Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kahne on Pole Heading into 'Scary' Darlington Race; Combination of Forces Could Create Contact in Tonight's NASCAR Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kahne on Pole Heading into 'Scary' Darlington Race; Combination of Forces Could Create Contact in Tonight's NASCAR Race

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Kurt Busch had two words to describe the Darlington Raceway on Friday during qualifying: "It's scary."

The mix of Darlington's ever-so-close walls and the reduction of the rear spoiler could turn tonight's Dodge Charger 500 into another demolition derby.

A week after 25 cars were involved in a single crash at the Talladega Superspeedway, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series is bracing itself for more problems during the first prime-time race at the 55-year-old speedway (7 p.m., Fox).

The lower spoiler reduces the amount of downforce on the rear wheels -- not something drivers need to navigate around the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped track. Most of the cars in tonight's race will finish with damage on the right-rear fender after bouncing off one of Darlington's walls. The tradition of hitting the wall is so prominent, drivers say the damage is "earning a Darlington stripe."

"We're out of control this year more than I've ever been here at Darlington," said Elliott Sadler, whose Ford is fourth on the grid. "The track is just getting old and gray. You have a lot less room to slide around because of the SAFER barriers, but we like the SAFER barriers. It's going to create great racing, I think. When have you ever come to Darlington and seen a boring race? You can show the highlights of this place, whether they had new asphalt, SAFER barriers, no SAFER barriers, and then we add a new element of nighttime racing with the lights, and I think you're still going to see a great race."

The SAFER barriers -- Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers -- were added a year ago to absorb some of the impact with the outside walls during a crash. While it cushions the severity of a crash, it erased 30 inches of the outside racing groove. By the time tonight's race is completed, the outside walls at both ends of the speedway -- especially Turns 3 and 4 -- will be blackened by contact.

Kasey Kahne will start on the pole. He was clocked at 170.024 mph on Friday night. And in accordance with NASCAR's new rules, his car was impounded after time trials and won't run again until the race starts. …

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