I have made it perfectly clear since this column began that my favorite track on the entire NASCAR schedule, whether it be the Trucks, the Xfinity Series, or Sprint Cup, is Darlington. It cannot be compared to any track that is run.
Its unique size, its unique shape, and its unbelievable history just make it a place that is NASCAR’s hallowed ground.
When the track got back its traditional weekend last season, Labor Day at the “Lady in Black” as it’s called, NASCAR decided to honor its history and do an old-school theme to the race.
Goodyear lettered the tires like they did in the 1960’s, teams brought out classic looks, and the TV station even decided to bring back the old-school logo.
How does one follow up such a successful weekend?
Simple…do it again, but bigger, bolder, and with more involvement. The 2016 edition of NASCAR’s “Throwback Weekend” focused on the 1975-1984 era of the sport, and the involvement from everyone was second-to-none. Goodyear again lettered the tires in a classic look, with the white lettering from the early 1980’s. But then the teams all across the board really decided to go big.
Of the 40 cars that took the green flag, 37 of them were doing something classic, something to honor the sport’s heritage. Greg Biffle honored his favorite driver growing up, Alan Kulwicki, with his No. 16 donning the Hooters colors once again. Jamie McMurray and McDonald’s teamed up to go honor Bill Elliott’s classic look from 1997, making fans decide if they wanted a “Mac Tonight.”
Kyle Busch went away from his M&M’s look and went with the original colors of Interstate Batteries, the colors that Dale Jarrett had on the No. 18 in 1993 when he won the Daytona 500.
Restored cars from seasons gone by took to the track; the 1979 No. 43 of Richard Petty and the No. 72 of Benny parsons from his 1973 championship season were alongside Jeff Burton when he took the NBC car around the speedway.
Darlington, as they have since 2009, kept the original red and white walls and lettering, and even Gatorade got involved by taking Victory Lane back to the look it had in years gone by.
No other track could make this possible. Daytona has the sport’s biggest race, so already it has the niche in the NASCAR book of history. Charlotte is the headquarters of a majority of the teams, but it already has successive weeks of big events with the All-Star Race and then the Coca-Cola 600. This track has been part of the sport practically since it’s beginning, when drivers were competing on the apron, and the track as it is now used to be the run-off if someone began spinning out.
It saw a swap of straightaways in 1997, then in 2004 saw the Southern 500 become a Chase race for one season. A year later, it became a Mother’s Day weekend event, but lost the name that Darlington is known for.
It has come full circle. Darlington is back on the schedule where it belongs. It has the race name that drivers understand means so much to the industry. It is always “Too Tough To Tame” because no matter how hard one tries, this “Lady in Black” will always dance to a different tune.
It is Darlington. There isn’t, and never will be, another track like it.
RESULTS: 1-Truex Jr. 2-Harvick 3-Larson 4-Hamlin 5-Logano 6-Kenseth 7-Kahne 8-Newman 9-Keselowski 10-Elliott
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Kyle Busch 14-Gordon 17-Buescher 19-Edwards 33-Johnson 34-Kurt Busch 35-Stewart
CAUTIONS: 10 for 52 laps. Laps: 96-103 (#6 spin-T4); 115-118 (#44 accident-T2); 205-210 (#14, 44 accident-BS); 215-218 (#48 accident-FS); 251-255 (#32 accident-T4); 262-265 (#16 accident-T4); 280-284 (#21, 47 accident-T2); 319-322 (Oil on track from #14); 328-333 (#27, 41 accident-T2); 350-355 (#15, 43 accident-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 14 among 8 drivers. K. Harvick 1-93; B. Keselowski 94-138; K. Harvick 139-162; B. Keselowski 163-164; K. Harvick 165-251; D. Hamlin 252-261; Kyle Busch 262; M. Kenseth 263-272; K. Harvick 273-281; D. Hamlin 282-284; K. Larson 285-329; R. Newman 330-338; M. Truex, Jr. 339-350; K. Harvick 351; M. Truex, Jr. 352-367.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 57 Mins, 54 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 126.437 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.606 Seconds
CHASE GRID: 1. Keselowski-797 (Points), 4 (Wins); 2. Kyle Busch-727, 4; 3. Harvick-840, 2; 4. Edwards-746, 2; 5. Hamlin-729, 2; 6. Truex Jr.-696, 2; 7. Kenseth-669, 2; 8. Johnson-656, 2; 9. Logano-752, 1; 10. Kurt Busch-728, 1; 11. Larson-621, 1; 12. Stewart-426, 1; 13. Buescher-358, 1; 14. Elliott, -141 (From 1st-Harvick); 15. Dillon, -189; 16. McMurray, -198.