DARLINGTON RACEWAY (1.366-MILE OVAL)
LOCATION: DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
EVENT: NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES (RACE 25 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 7 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, SEPT. 6 (NBC/MRN/SIRIUSXM)
No. 5 Hendrick Ride Along Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne
Driver Kasey Kahne Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 35 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
17th in standings
1 pole position
2 top-five finishes
6 top-10 finishes
46 laps led
27 pole positions
85 top-five finishes
152 top-10 finishes
4,587 laps led
4 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
4 top-10 finishes
351 laps led
‘RIDE ALONG’ WITH NO. 5 THROWBACK: Sister companies Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group have partnered for a two-race sponsorship built around the Hendrick Ride Along Sweepstakes. The program will begin at Darlington Sept. 4-6 and will continue through Richmond International Raceway’s event Sept. 12. On Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 9:30 a.m. ET, Hendrick Motorsports will unveil the retro red-and-white design for Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 HendrickRideAlong.com Chevrolet SS via its Instagram account. Additional information on the paint scheme and sweepstakes will be available on HendrickMotorsports.com immediately following the unveiling and throughout the morning.
ALL-STAR RACING DESIGN: The throwback paint scheme is based on the original All-Star Racing car driven by Geoff Bodine in 1984, the year Rick Hendrick founded what is now Hendrick Motorsports. That season, All-Star Racing fielded a one-car NASCAR Sprint Cup Series effort with five full-time employees and 5,000 square feet of leased work space. Bodine drove the entire 30-race campaign in the No. 5 Chevrolet, winning three times. The team was re-named Hendrick Motorsports in 1985.
DESIGN CONCEPT: The retro car design features key elements from the No. 5 All-Star Racing Chevrolet, such as the iconic red star with four stripes running down the quarter panel. Other highlights include thick red racing stripes running from the headlights to the spoiler with a red border along the splitter of Kahne’s Chevrolet SS. The car number will even revert to the same font style used in 1984. The original car, a Chevy Monte Carlo, is on display in the Hendrick Motorsports museum in Concord, North Carolina.
HENDRICKRIDEALONG.COM: The Hendrick Ride Along Sweepstakes adorning the hood of Kahne’s Chevrolet at both Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway is a part of Hendrick Automotive Group’s promotion to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride in a stock car with Kahne. The all-expenses-paid trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, includes the ride along, travel, accommodations and a full behind-the-scenes tour of Hendrick Motorsports. Fans can register between Sept. 2 and Oct. 31 by visiting www.HendrickRideAlong.com or visiting their local Hendrick Automotive Group dealership.
HENDRICK AUTOMOTIVE GROUP: Encompassing 97 dealerships from the Carolinas to California, Hendrick Automotive Group is the largest privately held automotive retail organization in the United States. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company employs more than 10,000 people in its dealerships, collision centers and accessories distributor installers in 13 states. For more information, please visit www.HendrickAuto.com.
POLE PROWESS: In the past 10 Sprint Cup races at Darlington Raceway, Kahne leads the field in pole positions having earned the pole award three times during that span. His career total of four pole positions at the track leads all active drivers. In 111 Cup races run at Darlington Raceway, 20 have been won from the pole position.
LEADING LAPS: In the past 10 races at Darlington Raceway, Kahne ranks fourth in laps led with 327. He trails Greg Biffle (637), Kyle Busch (588) and Denny Hamlin (357).
SUMMER SESSION: Kahne is not known to take a summer break during the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, as 10 of his 17 career victories have been achieved between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
No. 24 3M Chevrolet SS / Jeff Gordon
Driver Jeff Gordon Hometown Pittsboro, Indiana
Age 44 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
13th in standings
3 pole positions
3 top-five finishes
12 top-10 finishes
167 laps led
80 pole positions
323 top-five finishes
466 top-10 finishes
24,831 laps led
3 pole positions
19 top-five finishes
23 top-10 finishes
1744 laps led
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 3M Chevrolet SS, is scheduled to visit the Darlington Raceway media center at 2 p.m. local time Friday.
