Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
This weekend NASCAR racing returns to the Cradle of Champions, Darlington, SC. That remains somewhat of a miracle to me. During its infamous, Mike Helton coined, “Realignment” phase when the bastards couldn’t wait to abandon another traditional date in the Southeast for a higher profile event in a bigger market (Thanks, FOX!), it appeared the unenviable date, the eve of Mother’s Day, was assigned to the track purely to justify sacking the track’s second race date because of poor ticket sales. Traditionally, and NASCAR fans tend to be old-fashioned sorts, Mother’s Day weekend was sacrosanct on the schedule. One dubious and ultimately doomed experiment was run with a race weekend that coincided with Mother’s Day.
The Winston (remember those folks?) All-Star race was run on Mother’s Day in 1986 and only about 18,500 people attended the show that Bill Elliott stunk up to high Heavens. For comparison’s sake 110,000 folks attended the 1985 Winston in Charlotte the previous year. T-Wayne and the Winston folks didn’t make a lot of blunders in their storied marketing career with NASCAR, but that Mother’s Day race in Atlanta was a sure sign nobody is “perfeck.”
So yeah, back in 2004 when NASCAR moved the Labor Day weekend race to the travesty that is Fontana, sacked both Rockingham dates, and moved the Lady In Black’s sole remaining race date to Mother’s Day weekend, things looked grim for the Track Too Tough to Tame. But something odd happened. Fans kept showing up at Darlington just as they always had. (Cue up the Whos down in Whoville after the Grinch’s sacking of Christmas). Meanwhile attendance at the newer tracks in hipper more urban markets tanked. Funny how things work out like that. Or it would be funny if it still didn’t piss me off so badly.
NASCAR had legitimate business reasons for taking a race date away from Darlington. The sport was hotter than the Fourth of July at the point, and anytime a new event was announced a complete sellout was almost guaranteed especially if it was in a big TV market chock full of potential new fans eager to see what the fuss was all about. It’s not fair to say Darlington is in the middle of nowhere. It’s about three and a half miles northeast of Nowhere as the crow flies, a not intolerable ride from Charlotte or Florence even back in the day when GPS guidance was still the stuff of science fiction and you used a Texaco road map.
It’s necessary to put Darlington into historical context. Yes, building that great big track in the middle of nowhere once seen as a fool’s errand. Harold Brassington had taken a trip to see the Indy 500 and decided a great big paved track was what the then fledgling sport of NASCAR needed to put it on the map. Keep in mind when it opened in 1950 Darlington was the only fully paved circuit on the track dominated by half-mile dirt ovals. The very notion that production based American cars could last for 500 miles wide open on a banked 1.25 mile oval seemed absurd to many detractors. There was talk about a race where no competitor finished the full distance.
Again historical perspective is important. America had endured the great Depression, a seeming end to the notion of a Democratic society with capitalism as its base. To a terrifying degree this great country only pulled through the depression due to armed military conflict that enveloped most of the globe. To an extent we as a nation were drug kicking and screaming into the wars in Europe and the Pacific by the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that point the USA was still a B-lister in the global scheme of things, but after that attack on what was then still a territory of the United States, FDR led us into war. What followed was the most amazing victory the world had ever seen. A nation still in economic turmoil rose to its feet nose bloodied but still swinging with everything we had. Citizens soldiers, laborers, teachers, factory workers, and the rest, by and large the grandchildren of immigrants not career military types, rallied into perhaps the greatest army in human history. Across the Pacific and from Normandy and Sicily to Berlin the US armed forces (not to downplay the contribution of our Allies) fought in defense of freedom in the face of totalitarianism and tyranny. The cost in human lives lost was horrific but the battle needed to be won.
Meanwhile here at home something amazing was happening as well. The giants of industry, the companies that produced our cars, washing machines and streetlights, turned virtually on a dime to support the war effort. They built the aircraft carriers, battleships, tanks, bombs, fighters, bombers, Jeeps and trucks that helped turn the tide of the war.
Yeah, there was a heady sense of optimism here in the States back in the late forties and early 50s. We’d won the war. Anything was possible as we shifted back to a peacetime economy. Are, you sir, trying to tell me cars built here in the USA can’t run 500 miles wide open? Dad Blum it, I bet they can and I think I’ll go get me a ticket to see them do so. 25,000 fans attended the 1950 Southern 500 completely overwhelming the area’s infrastructure.
It was 75 cars that started the first Southern 500 and 28 of them were officially listed as running. Johnny Mantz won in a 1950 Plymouth that earlier that week had been driven as a street car, as Bill France ran around posting flyers to promote the race. That might seem impossible these days but that, son, is why it’s called “stock car racing.” Nowadays the Cup cars might have as much to do with what you drive on the roads as an ICBM does with the darts you chuck on League night at the Legion, but back then they were indeed “stock” cars.
