Things picked up last week at Darlington

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

It was a relief to see the huge television and attendance numbers for the Darlington race last week. According to FOX television, the race last Saturday night garnered the highest television ratings of any night race ever shown on the network. The track was also sold out in advance. That’s great news for the future of Darlington.

There had been serious speculation that last week’s race could be the last run at Darlington. With such a small seating capacity at 60,000 and NASCAR’s desire to cater to the big markets, Darlington is a prime candidate to lose a race date. Having already lost one race, it would be a shame not to race at Darlington at all. Some even went as far to say that Darlington was set up to fail. With the first Mother’s Day weekend race in over 20 years, the circumstances were not ideal. However, Darlington Raceway passed the test with flying colors. Let’s hope that we are back next year.

Greg Biffle took advantage of Ryan Newman’s bad luck and took the checkered flag last week. Newman was in a Catch 22, leading the race going into a green, white, checkered flag finish. If he’d taken a pit stop for tires, which he desperately needed, those following him would have stayed on the track and he wouldn’t win.

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On the other hand, if he’d stayed on the track and kept the lead, everyone would have pitted and beaten him on new tires and he still wouldn’t have won the race. He chose to stay on the track and Biffle beat him on new tires.

Biffle is having a dream season so far and it couldn’t come at a better time. His contract with Roush Racing is after the 2005 season, he will be the main target for other team owners next season. There will be some big-time rides open and I don’t expect to see Biffle back with Roush. Look for Penske to really go after Biffle for the second Miller Lite ride vacated by Rusty Wallace’s retirement.

How many of you had as much fun as I did watching Michael Waltrip and Jeff Green spend half the night trying to wreck each other? Because both had no chance to win the race, their main objective was to put the other in the wall and both made no secret about it.

Tonight in Richmond will be the second of four consecutive weeks of night racing. Prime time racing is now the trend and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. For some reason, the night racing is fun to watch and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a Saturday night race.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is slowing turning his season around and has performed extremely well at Richmond in the past. In 11 career races, he has posted eight top-ten finishes along with two victories. He will have something to say about who wins Saturday night. However, I still don’t know if Junior is ready to win a race. The comfort level with his new team is still not where it needs to be.

Wallace also has a great history at Richmond and will be strong this week. I am going with the guy on the hot streak and picking Biffle to pick up his second consecutive win.

The coverage begins at 7 o’clock tonight on FOX. Enjoy the race.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His racing column appears in several newspapers in the Southeast. He can be reached at