KOKOMO, Ind. – To be a consistent frontrunner on a race-by-race basis is a task that drivers and teams are constantly faced with in the pursuit of feature wins and season championships.
To be consistent year-after-year is taking it to another level.
When faced with different challenges and facing off with stout competition from one season to the next, it can become a chore to get the job done for three, five, 10 or even 20-plus straight years.
The best of the best are those who can thrive repeatedly and deliver results.
No single driver has had as much consistent success throughout the history of Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway than Dave Darland has.
Of course, he’s the winningest driver in the history of the track and the owner of four sprint car titles at the quarter-mile dirt oval, but his Smackdown success has been something to behold entering this week’s eighth annual edition of the event, Aug. 22-24.
No driver has earned more total Smackdown wins than Darland, with five. Likewise, no other driver has won more Smackdown finales than Darland, which he achieved consecutively from 2013-2015.
A deeper dig into the numbers shows that, in the seven previous editions of Smackdown, only four drivers have started each and every feature on the final night: Chris Windom, Chase Stockon, Shane Cottle and Darland.
Darland’s average feature finish over that seven-race span is an eye-popping 3.3, ahead of Windom (9.4), Stockon (10.4) and Cottle (11.7).
In fact, Darland’s worst finish in his seven Smackdown starts came last year with a seventh-place result, a solid run for many driver’s measuring stick.
Just one driver has as good of a record in terms of average finish at Smackdown than does Darland with a 3.3 average – Bryan Clauson, the winner of the inaugural edition of the event, who achieved the same average in just three starts.
It’s pretty incredible that Darland has been able sustain the success he’s had over the years with seven top-seven finishes in seven starts.
There’s only one driver who’s started at least four of the seven main events and finished in the top-10 in all of them, and that’s defending Smackdown winner Justin Grant, who’s started each of the last five finales.
In that time, Grant has finishes of sixth (2014, 2016-17), seventh (2015), and first (2018).
Darland’s finishes throughout his Smackdown run have been superb, with three victories (2013-15), and finishes of fourth (2012, 2016), fifth (2017) and seventh (2018).
A similar run this week would be a boon for Darland, who’s had three top-10 finishes in 16 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts this season.
It’s a place the USAC Triple Crown champion has been around and won at more than any other driver, where the home track and the home crowd are always a welcoming sight to the National Sprint Car Hall of Famer.