NASCAR turns back the clock for their annual Southern 500 at Darlington Speedway

It's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway

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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).

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NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

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This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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