Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart should feel no shame for being winless in Cup races at Darlington Raceway.

He's not alone.

More drivers - 689 - have started at least one Cup race at Darlington than at any other track. And 646 have never won there, including ten other Cup champions.

Rusty Wallace, the 1989 champion, was winless in 43 starts. Stewart is 'only' 0-for-16 going into Saturday night's Southern 500.

"Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day," he said. "You don't see a lot of guys who have a lot of success there."

Stewart got his first win at Darlington last year, in a Nationwide Series race. In the Sprint Cup race the next day, he finished 21st, the first car a lap down.

"With the rich heritage and history at Darlington - to win there and be the first guy to win after they resurfaced it - it's a feeling that's hard to describe," Stewart said. "It's just cool to win at Darlington. You think back to guys like David Pearson who were so good there. This series is just so deep in history, and this is one of those tracks where the history goes as deep as NASCAR does. To finally get a win at Darlington was a huge honor for me."

The first race at Darlington was in 1950. Pearson's ten wins and twelve poles are track records. Dale Earnhardt is second with nine wins, followed by Jeff Gordon with seven. Jimmie Johnson is second among active drivers with two wins.

Stewart is not entered in Friday night's Nationwide Series race, but he does enter Saturday's Cup race riding a wave of optimism. He finished second last week for the second time in three races. It also was his fourth top five in five races. Ryan Newman, the other half of owner/driver Stewart's fledgling Stewart-Haas Racing team, recorded his second straight top five last week.

"Obviously after my second-place run and Ryan's fourth-place run last week at Richmond, it's the most momentum this team has ever had," Stewart said. "We're going into Darlington, and both of us are excited about the track. We're on a high right now, coming off our best finishes as an organisation, so we're excited about everything. Everybody in the whole organisation is excited, and we're looking forward to it."

by Bill Marx/Sporting News