Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Highlight 5 Good, 5 Bad at Darlington

Ben MontedonicoContributor IIIMay 14, 2012

Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Highlight 5 Good, 5 Bad at Darlington

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    The boys of NASCAR were in South Carolina this weekend for the annual Southern 500 at the famed Darlington Raceway.

    Jimmie Johnson took home the victory Saturday night, claiming the 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory for team owner, Rick Hendrick. Johnson was not the only winner Saturday night, however, as the top drivers in the standings all managed to put together solid runs.

    But not all was well in upstate S.C. The Lady in Black took no prisoners on Mother's Day eve, claiming several victims, including a pair of struggling drivers and sparking another intense Sprint Cup rivalry.

    Who was good and who was bad at Darlington? We've got you covered!

Good: Jimmie Johnson

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    Rick Hendrick's long-awaited 200th Sprint Cup win goes to...

    Jimmie Johnson finally took home a checkered flag for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 Saturday night at Darlington, marking the first Sprint Cup win of the season for HMS, and its 200th all time.

    Johnson dominated at Darlington, leading the most laps en route to his third win at the egg-shaped oval, and his first since 2004.

    With his victory, Johnson now sits fifth in the standings, his best standing in the season thus far.

Bad: Jeff Gordon

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    It's practically becoming like clockwork.

    Jeff Gordon has good cars every single race. He starts up front, runs up front, and finishes...in the back.

    Why? Pretty simple. Jeff Gordon has no luck at all. If he does, every last bit of it is bad.

    That bad luck continued Saturday night at Darlington, where Gordon cut down three left-rear tires before taking his No. 24 car to the garage for extensive repair.

    Gordon would go on to finish 35th and dropped to 24th in the standings.

Good: Joe Gibbs Racing

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    Another week, another fantastic outing from the boys of JGR.

    Denny Hamlin led the charge for Joe Gibbs Racing Saturday night at Darlington, claiming a second-place finish after falling just short of a victory.

    Kyle Busch continued his hot streak as well, running in the top-five most of the night before settling in to a fourth-place finish, his third-consecutive top-five effort.

    Even Joey Logano had a solid night, finally putting together the run he's so desperately needed and ending the night with his first Top 10 since the season's second race, finishing 10th.

Bad: AJ Allmendinger

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    Trouble just continues to find A.J. Allmendinger.

    The Dinger ran around 15th for most of the evening and contended for the Lucky Dog spot for a lot of the race.

    Allmendinger finally got back on the lead lap, but would crash moments later after contact between he and Jamie McMurray, sending his No. 22 car to the garage for several laps.

    Allmendinger finished 33rd, dropping him to 22nd in the standings.

Good: Tony Stewart

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    Champions find a way to get the job done.

    Such was the case for defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart.

    With 85 laps to go, the clutch on Smoke's No. 14 car broke. When Stewart brought the car to pit road and the crew jacked it up, they discovered the only thing he could do was keep going.

    And keep going he did.

    Stewart rallied from 16th to battle for the win before ending the night in third after a hard-fought effort by the defending champ.

Bad: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s night at Darlington left much to be desired.

    His 17th-place finish was not terrible, especially considering his teammate finished 18 spots behind him.

    Still, Earnhardt's race was very out-of-character for a driver who had six-straight Top 10 finishes leading up to the race, and his finish was not the result he needed to gain ground on points leader, Greg Biffle.

    Earnhardt's mediocre finish does no significant damage to him in the standings, however, as he maintained his third position and lost only five points to the leader.

Good: Marcos Ambrose

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    No driver ran a better race Saturday night than Marcos Ambrose.

    The Tasmanian Devil's race was doomed from the drop of the green flag, as Ambrose quickly dropped off the lead lap and eventually went two laps down.

    But as nightfall came, Ambrose made the race go his way.

    Richard Petty Motorsports' flagship driver was the beneficiary of two wave-arounds and by race's end had worked all the way up to ninth.

    It was Ambrose's first Top 10 of the year and moved him to 18th in the standings.

Bad: Mark Martin

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    Darlington seemed like the place where Mark Martin would earn his first win driving for Michael Waltrip.

    Instead, the 2009 Southern 500 winner struggled from the first practice on.

    Martin ran off the lead lap for most of the race, but would benefit from a wave-around late.

    However, Martin was unable to take advantage of his big break, and could only muster a 20th-place finish.

Good: Ryan Newman vs. Kurt Busch

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    A new rivalry may be upon us.

    Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are not the best of friends following Saturday night's race, where the two drivers crashed late.

    Leaving pit road after the crash, an irate Busch, allegedly did a burnout and nearly ran into a couple of Newman's pit crew members.

    After the race, Busch allegedly ran into Newman's car on pit road while taking his helmet off, sparking a major brawl on that involved a NASCAR official being pushed to the ground.

    Busch and Newman now get to take their new-found rivalry to NASCAR's most unpredictable stage, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

Bad: Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch

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    Though Busch and Newman's new-found rivalry was fun to watch, it could be harmful to both drivers.

    Busch is already under a microscope. After a meltdown in the final race of 2011 cost him his ride, Busch has been working to improve his character in 2012.

    He's done a great job so far, but the Darlington relapse may erase that, and will certainly not be forgotten any time soon.

    As for Newman, a new rivalry is not in his best interest, either.

    Already struggling to crack the Top 10 in points, Newman is not in the best position to carry out a rivalry as he tries to make the Chase. Especially with a driver like Busch, to whom points matter very little this season.

    For both drivers, it would be best if Saturday night's scrum is a one-time thing.