POINTS UPDATE: Two races remain – Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway – before the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set with Jeff Gordon currently ranked 13th, 52 points ahead of the cutoff position. Along with seven wins at Darlington, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has two victories at Richmond.
NEARING 25K: Gordon, driver of the No. 24 3M Chevrolet SS, is 169 shy of 25,000 career laps led. He has led more than 169 laps at the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval twice – in 1996 and 2005.
TOPS AMONG ACTIVE DRIVERS AT DARLINGTON: The 44-year old driver ranks first among active drivers in the following statistical categories at the South Carolina track: wins, top-five finishes, top-10s, laps led and average start (6.8).
MILLION DOLLAR PAYDAY: In the final year of its existence, Gordon won three of the four “Winston Million” races in 1997 to capture the $1 million payday from the series sponsor. Gordon held off a hard-charging Jeff Burton during the closing laps at Darlington to become only the second driver to claim the prize. Bill Elliott, the first $1 million victor, won in 1985.
ANOTHER MILLION DOLLAR VICTORY: On Sept. 6, 1998, Gordon again won $1 million from the series sponsor as part of its “No Bull 5” program – his fourth consecutive victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
NEW 3M TAGLINE: 3M’s new corporate tagline “Science. Applied to Life.” will appear on the No. 24 Chevrolet SS again at Darlington Raceway. This weekend marks the seventh time 3M has been the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS. It previously appeared on Gordon’s car at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and will be the primary for a total of 11 races in 2015.
No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott
Driver Chase Elliott Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 19 Resides Dawsonville, Georgia
‘AWESOME’ INSPIRED NAPA AUTO PARTS’ THROWBACK: A 30-year-old memory serves as inspiration for Chase Elliott’s No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS throwback for Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington, which will be NAPA’s final race on the car in 2015 before returning in 2016 as a primary sponsor of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS in Elliott’s rookie Sprint Cup season. Elliott’s father, Bill, earned the nickname “Million Dollar Bill” after winning the Labor Day Southern 500 race on Sept. 1, 1985, and cashing in on $1 million. Elliott’s weekend NAPA throwback scheme will complement his father’s triumph 30 years ago.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: In 52 Sprint Cup starts at Darlington Raceway, Bill Elliott has the most top-10 finishes with 35 and a career-best average finish of 9.4. In his 15th Sprint Cup start at Darlington, Bill was able to notch his first victory at the track, which happened to come in the same year he won the “Winston Million” – sweeping Darlington’s Victory Lane in 1985. His son, Chase Elliott, last season went from sixth to first in a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag to claim a dramatic victory at the track “Too Tough to Tame.” In his rookie XFINITY Series season, the 18-year-old driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, who was just four weeks away from graduating high school, led 52 laps en route to claiming his second consecutive victory of 2014 after winning at Texas Motor Speedway the week before. In the process, Elliott became the youngest driver to ever win an NXS race at the legendary track and became the first NXS regular to win at the “Lady in Black” since Brian Vickers on Aug. 30, 2003.
THE FINAL 2015 DOUBLE-DUTY WEEKEND: Elliott will first compete in the NXS race Saturday at Darlington Raceway, where he’ll have the chance to win $100,000 in the XFINITY Dash4Cash program if he places higher than Ty Dillon, Brian Scott and Daniel Suarez all before making his final Sprint Cup start of 2015 in the No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS on Sunday in the Southern 500 on NBC at 7 p.m. ET.
PROGRESSING FORWARD: In four previous Sprint Cup points starts in the No. 25 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott has shown steady progression. After a 38th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway in his Cup debut, Elliott reeled off a 16th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway and 18th-place finishes at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since Martinsville, Elliott has made up a total of 20 track positions from where he began each race.
