Your guide to the Southern 500 at Darlington

April 11, 2014 

  • Race facts

    Where: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway

    Track type: 1.366-mile paved, banked egg-shaped oval

    Race distance: 367 laps or 501 miles

    Weather: Sunny with a high in the low 80s.

    TV: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on Fox. Green flag is 6:45 p.m.

    Radio: Motor Racing Network

    Notebook

  • More information

    Agate lineup goes here.

Kevin Harvick wins the pole at Darlington

Kevin Harvick says he is missing one trophy from NASCAR’s “Crown Jewel” races.

Saturday night, he’ll be in the best position possible to correct the problem.

Harvick needed just one lap in the third round of Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Darlington Raceway to claim the pole for Saturday night’s Southern 500.

It’s Harvick’s first pole of the season, seventh of his career and just the second in his past eight Cup seasons.

“This is the one not sitting in our trophy case, and not only that, it’s just Darlington – this is what NASCAR racing is all about,” Harvick said. “To win here would mean a lot. Hopefully, we can put it together for 500 miles. We’ve got a really fast car.”

Joey Logano qualified second and remains the only driver to advance to the final round of each knockout qualifying session this season. Aric Almirola was qualified third and set the new track qualifying record (184.145 mph) in Round 2.

Marcos Ambrose starts fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth. Series points leader Jeff Gordon lines up ninth.

Notebook

Haas receives F1 approval:Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup series, has been granted a Formula One license by the FIA.

“It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One,” Haas said in a statement.

“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid.”

Founded in 1983 and based in Oxnard, Calif., Haas Automation is the largest computer numerical control machine tool builder in the western world. SHR won the Cup series championship in 2011 with driver and co-owner Tony Stewart.

Fast speed recorded at Michigan test:Cup veteran Greg Biffle confirmed speeds upwards of 220 mph were hit on the straightaways during a test earlier this week at Michigan International Speedway.

Biffle, however, thinks it’s unlikely such speed could be replicated at the track’s first race in June.

“Let’s keep in mind that it was 40-something degrees with a track temp of 66. So it was cold temperatures with high grip, and they were testing tires that had more grip,” Biffle said. “They put a tire on the car that we are not going to race that went that fast.

“So on the standard tire, I think the mph was down maybe three or four mph from that. I am not so worried about those end of the straightaway speeds.”

Driver-turns-broadcaster:Nationwide Series regular Chase Elliott will participate in Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast of Saturday night’s Southern 500.

Elliott, 18, will join MRN’s Mike Bagley in Turn 3 of the track to give listeners a racer’s perspective of the track.

Three things to watch

1. Darlington Raceway remains one of only two tracks currently used in the Cup series on which Tony Stewart has not yet scored a victory (Kentucky is the other).

2. At least seven drivers will make their first Cup start at Darlington on Saturday night – Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson and Ryan Truex.

3. Jeff Gordon, a seven-time winner at Darlington, is the Cup series points leader but is without a victory so far this season.

Observations

• Seven races into the Cup season and there have been seven winners. That stat is not so surprising in and of itself. What is perhaps most striking are the glaring omissions from the list – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart. If you had created a list before the season of drivers who would win early, surely most – if not all – of those names would be on the list. Using that list alone, you can easily construct a season that starts with 12 winners.

• Texas Motor Speedway showed bad weather doesn’t necessarily translate into a money-losing venture when it comes to hosting NASCAR races. Rain pushed last Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 to Monday but according to a news release put out by the speedway, the race weekend – thanks to the introduction of a new line of Duck Commander merchandise – was one of the highest grossing in merchandise sales in the speedway’s 18-year history. The revenue total, which was not disclosed by parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc., was up 81 percent from its 2013 April NASCAR race weekend.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola

Today’s lineup

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