With the Southern 500 coming our way from Darlington this weekend, it seems like a good time to talk about tradition. The first one in the books was back in 1950, making it the oldest of the sport’s iconic events. Most of the time, it goes to someone who is in or will be in, the Hall of Fame. That number will only grow once Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson get in, along with a few other contenders I can think of.
Bill Elliott won it three times. Gordon has six. Next year, the current driver of the No. 24 moves over to take over the No. 9 once driven by his daddy. Chase Elliott has the name and soon will have the number. William Byron takes over the former Gordonmobile.
Ray Evernham never drove the race, but he was the man on the stand for four of Gordon’s victories. The soon to be Hall of Famer joins fellow inductees Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates as the event’s Grand Marshals.
We hear that the No. 5 is about to go into mothballs, considering the No. 24, No. 48, and the No. 88 will soon be joined by the No. 9 in the stable of cars owned by Rick Hendrick. While Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s daddy won the race three times, this is the son’s last shot at claiming his first. An Earnhardt has appeared in Cup action every season since 1975. We might even see a cameo by the legacy of the legend next season, wife permitting. However, even if that was not the case, we could still have nephew Jeffery Earnhardt in the running.
By the way, the Earnhardt NASCAR legacy at its highest division actually started on November 11, 1956 when Ralph Earnhardt finished second to Speedy Thompson in his Grand National debut at Hickory Speedway. Dale’s dad ran 51 races at the sport’s highest level. In fact, he finished ninth in the 1961 Southern 500.
Tradition. Thanks to NASCAR’s capitulation to selling out its naming rights to corporate sponsors, we have few iconic stand alone events left. Talladega and Bristol are iconic tracks, but neither has a traditional branded event. If you are selective as to what races you win, there is the winter race in Daytona, the May contest in Charlotte, the summer run at Indianapolis, and Labor Day at Darlington.
Win this Sunday’s Southern 500, and you will be remembered. Win your first of the season, and you will be rewarded with a place in the Chase.
1. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 4 WINS (951 Pts)
Tamed the track to tough to tame a year ago, but will she be a lady this year?
2. KYLE LARSON – 3 WINS (845 Pts)
Coming off a win and another Top Ten in his last two, I think the lad is doing alright.
3. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3 WINS (628 Pts)
This week saw Genevieve’s first day of Grade One. That is a big deal.
4. KYLE BUSCH – 2 WINS (850 Pts)
We need some love ‘em or hate ‘em guys out there. He sure in hell is not colorless.
5. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS (728 Pts)
Then, there are some you just hate. I am hoping Momma Kay might disagree.
6. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 2 WINS (528 Pts)
Life is not always a day at the beach…but sometimes it is.
7. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (824 Pts)
His idea of a wild card race to determine the last Chase spot is a good one. We call it Richmond.
8. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (753 Pts)
Intentionally slow leaving pit road and you risk being sent to the back. Problem solved.
9. RYAN BLANEY – 1 WIN (623 Pts)
One of next season’s sponsors will be Menards. Take that, Paul!
10. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (586 Pts)
After a Daytona 500 and a Brickyard 400, another jewel would appear to be in order.
11. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN (574 Pts)
Newman and Dillon will sport autos that will remind us of a certain Wrangler of the 1980s.
12. KASEY KAHNE – 1 WIN (451 Pts)
Sometimes when Hendrick makes an announcement, it is good news. Sometimes, it is not.
13. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (437 Pts)
When it comes to throwbacks, I still love the black Goodwrench…no offense Wrangler.
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 711 POINTS
Nothing can be finer than driving the number niner.
15. MATT KENSETH – 703 POINTS
Two ex-champs, one quality ride left. Does either get the chair when the music stops?
16. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 700 POINTS
Seven wins at Charlotte, Daytona, Indianapolis, and Talladega. Why not one at Darlington?
17. CLINT BOWYER – 642 POINTS
Would he wreck a rival to make the Chase? Maybe, if he was running second.
18. JOEY LOGANO – 583 POINTS (1 Win)
Thought he had a plan to get into the Chase, but the President pardoned Sheriff Joe instead.
19. ERIK JONES – 574 POINTS
Pocono (eighth), Watkins Glen (10th), Michigan (third), Bristol (second). His stock is rising.
20. DANIEL SUAREZ – 537 POINTS
Whatever happens to the guy who fails to tighten a lug nut that costs his crew chief $10,000?
The rest of the contenders
21. TREVOR BAYNE – 470 POINTS
22. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 416 POINTS
23. PAUL MENARD – 408 POINTS
24. TY DILLON – 395 POINTS
25. CHRIS BUESCHER – 387 POINTS
26. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 381 POINTS
27. MICHAEL MCDOWELL – 378 POINTS
28. DANICA PATRICK – 352 POINTS
29. DAVID RAGAN – 303 POINTS
30. ARIC ALMIROLA – 268 POINTS
31. MATT DIBENEDETTO – 264 POINTS
32. COLE WHITT – 241 POINTS
33. LANDON CASSILL – 241 POINTS