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 39 Resides Charlotte, North Carolina
5th in standings
0 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
16 top-10 finishes
467 laps led
33 pole positions
204 top-five finishes
308 top-10 finishes
17,618 laps led
0 pole positions
9 top-five finishes
12 top-10 finishes
551 laps led
DARLINGTON THROWBACK EXPLAINED: Jimmie Johnson and longtime partner Lowe’s will race a throwback car for this weekend. The No. 48 Chevrolet will feature the 1940s and 1950s Lowe’s Home Improvement logo that was prominently used beginning with the company’s founding in 1946 through the time period in which Darlington Raceway first opened in 1950. To see the paint scheme, click here.
WIN NO. 200: On May 12, 2012, Johnson led 134 laps around the “Lady in Black” and took the checkered flag at Darlington for not only his 56th career win, but the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson’s other wins at Darlington came when the track had two race dates in a single season and he swept the 2004 events. In the past two races at Darlington, Johnson has finished fourth and third, respectively.
DARLINGTON DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Johnson has the third-best driver rating at Darlington with a score of 106.8 during the past 10 years at the track. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.
JOHNSON BEAT THE HEAT: During a recent race weekend at Watkins Glen, Johnson partnered with longtime partner Gatorade to document how he stays hydrated during race weekends and his fitness routine. Click here to watch the video and click here to see the photo gallery from his bike ride.
RICHMOND TICKET PACKAGE: Richmond International Raceway and Johnson have teamed up to offer a family ticket package for Saturday, Sept. 12 at RIR. The package includes a NASA hands-on activity, a question-and-answer session with the six-time champion and a ticket to the race on Saturday night. Tickets are $24 for kids 12 and younger and $48 for adults. For more information, click here.
UPCOMING JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION WELLNESS CHALLENGE EVENTS: Registration is open for the final event of the 2015 Jimmie Johnson Foundation Wellness Challenge. The Lake Davidson Sprint Triathlon will take place on Sept. 13 in Davidson, North Carolina. Log on to www.jjfwellnesschallenge.org for more details.
No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 40 Resides Mooresville, North Carolina
3rd in standings
0 pole positions
11 top-five finishes
15 top-10 finishes
204 laps led
13 pole positions
138 top-five finishes
239 top-10 finishes
8,051 laps led
0 pole positions
4 top-five finish
9 top-10 finishes
176 laps led
VALVOLINE THROWBACK: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive a throwback No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet SS this weekend at Darlington Raceway. The paint scheme pays homage to the brand’s storied history in motorsports with an early-1980s look inspired by Valvoline cars driven by some of the era’s racing icons, including Cale Yarborough, Ron Bouchard, Neil Bonnett and Buddy Baker. The one-race sponsorship of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet SS marks an elevated partnership between Hendrick Motorsports and Valvoline, which in September 2013 announced a four-year agreement that kicked off last season. The new sponsorship at Darlington represents Valvoline’s first primary paint scheme since that time.
DARLINGTON BEST: Earnhardt scored his best Darlington finish last April, when he crossed the finish line second. Previously, Earnhardt matched his best Darlington finish in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2008 after scoring a fourth-place result. He also finished fourth there in March 2002.
LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks sixth among drivers in laps run in the top 15 at Darlington. During the last 10 races there, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has spent 71.9 percent of the events running in the top 15. Earnhardt also ranks seventh in the average running position category with an 11.4 average spot.
DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks eighth in the driver rating category at Darlington with a score of 94.3 during the past 10 races. The driver rating is a formula that combines the following categories: wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum points a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DARLINGTON: In 52 events at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 14 wins, seven pole positions, 44 top-five finishes and 71 top-10s. Johnson most recently won at the historic track on May 12, 2012, to claim Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th Sprint Cup victory. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins, 19 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s, a 6.8 average start and 1,744 laps led at the 1.366-mile oval. Kahne leads all active drivers there with four pole positions. Johnson’s average finish of 8.4 ranks third-best among active drivers at Darlington.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Darlington Raceway is one of 10 tracks where Hendrick Motorsports has accumulated 10 or more wins. Its 14 wins on the 1.366-mile oval are tied with Daytona for fifth-most at a track. The Darlington wins have come via six different drivers — Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd, Gordon, Terry Labonte, Johnson and Mark Martin.
ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 237 victories, 204 pole positions, 969 top-five finishes and 1,611 top-10 finishes in Sprint Cup competition. Its teams have led 64,725 laps since 1984.
“We’ve had a lot of success when our two companies (Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group) have worked together on programs. When Darlington announced the throwback concept, we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring back the All-Star Racing car and build in a sweepstakes for fans and customers. Seeing the paint scheme on the track at Darlington and Richmond will bring back a lot of memories.”
Rick Hendrick on the HendrickRideAlong.com scheme
“We finished 35th in our first Darlington race back in ’84 and nearly closed the doors. Martinsville was next on the schedule, and (crew chief) Harry Hyde did a great sales job and talked me into running one more race. He was convinced Geoff (Bodine) could win there, and, thankfully, he was right. We were able to get a sponsor, which allowed us to finish the season and set the table for everything that’s happened since.”
Hendrick on All-Star Racing’s first Darlington race
“I’ve been lucky to have some great people who understood how to win at Darlington. I think about Harry (Hyde) and Tim (Richmond), who won our first Southern 500 together, and of course Jeff Gordon. No one has been better there than Jeff. We’ve had a lot of good days (at Darlington), and I’m excited about the Southern 500 tradition returning to Labor Day weekend. It should be a great event with all the throwback paint schemes, especially for those of us who remember those days.”
Hendrick on Hendrick Motorsports’ success at Darlington
“There’s so much history at Hendrick Motorsports with wins and championships, so to go back to when it started with All-Star Racing, Geoff Bodine and that paint scheme is great. I think the fans will really enjoy it. I know from me being a race fan as well as a driver, I like the retro theme. I think it’s really neat to bring that back on a race weekend. It would mean a ton to win the Southern 500. It’s always been one of the races that I’ve wanted to win. We’ve come close but haven’t been able to do it, so to do it in this car that time of the year right before the Chase it would be a perfect time.”
Kasey Kahne on Darlington and the HendrickRideAlong.com scheme
“When I first started racing at Darlington, I loved it right away. There was a patience needed there – you had to hold back, not abuse the tires and stay out of the fence. You had to ‘race the racetrack,’ but you don’t hear that quite as much anymore.
“Darlington has changed a lot over the years since it was repaved. Now you’re racing track position, how far you can push the tires and how hard you can push the car.”
Jeff Gordon on racing at Darlington
“Just like any other weekend this season I want to go out there and learn as much as I can. These are the best drivers and teams in the world. I can learn a lot from them. If I do my job to the best of my ability and learn from it, well, that’s what it’s all about. I want to thank everyone at NAPA AUTO PARTS and at the Hendrick Motorsports organization for making these races a reality. It has been a blast racing these fast cars and having some fun with the guys.”
Chase Elliott on his expectations for Darlington
“Like I always say, we have to qualify first to make the show. If we can do that, we’ll give it our best shot on Sunday. Darlington is a special place for me and my family. I want to make the most of the opportunity this weekend. I’ve really had a great time learning from Kenny (No. 25 crew chief Kenny Francis) and the crew – they have made these races fun and I want to close with a solid performance for them.”
Elliott on his goals for Darlington
“I really like Darlington. One of my favorite memories was winning the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports there. Everyone came to victory lane and we did this huge group photo. It was a special night – we had been chasing that number for a while – and it was just a big celebration.”
Jimmie Johnson on racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
“I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the throwback paint schemes. There’s going to be a lot of things the fans are going to enjoy. Not only being here at the racetrack and being able to see everything, but the racetrack itself is sort of rebranding itself with all of the old signage and bringing back the ‘Too Tough to Tame’ slogan they used for years. Even the broadcast is going to have some throwback ad space during the commercials, which I think the fans are really going to love that are tuning in at home.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday’s race at Darlington