Back in 1950, brand new cars were still in short supply as the factories re-tooled after the wars. To own a new car, particularly an Olds or Caddy with the new OHV engines was a major status symbol. And if you had a Ford and your buddy a Chevy they were probably frequent exchanges over who had made the wiser purchase. In the early days of the sport you weren’t so much a fan of the drivers as you were a fan of a make of car. Winning a 500 miler at Darlington provided manufacturers major bragging rights. And the fans kept turning up at Darlington handing ticket renewals down through generations as the on-going ground war as to whether Ford, GM, Chrysler (or Hudson, Studebaker or Kaiser back in those days) built the fastest and most reliable car.
If America had a romance with the automobile in the early 20th century it became a full blown love affair after the war. What you parked in the driveway of your little pink house in modern suburbia said a lot about who you were and what freedom was. as totally American as taking the family for a Sunday afternoon ride in your brand new long and chrome, shiny and black cruiser?
I’m not here to tell you that every race at Darlington has been a classic. Detractors wishing to make the point that the good old days weren’t that great frequently point out Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 by a mere fourteen laps. Granted, but back in 1965 troubled times had come to more places than the Boss’s home town high school. The Dodge/Plymouth teams, including that of reigning champion Richard Petty were sitting out most of the season due to NASCAR’s ban on the Hemi powered intermediate cars. The tires of the day were simply not up to the speeds Detroit had wrought and accidents were frequent and none too occasionally deadly. In 1965, Cale Yarborough sailed straight over the guard rail and into the parking lot in his Ford trying to run down Jarrett. And if that was such a lousy race how come FOX still uses the footage of Yarborough’s epic flight in their pre-race video?
Yeah, over the years Darlington has produced some outstanding races and a few clinkers. On a Monday afternoon in 2003, 55,000 people watched Ricky Craven hold off Kurt Busch by .002 seconds in a tire smoking, fender crunching drag race off of turn four to the checkers. Until last month’s Talladega race tied the mark, that was the closest margin of victory in the sport’s modern history. And Darlington did it without the plates or some contrived drafting strategy of two-car packs. That afternoon it was all about Craven and Busch, each of who really wanted to win the damned race at NASCAR’s most historic super speedway.
If I were to sit here telling you the stories of memorable moments at Darlington this column would swell to an unmanageable size. As a race fan, not a writer, I will never forget seeing Bill Elliott win that Winston Million in 1985. I’ll never forget that first great road trip South to Darlington in a 1970 SS454 El Camino four speed. To this day I consider Tim Richmond’s winning the 1986 Southern 500 on a rain slick race track the greatest bit of driving I’ve ever seen in any form of auto racing. But Hell, to be able to win on the notoriously abrasive track that wore tires plum out in less than ten laps was an accomplishment for any driver. Even the great Richard Petty was only able to score a single Southern 500 win. (David Pearson had a lot to do with that).
Does Darlington still matter to the sport? If it doesn’t nothing else does either and we might as well pack up the tents and go home from this circus. I know in my heart, the day I hear NASCAR has dropped Darlington’s lone remaining date from the schedule, that’s the day I retire. And someday, maybe some fine sweet day, someone at NASCAR will figure out that we really need to head back to Darlington on Labor Day weekend if for no other reason to honor that greatest generation that helped put the track on the map and create this sometimes clumsy monster we call a sport.
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I love Darlington raceway. My husband and I have been to most all of the tracks on the East Coast and Darlington was one of the fondest memories we have. It sure wasn’t the food we remember. Those folks have some strange eating habits and huge slabs of fried bologna aren’t part of our regular diet. It also wasn’t the cultural experience, either. They roll up the sidewalks before the sun sets and you can just drive on up the road if you’re looking for entertainment. No, it was the track and the people that we remember so fondly. When we saw the country roads we just knew traffic was going to be a nightmare. Wrong! Darlington is the only track we’ve visited that has their shit together both before and after the race. Smooth sailing both ways and nothing but smiles, friendly waves and country hospitality! Everyone who worked at the track and everyone who attended the race were the nicest folks we’ve ever run across. We were lucky enough to attend the last Southern 500 in Darlington. That was a weekend to remember and I’m sad Nascar couldn’t see past their wallets to retain what was good about themselves.
Matt said: “back in 2004 when NASCAR moved the Labor Day weekend race to the travesty that is Fontana”
Not to be confused with the travesty that is your insults to Fontana.
Or the travesty that is ALL of his articles.
