Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Old Is New Again at Darlington
The Southern 500 is back at Darlington for the Labor Day weekend and all's right with the world! And Darlington did this Throwback weekend up right. What fun to see all the old cars and legendary drivers and announcers. Plus all the various nostalgic throwback paint schemes. Kyle Lawson won the Best paint scheme with his 42 Mello Yello Chevy. Had there been a Best Driver theme, he'd have won that too with his Kyle Petty wig and mustache. Aric Almirola looked pretty sharp too with his Richard Petty facial hair. The Wood Brothers pit crew wore their old-time uniforms.
It was great for me as a fairly new fan to see some of the Hall of Fame drivers and owners and cars I've heard and read so much about but I expect it was even better for those who'd experienced their exploits first-hand to acknowledge them again. I loved listening to Ken Squier and Ned and Dale Jarrett in the booth. They did a terrific job and they do have a different style than the announcers now. A little more colorful instead of so cut and dried.
Speaking of announcers, I really enjoy Burton and Latarte but hey, Guys, at least tell us who got the Lucky Dog. Some of us care if our driver is mired in the back.
There was a light-hearted air about all the pre-race festivities but that disappeared once the green flag dropped, replaced by focused intensity. There were lots of cautions and restarts and plenty of Darlington stripes. Cars were able to pass. This aero package is an improvement although I'm not sure there is an answer to the front car's advantage in clean air.
There wasn't much in the way of pit strategy. It was four tires every time, even after just a few lap run. The Lady in Black ate up the tires Goodyear brought like they were candy. I personally think that's a good thing (although it bit my driver in the butt). There is no such thing as riding around at Darlington. Drivers have to fight for control on every lap but especially when they're on old rubber.
Congratulations to Carl Edwards. He didn't make it easy on himself, being two laps down at one point but he persevered and prevailed. Kyle Busch clinched his spot in the Chase.
Now there's only one more make or break race.
McMurray, Newman, Gordon, Menard and Bowyer are in the bubble spots. If we have a new winner, it will probably be one of those five. The only one I see below 16th with even a prayer is Kahne. He pulled it off last year but how likely is it that lightning will strike twice? My guess is that the Chase field is more than likely set.
It really hurts me to say it but I don't see any of the Hendrick crew winning the championship this year. They are a step behind and running out of time to catch up. If I had to bet money on where the champion will come from, I'd lay a few bucks down on Harvick, Logano and Kyle Busch. Okay, picking three is hedging my bets but there are too many variables in this play-off system to be any more precise. Too much luck is involved.
NASCAR gossip - Michael Waltrip Racing laid off over 200 of its employees - a sad ending to a valiant effort to build a champion quality race team. Jenna Fryer, who I'd consider pretty reliable, has hinted that Clint Bowyer may join Stewart-Haas IF Tony decides to retire next year but that is certainly not confirmed. I've also heard Clint's name linked to Ganassi and Petty. It will be interesting to see where he lands in 2016. And poor David Ragan is left looking for a ride....yet again.
Denny Hamlin won the Darlington Xfinity race from the pole. Wow, that's a surprise!
So, to Richmond and then, the Chase for the Championship!