Goodyear Takes Advantage of Off Weekend in Nascar

Richard DeveauCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2009

Most drivers in the NASCAR garage enjoy kicking back on a rare off weekend from the Sprint Cup Series, whether it's hittin' the dirt track or hittin' the beach.

But some drivers still have to go to work, as Goodyear does some more tire tests at the historic egg-shaped Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC.

Denny Hamlin, Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, and Bobby Labonte were at Darlington Wednesday to help Goodyear prepare for the race at Darlington in May.

Though this track is NASCAR's oldest speedway, this year will only be the second event at the 1.3 mile track with the new pavement laid out last winter. This should result in better racing and more of the traditional excitement of Darlington.

Tires tend to wear quickly at this track, and managing the wear is key to winning this race.

So even though these drivers would have enjoyed their time off, they realize that it's crucial to give Goodyear the right information about their tires so that they can optimize tire selection for the event.

With NASCAR's test ban, it also gives these drivers a slight advantage.

"They repaved the track last year and you hated to see it in one way but they did a great job and it’s still the same Darlington," said 2000 Southern 500 winner Bobby Labonte, who has shown surprising pace in his first season behind the wheel of the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Ford Fusion. 

"Speeds have picked up, the surface is smoother but the racing is still great and it still means the same thing to win here."

"Well obviously this is a very historic race track that we go to," said Kevin Harvick, who is yet to win at the historic track. "It still has a lot of the characteristics that it’s had for a number of years so to come here and race as a driver in NASCAR, I think that’s something special to everyone in the garage.

"This is an exciting place for us to race at and to win would be really cool. We’ve been close a couple of times and it would be nice to finally win one here."

"This is a place I got to come to as a kid and watch races because it is not far from where I grew up so to come here and have a chance to win this race is a dream come true," added Sadler, driver of the No. 19 Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports.

"I love that we race here, I’m glad it’s a night race, it’s a great event for us and since we only come here once a year we put a lot of effort into running well here because Darlington is still a huge cornerstone in our sport and represents where we’ve been and how far we’ve come."

Hamlin has won here twice, in the Nationwide Series, and is hoping that his success rubs off on his Sprint Cup Series No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team to win the big Southern 500.

"Darlington is a great race track for me, I always run well here," he said. "It’s a great race track, I love running here and it’s got so much history. You hated to see it get paved but they did a great job doing it and it still promotes great racing. It’s a great track with great history and you love to win here no matter what car you are in."

Tickets for the 2009 Southern 500, as well as the Nationwide Series event, are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased by calling the track at 866-459-RACE or online at