It is the Southern 500 coming our way from Darlington on Sunday night. Interestingly, I do not view it as one of the circuit’s marquee tracks, where you do not dare touch the fast-forward button. However, like Indianapolis, it is one of the Cup Series marquee events where a win gets you remembered.
After a few years of tinkering around with tradition, something NASCAR seems more than eager to do until the manure hits the ventilation system, the Southern 500 is back for the Labor Day weekend. It worked from 1950 until someone had a bright idea in time for the 2004 event. They pushed the legendary race back to November so that fans would no longer have to face the heat of day in September. That, and they thought it also a brilliant move to give the 500’s date to California after it had taken Rockingham’s spot on the calendar. I wonder how that worked out for them?
Somebody sued so that Texas could have a second race, and they got it when the Lady in Black’s spring date was spirited away. Then to prove their astute understanding of its fan base, they moved the race to Mother’s Day before dropping the iconic “Southern 500″ moniker entirely for four seasons, starting in 2005. Then they did not have a title sponsor in 2009, at least before Go Daddy came on board, so the Southern 500, now presented by Go Daddy.com, was back.
The tinkering did not end there, of course. Sponsors come and go, but traditions remain…except in NASCAR. In 2014, the race date was shipped to April before someone came up with a bright idea. No, really. They moved the Southern 500 back to the Labor Day weekend, but as had been the case since its rebirth, they scheduled it for Sunday night to avoid the heat that started all the nonsense a decade before.
The fact they installed lights in 2004, just before they moved the date to avoid the heat, doesn’t make much sense, either, come to think of it. However, let us just be glad the Southern 500 is truly back with cars with paint schemes from Darlington’s glory years.
The Hot 20 as they challenge “The Track Too Tough to Tame” include…
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 4 WINS
Christopher Walken’s favorite driver. More cowbell!
2. KYLE BUSCH – 4 WINS
Looking to finish two spots up on Cole Whitt to claim his Chase place. Let the battle begin.
3. JOEY LOGANO – 3 WINS
The Shell logo on his car is one I remember…from way back…when I had hair…and youth.
4. MATT KENSETH – 3 WINS
After running less than 60 miles at Bristol, he should be well rested for Darlington
5. KEVIN HARVICK – 2 WINS
I keep underwear longer than he keeps a house.
6. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 2 WINS
Is Junior interested in driving IndyCar? Apparently, the answer is “no, no, no, no.”
7. KURT BUSCH – 2 WINS
Kurt is engaged. It would be easy to come up with a punchline, but I truly wish him happiness.
8. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN
Frank Kimmel, 10 time ARCA champ and Brad’s matchmaker.
9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN
Furniture Row might not be big, but you cannot say they have not been successful.
10. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN
Only problem with a throwback weekend is do you go with a Ned, Cale, or Jaws scheme?
11. CARL EDWARDS – 1 WIN
Worst driver at Gibbs Racing? Honestly, I do not believe there is such a thing.
12. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 696 POINTS
After claiming a Brickyard 400 and a Daytona 500, he needs a little trinket from Darlington.
13. RYAN NEWMAN – 683 POINTS
Riding along the walls at Darlington, it might be best to be driving a Caterpillar.
14. PAUL MENARD – 674 POINTS
Paul won the XFINITY race last week. I used to outrun my baby sister.
15. JEFF GORDON – 672 POINTS
Only driver whose throwback paint scheme could be one of his own.
16. CLINT BOWYER – 655 POINTS
Sitting pretty, unless the wrong guy wins on Sunday. Then it could get ugly.
17. ARIC ALMIROLA – 620 POINTS
The King won 200 times. Aric needs just one.
18. KASEY KAHNE – 618 POINTS
Will be channeling his inner Geoff Bodine this weekend.
19. GREG BIFFLE – 572 POINTS
Roll them dice. Daddy needs a win.
20. AUSTIN DILLON – 564 POINTS
Race car driver, former Little League World Series player, now basketball star?