|Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone!|
Kyle Larson's first career win last week at Michigan made him the 13th driver to win in the first 24 races which means there are only three Chase spots available.
The Southern 500 used to be NASCAR's feature race of the season every Labor Day weekend. It began in 1950 and while NASCAR took the date away during its rapid expansion -- greed was the real reason, last year it made a return back to its rightful spot on the schedule at Darlington and everyone embraced it.
The track painted the facility just the way it was in the 1950's, and the teams got into the theme as well with retro paint schemes. For the past two months, every team has been unveiling their Darlington paint schemes, and they all look pretty cool. You're going to do a double take wondering if David Pearson, Cale Yarborough or Junior Johnson is driving.
Beyond the historical element added, the best thing about races at Darlington is the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval that features high banks with four different corners. No matter how skilled a driver is 'The Lady in Black' always manages to give away some unwanted Darlington stripes.
“The Darlington Stripe is when you run up right by the wall and you are trying to get the best speed you can out of the car," said Kurt Busch who makes his 20th Darlington start Sunday and finished sixth there last year.
"Just that quick (snaps fingers), the wall just sucks you right on it and you’ve got the right side of your car pancaked. The teams build the cars with extra support on the right sides. It’s extra weight but it helps protect you from running into the wall too hard. It helps where you can keep your day going and not actually ruin your day when you run into the wall. You think, hitting the wall, usually your day is done. At Darlington, that is a tattoo. It’s a stamp that says now you are racing.”
It's a tough track for all, which is why it's often called 'The Track Too Tough To Tame'.
The first handicapping tool we need to start with is understanding that all the teams will be running the regular package that has been run with most of the year that Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated with. There have been 24 races run this season and a Gibbs car has won 11 of them, but if we back out the three restrictor-plate races and the three races with the new low downforce package, a Gibbs car has won 10 of the 18 races. That is an incredible ratio of success.