Tradition. On Sunday, NASCAR returns to its traditional roots, to the track that was Daytona before Bill France replaced the beach-road course with his 2.5-mile architectural marvel. Before the Daytona 500, the marquee event was held in Darlington.
The Southern 500 has been on the calendar since 1950, except for a brief period when NASCAR went insane and dug up its roots in the name of a few dollars. On Sunday, the boys will be back to the 1.3-mile circuit of Herb Thomas, Buck Baker, and Fireball Roberts. They made the place famous long before the likes of Jeff Gordon, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, or Bill Elliott made their marks. Maybe I should say, before the Lady in Black left her marks on them.
Each of our Big Three have won there as has our only active seven-time season champion. A classic race and a top-notch broadcast crew on NBC to keep you glued to the television. It does not get any better than this.
1. KYLE BUSCH – 6 WINS (1003 Pts)
His throwback weekend would include a repeat of 2008, except this time in September.
2. KEVIN HARVICK – 6 WINS (1 E.W. – 960 Pts)
He won his Southern 500 in 2014…in April.
3. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 4 WINS (849 Pts)
Won it in 2016 after sanity returned and it once again was the Labor Day Classic.
4. CLINT BOWYER – 2 WINS (776 Pts)
His car will have a Ned Jarrett look, who won the 1965 race by a record 14 laps. Fourteen laps!
5. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (796 Pts)
21 attempts, 21 times he has not been invited to the Lady in Black’s post-race boudoir.
6. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (768 Pts)
He will be honoring Pennzoil and Steve Park when they hit the line on Sunday.
7. CHASE ELLIOTT – 1 WIN (697 Pts)
Dad won the Southern 500 three times. If the son could win, that would be awesome, eh Bill?
8. ERIK JONES – 1 WIN (635 Pts)
He seemed to tame the track in his first outing. Might she be out for revenge this year?
9. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (475 Pts)
After Daytona, Dillon disappeared but he has been making some noise as of late.
10. RYAN BLANEY – 733 POINTS
His car will have the same look at his father’s did…when Ryan was nine.
11. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 730 POINTS
Driving a hot rod with a paint scheme Rusty Wallace would love…and does.
12. KYLE LARSON – 729 POINTS
Remember Davey Allison’s rookie colors of 1988? Larson will remind you what that looked like.
13. DENNY HAMLIN – 707 POINTS
Eight years, two Southern 500 wins, a pair of runner-up finishes, and all but once in the Top Six.
14. ARIC ALMIROLA – 658 POINTS
Racing the colors that made Danica Patrick a winner. Okay, I’m just being facetious.
15. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 604 POINTS
Driving throwback colors of…himself. Did not win a title in 2012…but did win a Southern 500.
16. ALEX BOWMAN – 572 POINTS
Not sporting throwback colors. Probably was worried it would distract one of the announcers.
17. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 493 POINTS
Nothing runs like a Deere. That is what Ricky is hoping for.
18. RYAN NEWMAN – 481 POINTS
Will be looking a lot like the first RCR driver to race the No. 31…Neil Bonnett.
19. DANIEL SUAREZ – 479 POINTS
A good throwback scheme would be Jack Roush cars that could compete.
20. PAUL MENARD – 473 POINTS
Has to win either at Darlington or Indianapolis, or all he gets is a Participation Trophy.