I, too, believe that Darlington is important to the fans of NASCAR – although NOT to NASCAR the sanctioning body. I believe that the plan was indeed to kill it off by putting it on a date that wouldn’t market well.
Except that NASCAR guessed wrong. We were at the LAST Southern 500 in 2003 when Terry Labonte won. We went to the one they held in November – daggone that was a cold day! and we’ve gone every year since then on Mother’ Day weekend — I remember the first one in particular because I talked to fans who came from all over the place, Chicago, Canada, (we drove from NJ) and everyone said the SAME thing. They came because they wanted to prove NASCAR had made a mistake.
I also personally boycotted watching the Labor Day race at Fontana (sorry Mike from SoCal)just on principle.
so here’s to all the fans who continue to go to Darlington for the race – even though it is NOT the Southern 500, no matter what the track has decided to name it.
oops, sorry make that Kevin in SoCal
Geez, Goldman – still back to make snarky comments?
Darlington is my home track as I live about an hour from the track in central SC. I’ve been to too many races at Darlington to count, and though I’ve had a few bad experiences, most have been quite memorable. Sneaking past a security guard to meet Ned Jarrett in the garage in 1998 is a highlight… what a truly gracious man he is.
Darlington may be in the middle of nowhere, and it may not offer the ammenities that Charlotte Speedway does, but when it comes to the actual racing, I’ll put our track up against any on the circuit.
AnnieMack. Next time you’re in Darlington try some of SC’s famous mustard-based BBQ. We’re famous for it, and for good reason.
The Rebel on Confederate Memorial Day (this weekend) notwithstanding, NASCAR deserves to put the Chase back in Darlington for The Southern 500 to end the season in Darlington. Had it not been Ferko (a lawsuit that threatens other sport too), this travesty of having one date at the worst possible date would have never happened. It’s time NASCAR seriously consider a return to a spring Rebel and fall Southern dates with the fall race being a Chase date. Jimmie Johnson had a Put Up or Shut Up moment the last time the classic was run and began his Mr. Clutch run. It’s better to allow drivers such as Jimmie Johnson to gain enough experience that by his 10th Darlington race (third 500-miler) he was able to win at the place. Denny Hamiln’s debut at the Bi-Lo 200 NNS race (on the November 2004 Southern 500 weekend) was impressive.
I started watching Nascar around 1991, while I was in the Navy in Charleston SC. I now DVR most races other than the Daytona 500, and most short tracks, there are a few I MUST watch real time. The 2003 race with Craven and Busch I relive every other month or so on youtube just to recall that moment. Best finish I personally ever seen IMHO. Add to that I am a HUGE Mark Martin fan, and his winning at Darlington 2 years ago was probably my favorite win of his I have ever seen. Not a scratch on his car at the finish, looked like it hadn’t even been raced, at the track “Too Tough To Tame”, and every car is expected to have a “Darlington Stripe”. I agree with Matt, they need to put a second date back, and I don’t care if it’s on Christmas Day, I’ll still watch it.
Didn’t NASCAR call the Labor Day race in Atlanta in 2010 the “Southern 500”? I swear I remember them saying some BS like “The Southern 500 is back on Labor Day” blah blah. So this year, they saw how that STILL didn’t cut it and, while Atlanta’s only date is Labor Day weekend, the “Southern 500” has again been moved, but back to Darlington on Mother’s Day weekend.
Maybe there will be some paint drying around here this weekend that I can watch.
We used to drive from California to attend races at Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond. Refused to drive 40 minutes to Fontana. Went 2 times to Fontana and that track and NA$CAR/ISC truly suck.
Mike—I’m right there with you, having forsaken Fontana for RIR, BMS, even PIR. Only my opinion, but Fontana has had sub-par racing (especially compared to the spectacle that was Riverside Int’l Raceway) for too many years. That being said, the last couple of races, Nationwide and Cup, have been surprisingly better. It’ll never be Darlington but maybe it’s too early to permanently consign it to landfill status…that’s my hope, anyway.
Old Gal, I would love to see the Cup race moved from Fontana to Irwindale. If you have not been there yet you must go. Great half mile track with progressive banking.
The first non-Daytona 500 race I ever saw on TV was Lake Speed winning the TransSouth 400 at Darlington. I was hooked. I stopped by the track in 1992 when moving back North. It was like walking into a time warp – it felt like I was in Mayberry. The guard at the turn one access gate let me walk out on the surface of the track – it was incredibly rough. I was amazed that any driver could keep a set of tires on a car for 10 laps there! Davey Allison had just been there practicing for his shot at the Winston Million the upcoming Labor Day. You could really feel the history of the sport there… It remains my favorite track memory, and I didn’t even see a car run there.