The historic track located in Darlington, S.C., the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, has many nicknames associated with it – “Too Tough To Tame,” “Darlington stripe.” We will stay away from “The Lady in Black” because Jimmie Johnson knows better than to refer to a lady as temperamental and unpredictable, the origins of the nickname. Instead, he would rather focus on good qualities, like maybe a little luck from said lady, who, by the way, hasn’t been so kind to Johnson lately.
If “luck be a lady,” preferably Saturday night, Johnson will leave the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval with no Darlington stripes evident on his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, and he’ll erase the not-so-lucky memories of the last few races he has run at the oldest track on the tour.
Johnson has earned only a May 2009 top-10 finish in his last three visits to Darlington, and he did not finish the race in May 2010. But his record isn’t as bad as the last few races may indicate. In fact, it is somewhat impressive as Johnson is one of only 25 drivers – including David Pearson, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison – in the sport’s more than 60-year history to earn multiple wins at Darlington. Those wins were on the track’s notoriously rough surface. Johnson reveled in the racing there at one time, calling it one of his favorite tracks. And he considered it an honor to have won on what is widely thought of as one of the toughest tracks to tame.
The 2004 season was his most prolific at the track, when he pulled off the season sweep. Meanwhile, his 2010 outing would be quite the opposite. He failed to finish (placed 36th) after being involved in two minor incidents early in the race before being taken out for good on a hard but unintentional hit involving A.J. Allmendinger on lap 180 that totaled both drivers’ cars.
Overall, Johnson has finished outside the top-15 only twice (May 2010 and April 2003). With a little luck, he will add to his win total, which would move him even further up the list alongside some of the all-time greats who have won at Darlington. Those winners even may have had a little bit of lady luck on their side to help avoid those Darlington stripes that can sometimes spell disaster at the track that can be temperamental and unpredictable, and also a little too tough to tame.