light Saturday with a very solid eighth place finish. Maybe the tides have turned for Ryan and the Alltel team and we will begin seeing more of them near the front of the pack. Tony Raines finished 30th and David Stremme's struggles continued as he rambled home 33rd. Stremme is now 37th in the points standing and must qualify for the race this weekend on speed.
So clear your schedules on Saturday night my friends. This is sure to be one heck of a race as Darlington under the lights should result in sparks flying and tempers flaring. Enjoy the race, but don't forget guys that Sunday is Mother's Day.