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Shades of Green

Darlington Raceway is an uncharacteristic track with some uncharacteristic nicknames. One of the more famous references to the 1.366-mile track is “Lady in Black.” The moniker supposedly comes from the walls surrounding the track, which are painted white but are often black by the end of the race due to drivers making contact with their tires. Or, in some cases, the paint from their car is left on the wall after making contact, also known as a “Darlington Stripe”.

Jimmie Johnson has his own stripes this weekend, albeit of a different hue but, in either case, he hopes the color doesn’t show up on the Darlington walls. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS will sport emerald stripes this weekend. The color was chosen as the 2013 PANTONE Color of the Year, which is featured in the new PANTONE UNIVERSE™ Paint Collection by Valspar. (The PANTONE name is the standard language for color communication, from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.)

Johnson enjoys the quirky, egg-shaped Darlington track, having won there three times, including a sweep in 2004 and last year’s historic 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports. Despite the fact the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has never won a pole at the track, he notes that getting a good starting position is important for a solid finish. The statistics back this up. In 36 of the 109 races run at Darlington, the winner has come from the front row, including Johnson’s 2012 win from the outside pole position.

In addition to his three wins, Johnson’s Darlington resume includes seven top-five finishes in 14 races run. Those finishes are a pretty safe indicator that Johnson has kept his Lowe’s blue paint color on his car instead of the walls. He hopes to do it again Saturday night because, even though emerald  happens to be in fashion right now, Johnson would prefer that the lady be wearing any color other than emerald at the end of Saturday’s 367-lap event.

Johnson’s Darlington Quick Stats:

  • Three wins (March and November 2004, May 2012) in 14 starts.
  • Seven top-five finishes (50 percent) and 10 top-10s (71.4 percent) in 14 starts.
  • Completed 4,733 of 4,923 laps (96.1 percent) and led 543.
  • Average start of 12.5. Average finish of 9.1.
  • One DNF (did not finish) – May 2010.
  • Sprint Cup’s fourth-best driver rating (105.7 average of a possible 150 points).

Talk about racing at Darlington. 

“I love tracks with character and Darlington certainly has it. Tire wear used to be a big deal there, but not so much now with the track trying to come back in. It’s aging slowly. It’s still not quite like the old track. Track position and strategy will be very important. It actually has the highest sensation of speed. It was built in the ’40s and ’50s for cars to go 120 mph, and we are going 200. It’s also very narrow. I’m looking forward to it. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”

How cool is it going back to Darlington knowing you got the 200thwin for Hendrick Motorsports there?

“Very cool to go back. I know we were all trying very hard to get that 200th win for Rick. And all our teams were close multiple times. Martinsville would have been extremely fitting, obviously, but Darlington has a great feel to it, too. And, to understand some of Rick’s early memories and the first race he ever went to watch being there at Darlington, it ties it all in. The history that track has in our sport, and that of Hendrick Motorsports and the history of NASCAR, it fits very well. It’s a tough, tough racetrack to get around. I’m proud of every win I have there, and especially that 200th win.”

TAGS: Race News

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Jeff Gordon
Denny Hamlin
Ryan Newman
Jimmie Johnson
Started: 8th
Finished: 1st
November 15th, 2015
2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Kobalt Hot Pass