Statistical Advance: Analyzing The Dodge Challenger 500 At Darlington Raceway


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2008) – This season has been a strange and unpredictable one for Jeff Gordon – especially compared to 2007.

Through 10 races last season, Gordon had one finish outside the top 10 – a 12th-place result at Atlanta.

This season, he’s had six such finishes, three of which were outside the top 30.

Last season, he had two wins and led 652 laps through the first 10 races. This year, Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane, and has led only 184 laps.

Also last season, he scored a Driver Rating above 100.0 in eight of the 10 races. This year, that’s happened only four times.

All of the above can lead to only one conclusion – Gordon’s season is all but over.


The competitive balance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is such that Gordon can have an up-and-down year and still be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hunt.

In fact, he’s “right there.” Gordon is only six points outside the top 12 with the series heading to one of his favorite tracks.

Gordon has seven wins at Darlington Raceway, which trails only David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (9) in career victories there. 

The four-time series champion is Darlington’s defending champion, and has finished in the top two in each of the last three Darlington races.

During that span, Gordon has scored a Driver Rating of 114.7, an Average Running Position of 6.4 and has run all but 13 laps in the top 15.

Selected Driver Highlights – Darlington Raceway-specific
Note: All driver statistics that follow are from Darlington Raceway. The Loop Data statistics – Driver Rating, Average Running Position, etc. – in this release, however, cover the last three races at Darlington. NASCAR’s scoring loops began collecting data for statistical purposes in 2005.

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
• Two wins, three top 10s
• Average finish of 10.7
• Average Running Position of 5.2, third-best
• Series-best Driver Rating of 126.1
• Series-high 141 Fastest Laps Run
• Average Green Flag Speed of 151.899 mph, fourth-fastest
• 1,074 (97.3%) Laps in the Top 15, second-most
• 86 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet)
• Two top fives, six top 10s
• Average finish of 15.0
• Average Running Position of 10.5, sixth-best
• Driver Rating of 99.6, sixth-best
• 39 Fastest Laps Run, tied for eighth-most
• Series-high 176 Green Flag Passes
• 941 (85.2%) Laps in the Top 15, fifth-most
• Series-high 109 Quality Passes

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)
• One top five, three top 10s
• Average finish of 15.0
• Average Running Position of 11.5, eighth-best
• Driver Rating of 98.8, seventh-best
• 61 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 151.719 mph, sixth-fastest
• 896 (81.2%) Laps in the Top 15, sixth-most
• 99 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
• Seven wins, 15 top fives, 18 top 10s; three poles
• Average finish of 11.8
• Average Running Position of 6.4, fifth-best
• Driver Rating of 114.7, fifth-best
• 50 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
• Series-high 1,091 (98.8%) Laps in the Top 15
• 96 Quality Passes,


Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota)
• Two top fives, four top 10s
• Average finish of 19.2
• Average Running Position of 5.5, fourth-best
• Driver Rating of 119.2, third-best
• 79 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 151.925 mph, third-fastest
• Second-best percentage of Laps in the Top 15 – 97.3% for a total of 714 laps
• 64 Quality Passes (average of 32 per race), tied for fourth-best average

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
• Two top fives, eight top 10s
• Average finish of 11.9
• Average Running Position of 5.0, second-best
• Driver Rating of 122.0, second-best
• 129 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
• Series-fastest Average Green Flag Speed of 152.281 mph
• 1,039 (94.1%) Laps in the Top 15, fourth-most
• 94 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge)
• Two top fives; three poles
• Average finish of 12.4
• Average Running Position of 10.6, seventh-best
• Driver Rating of 97.8, eighth-best
• 55 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
• 802 (72.6%) Laps in the Top 15, ninth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)
• One win, three top fives, nine top 10s
• Average finish of 14.2
• Average Running Position of 14.8, 13th-best
• Driver Rating of 91.6, ninth-best
• 46 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
• 151 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
• 595 (53.9%) Laps in the Top 15, 12th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge)
• Five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
• Average finish of 10.7
• Series-high Average Running Position of 4.951
• Driver Rating of 116.4, fourth-best
• 37 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 152.092 mph, second-fastest
• 1,068 (96.7%) Laps in the Top 15, third-most

At Darlington Raceway:
• Built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-50, Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sept. 4, 1950.
• The track was re-measured to 1.375-mile in 1953.
• The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970.
• The first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington was held on April 3, 1982.
• The track was repaved in 1995.
• The first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington was held on May 12, 2001.
• The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington.
• The track was repaved again starting last year.

• There have been 104 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington Raceway since the track opened in 1950.
• There was one race per year in 1950, 1951, between 1953 and 1959 and again every year since 2005. Darlington held two races a season in all other years.
• Curtis Turner won the first pole at Darlington Raceway in 1950.
• Johnny Mantz won the first race at Darlington, in 1950.
• 44 drivers have posted poles at Darlington; 23 drivers have won more than one.
• David Pearson leads all drivers with 12 poles at Darlington.
• Jeff Gordon,

Dale Jarrett, Kasey Kahne and Ken Schrader lead all active drivers with three poles each.
• 42 drivers have won races at Darlington; 22 drivers have won more than once there.
• David Pearson leads all drivers with 10 victories followed by Dale Earnhardt with nine.
• Jeff Gordon is third overall and leads all active drivers with seven victories.
• Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 races at Darlington, more than any other organization. He broke a tie with Junior Johnson when Jeff Gordon won there last fall
• 18 races at Darlington have been won from the pole, the most productive starting position.
• The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington was 43rd in the track’s inaugural race in 1950 by Johnny Mantz. That race had a 75-car field.
• Not only is Darlington the site of the oldest NASCAR race on asphalt, it is also the site of one of the closest race finishes in NASCAR history. Ricky Craven edged Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds on March 16, 2003 – the smallest margin of victory since NASCAR instituted electronic timing in mid-1993.

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