Editor’s Note: This notebook will be updated throughout the day, so check back for the latest news.
STILL TOO TOUGH? — Matt Kenseth is a past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and is second in the points right now behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle. But even an accomplished veteran like Kenseth said he’s continuing to learn the best way to handle Darlington Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.
“I’m still working on it, honestly,” said Kenseth. “I think it changes a lot. We only come here once a year, so you don’t know what you’re gonna have when you get on the race track as far as the tire-track combination and grip – setups change – so I think it’s really a moving target.”
Kenseth said Darlington has changed radically since being repaved in early 2008. “The track doesn’t even resemble the track before they paved it and before they put up the SAFER barriers,” he said. “It has so many changes. When they put up the SAFER barriers that was a huge change because it took away so much room, and then when they paved it that changed the whole ballgame again. It really didn’t drive like the old Darlington at all. It didn’t get slick. It drove more like a Charlotte or something like that, but with a much narrower groove, so it’s always changing and you’re always trying to keep up with those changes and always trying to learn and get better.”
REGAN REDUX? — One of the drivers looking for big things in Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 is defending race-winner Regan Smith of Furniture Row Racing. Smith stunned the garage last year by using old tires late in the race to hold off Carl Edwards to win the first and so far, only, race for himself and the team.
So far this year, though, Smith is struggling mightily, with his best finish a 15th at Las Vegas. Through 10 races, he’s 27th in points, not where he wanted to be, for sure.
“We are working on a lot of stuff,” Smith said Friday morning when asked about his team’s slow start. “It’s been a situation where we have just got behind, as to why we have hit this wall a little bit right now. We’ve got to keep working on our stuff and making it better, coming up with new ideas.”
Furniture Row works closely with Richard Childress Racing, but that team is a little off where it hoped to be, too.
“We have a great relationship with Richard Childress Racing and a lot of times when we are struggling we can lean on them and help make our stuff better,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, right now they are probably not quite as quick as they would like to be either at the moment. So, it’s tougher for us to lean on them like we normally would.”
HARVICK NOT AMUSED — Last year at Darlington, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch tangled on the track and on pit road after the race. As a result, the track played up the rivalry in this year’s pre-race advertising, something that didn’t please either driver.
“Things are what they are,” Harvick said Friday morning at Darlington. “We have tried to move past them and concentrate on what we have to concentrate on. The race track has to do what they have to do to sell tickets. It’s not like it didn’t happen. You can’t really hide from that. It’s okay.”
Asked if he and Busch had talked, Harvick was blunt. “I don’t talk about Kyle or to Kyle,” he said.
JUNIOR APPROVES — After last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway ended badly for Tony Stewart, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion went on a blistering and completely deadpan tirade, urging for more blown engines and crashes at Talladega.
His hilarious rant was applauded by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I thought it was great, to be honest with you, what Tony did,” Earnhardt said Friday. “It was funny. Got a lot of play and it was funny to hear. Everybody was emailing it and texting it back and forth. I think it was more of a parody. I don’t think anything in there he was technically being serious with and should be taken seriously. To read between the lines, I would say he wasn’t too happy with that style of racing and thinks things could be better and different as far as the (rules) package we had.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.