|Darlington Raceway has a unique layout that makes for great racing.|
Let’s say it again, “Darlington Raceway has the Southern 500 on Labor day weekend again!”
You may say, "big deal, a track is a track and who cares when they race." but that’s not so for the passionate NASCAR Nation that holds onto the sports past with great regard. When NASCAR moved Labor Day date at Darlington following the 2003 season, there was outrage. So what did NASCAR do? The following year they told everyone Darlington would get only one date for the 2005 season and the race would be in May, but they still called it the Southern 500.
It may have taken NASCAR 11 years to finally get to those angry protest letters from the fans, but at least they finally got it right.
We don’t have a lot of history in our young country, but nostalgia is something most of us cherish and hold dear. We like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park because the age tells us its something special. For the Southern 500 on Labor Day, a race and date more synonymous with NASCAR history than the Daytona 500 running in February, it’s finally home where it belongs and I couldn’t be happier.
After a week off, maybe I’m just excited about seeing some racing again and the whole Darlington thing is just a side story in my mind that enhances the anticipation.
Another reason to be excited is that Darlington’s 1.366-mile high banked layout is unlike any on the circuit with four differing turns. It’s a tough track to master and every driver has found a ’Darlington Stripe’ on their car door at some point in their careers. They’ve been calling Darlington ’The Lady in Black’ for years because she’s just a mean old nasty lady.
This weekend’s race is also special because we’ll get to see the new aero package that ran in July at Kentucky, which turned out to be the most exciting race of the season with all kinds of passing. Less overhang on the splitter and a shorter spoiler seems to create the perfect formula for great racing. The cars were super loose and it forced drivers to feather the fuel pedal more around turns rather than mashing the pedal all the way around the track.
Kentucky’s 1.5-mile flatter, wider layout is much different than Darlington’s so who knows what to expect from the racing. What I think we’ll see is an intense race with more Darlington Stripes dished out because of the cars being so loose. Even with race packages where the car stuck good through the turns, drivers had trouble with managing Darlington. The winner of the race will be the driver who has the guts to continually be on the brink of sliding into the walls.
Yeah, I think I’m pretty much all-around jazzed for this race.
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