Things will heat up fast at Darlington

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
Darlington's tight layout makes it a cauldron for crashes ... and tempers.
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Michael Waltrip

Winner of the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip joined the NASCAR on FOX team in 2012. In addition to his "FOX NASCAR Sunday" pre-race work, Waltrip also contributes analysis and updates in-race and contributes to throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter.


Darlington is definitely the toughest track to make a lap around. When you go to other tracks, you simply race the competition. The tracks are normally wide and forgiving. Sure, they all have their challenges because we go so darn fast, but you can pretty much handle the track.


NASCAR on FOX brings live coverage of the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. The green flag drops at 1 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

At Darlington, that is not the case. In fact, at Darlington it is the complete opposite. That track simply wasn’t built for the speeds we race at now. It’s a place I dearly love to go and watch folks race.

Going there as a driver is hard, believe me. Going there as a fan and watching others try and race it is cool. I’m serious. Watching a race at Darlington is one of my favorite things to do every year.

You just feel the history when you pull into the place. It has been there forever. It was NASCAR’s first superspeedway. When you go to Darlington you really are going back in time and you need to stop and appreciate the history there.

The year 1992 was really special year for the Waltrip brothers. I won the race on Saturday and then DW won the race on Sunday. Ironically, he beat our NASCAR on FOX buddy, Larry McReynolds and his driver, Davey Allison, out of the Winston Million that day.

Honestly, the key at Darlington is survival. When you have someone on your outside, things get tense because there simply isn’t enough room. You will see a lot of give and take Saturday night. This isn’t because the drivers are trying to be nice to one another. It’s just the stark reality that if they don’t, then they will never finish.

If you go back a couple of years, Denny Hamlin ran inches from the wall all race long and ended up in Victory Lane without a scratch on his No. 11 Toyota. So he proved you can win without a Darlington Stripe, but to be honest, I haven’t seen it done very often.

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Now go back a year or two further and you had his teammate, Kyle Busch, winning with the whole right side of his car was caved in. That was more than a stripe that Kyle had, but he fought through it and won the race. That shows you how talented those two guys are.

Over the years, Darlington has given us some amazing finishes. It’s also provided some amazing crashes. Drivers get ticked off at each other. It’s classic Saturday night racing under the lights. It has everything that I want to see. That’s as good as it gets as far as I am concerned.

Actually, I think you might see some carryover of hurt feelings from the last couple of weeks. You saw Denny Hamlin and A.J. Allmendinger got together on that restart Sunday at Talladega. Tony Stewart was involved and he was upset.

The bottom line, like we always tell you, racing is racing. There will always be wrecks and people are going to be mad. Saturday in the Nationwide race you saw Danica Patrick and Sam Hornish take their frustrations out on each other.

Go back two weeks and think about all the heartburn that came out of Richmond because of that last restart. My point is things are starting to boil up right now and when the next race is Darlington, well things might boil over.

Tagged: Denny Hamlin, AJ Allmendinger

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