NASCAR turns back the clock for their annual Southern 500 at Darlington Speedway
It's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway
This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the track they call "Too Tough To tame" in Darlington, South Carolina. Considered one of NASCAR's landmark race tracks, this track is rich with history as it was built back in 1950 and of the many changes this sport has seen, this track has stood the test of time through it all. A win here would truly be a huge victory for any driver as this track is arguably the most difficult to get around as danger lurks in every corner. Over the many years this track has existed, many drivers have found the wall and collected their "Darlington stripe." Hitting the wall here comes as a sort of a right of passage. Driving around the outside at this track is nearly impossible considering how narrow the grove is around the wall and only a select few can manage it. When the dust settles, more than likely the cleanest looking car will go to victory lane.
One of the many things that makes this race so special is the tradition that comes along with it. Back when this track was incorporated into the schedule in 1950, NASCAR made sure that it always fell on Labor Day weekend and for many years, this was one of the most popular races in motor sports. Fans from all around the country flocked in one by one to watch their heroes try and tame the track that could not be tamed. Over the years, they watched some of the best finishes in history. This tradition would continue all the way up until 2004 when NASCAR announced they would switch around the schedule and put the Labor Day race at Auto Club Speedway in California of all places and as you would think, this was one of the most unpopular decisions made in the sports history.
It wasn't till 2015, that NASCAR finally decided to return the iconic race to its original date. When the announcement was made, nearly all the teams decided to celebrate by running nostalgic paint schemes. This has really been a neat way for the sport not only to pay tribute to its past but also a nice way to drum up more conversation about who has the best or worst paint scheme for this race. Most of the drivers really went all out this year in their efforts, William Byron being the best example. This year, Byron will be running the paint scheme made famous by Cole Trickle in Days Of Thunder. Overall, the car looks nearly identical to the green and yellow city Chevrolet seen in the film, the only difference being the car number. For most, watching this race will be a trip down memory lane considering a lot of these paint schemes are all that us fans watched as we grew up, it should be a great time picking out each driver and remembering who drove that car before them.
The driver I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. Stop me if you have heard this before but Kyle Larson has yet to win a points-paying race this season and as close as he has been, you would think that he would at least rattled off a few this season. It always seems as if there is one thing that comes up and costs them a chance to win. Last Season here, Larson led a race high 284 laps and swept both stages but due to an ill handling car and a bad pitstop, he had to settle for a disappointing third place finish. This year, I expect it to be different. As rocky as it has been at times for him, he has always been a threat to win and on Sunday, I think he will finish what he started last season and pick up his first win of the season and finally assure his spot in the playoffs. He will be piloting a paint scheme that resembles Ricky Craven's 1995-1996 kodiak livery. As most NASCAR fans know, Craven claimed his second career victory at Darlington back in 2003 so Larson and company are hoping that paying tribute to him will bring this team good luck come sunday, not that I think he will need it though considering he has led over four hundred laps in the past two darlington races. Look for Kyle Larson to take the checkered flag.
(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).