Harvick Claims Victory in NASCAR's Return at Darlington
Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag in The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway, marking the historic return of NASCAR after the 2020 schedule was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Newman made his return to racing after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. Joining him in a return to racing was Matt Kenseth, who retired in 2018.
In order to limit the race to a one-day show, NASCAR opted to race without practice or qualifying before waving the green flag after an 8 week break from competition. Starting position was decided based on the point standings after Phoenix and a random drawing. Brad Keselowski started on the pole and was joined by Alex Bowman on the front row.
Bowman was the favorite throughout the race and lead early before Harvick took the lead in Stage 3. After a caution, Harvick took to the pits and went from fourth to first after getting four fresh tires. He took the lead and never looked back, as Bowman and Kurt Busch trailed behind him.
The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford led a 159 of the 293-lap event at Darlington Raceway. Harvick's victory marks his 50th NASCAR Cup Series win, tying Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett on the all-time wins list.
Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth, who made his return to racing after retiring in 2018, finished 10th in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Ryan Newman, who made his return to racing after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500, finished 15th in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action on Wednesday, May 20 at Darlington Raceway for the Toyota 500 at 7:30 P.M. on FS1.
Dillon, Germain Racing Slated To Honor Yunick At Darlington
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— For the second year in a row, Germain Racing will honor the late Smokey Yunick at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend.
Germain Racing is throwing it back to 1963, the year when then rookie driver Johnny Rutherford made his first NASCAR start for Yunick. Currently, the only win for the No. 13 was in a Daytona qualifying race.
This year’s car for Ty Dillon will continue the tradition of black and gold, but will have a touch of red. The car will represent the 1963 qualifying race win. The car in ’63 featured the 427 “mystery motor”.
“My dad loved racing at Darlington, tire problems and gnats alike. It’s so special for us to have him remembered in this way. The Germain Racing car looks great. I am thrilled that Smokey’s legacy is getting a chance to be in front of the next generation of NASAR fans and hope it encourages renewed interest in his story,” said Trish Yunick.
“It was my first time in a stock car. I didn’t think much of the car number. It was Smokey’s car and that’s what made the difference. I had Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly tutoring me on racing at Daytona. Joe was very skeptical of the car number. A.J. Foyt came up to the car and put his hand on it and tried to touch Joe— he took off running. That car was strong and fun to drive. It will be great to see a recreation of the car have life again,” said Rutherford.
“There is so much history behind what the Yunick family has done in the sport. It’s quite the honor to represent them at Darlington in what has become one of the coolest events of the year with throwback schemes. It’s a really awesome car. Lots of people are a little superstitious of the No. 13, there is a lot of history that goes within the sport, but there is lot of history yet to be gained. The possibility of me becoming the first driver to win a points paying race gets me really excited,” said T. Dillon.
Crew Chatter: Darlington
Fire up the radio, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Darlington with the question, “With NASCAR embracing throwback weekend at Darlington, what are your thoughts on Darlington or favorite throwback theme?"
Brett Winningham: NASCAR throwback weekend is one of the most looked forward things in all of NASCAR. It allows drivers an opportunity to run their favorite paint schemes as their favorite racers ran back in the day. It also allows fans to get a sneak peek of what those paint schemes looked like going around the track. It would be really cool if throwback weekend could be further expanded in the XFINITY Series and adopted by the Camping World Truck Series.
Davey Segal: I absolutely hate this question, because there are SO many great, meaningful and beautiful looking throwbacks this weekend. But if I had to pick just one, I would have to go with the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart, honoring Hall of Famer Bobby Allison with sponsorship from Coca-Cola. Being Smoke's farewell season, and Darlington being one of the tracks he has never found victory lane at, putting Allison;s old paint scheme into the winner's circle would be one of the biggest wins of Stewart's career. It's being rumored that Coca-Cola will become the new sponsor of the Cup Series, but I love seeing their brand on a legendary driver's race car once again. The mix of the colors, old school number, history tied throughout the car and circumstances surrounding the driver of the No. 14, I am absolutely in love with this throwback paint scheme, and can't wait to see it on track at The Lady in Black.
Caleb Whisler: I absolutely love the continuation of the throwback weekend at Darlington since it was around before the finished construction of Daytona International Speedway. I am huge proponent in embracing the history of NASCAR. I also love the fact that everyone within the NASCAR community wants to participate. I cannot wait to the surprises that Kerry Tharp and his team have come up with for the fans. There are so many paint schemes that are my favorite from Greg Biffle’s Hooters car to Tony Stewart’s Coca-Cola car to Landon Cassill’s scheme honoring JD McDuffie. In order to pick a favorite, you would have to ask me after the first practice session on Friday. The paint schemes all look great in pictures, but seeing them through the TV screen on the track will help solidify that decision. My hope is that “throwback weekends” will be specialized for the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series to allow for their own “brand identity”.
The long awaited return of a tradition at Darlington Raceway
I was once told anything over 1.366 miles was a waste of asphalt. That’s especially true this weekend when the famed Darlington Raceway returns with a time honored tradition of the Labor Day classic known by many names Rebel 500 in the past but more recently known and time honored by NASCAR fans as the Southern 500.
In 2003 NASCAR in the midst of losing long time sponsor of the sport Winston announced a schedule realignment that would move the Labor Day race from Darlington which has run there since 1950 to a newer Auto Club Speedway.
"I feel for our race fans, the folks who buy tickets, and I also want to be a good community citizen," said Darlington president Andrew Gurtis. "But the truth of the matter is, twice a year the NASCAR world is going to descend on Darlington Raceway."
Over the years that followed the move California hosted several of the Labor Day races while Darlington bounced dates around late spring to early summer until 2008 when NASCAR announced Auto Club Speedway would lose the date. Following the announcement and lacking ticket sales at Auto Club over the years the track was reduced down to one event weekend per year. This time Atlanta would get their chance to host the traditional weekend event.
"Fans have been clamoring for a Sprint Cup Series race under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway," said AMS president and general manager Ed Clark. "It's thrilling to bring Labor Day racing back to the south on NASCAR's fastest track. This will be a great opportunity for Atlanta Motor Speedway to celebrate our 50th year of racing."
Late in the 2014 season while speaking to the media Burton Smith chairman of Speedway Motorsports announced a change in the dates for his track Bristol Motor Speedway that would move the date with better weather let slip that part of the deal would see what fans wanted for nearly a dozen years, the return of the Southern 500 on Labor Day at Darlington Raceway.
"I think we did them a favor and they did us one," Smith said. "I think they kind of needed that Southern 500 thing back in Darlington. So going back there, I thought that was a good thing."
When Chip Wile the President of Darlington Raceway bought the news of the return it was as Christmas had come early to the NASCAR fans. Social media exploded in the hours and days following the announcements commending both NASCAR and the track for working together to bring the race back to where it belonged.
“This is a true example of Darlington Raceway, ISC and NASCAR all working together to give fans what they have wanted for many years – the tradition of stock car racing on Labor Day weekend at the Lady in Black,” said track President Chip Wile. “We can’t thank our leaders at ISC and NASCAR enough for working with us to bring back such a historic date on the 2015 NASCAR calendar.”
Now here we are nearly a year after the announcement and just days away from the running of the 65th Southern 500, everyone from NASCAR, teams, sponsors, and even International Speedway are marketing this as a homecoming game. Teams are going all in with throwback themes on cars honoring past drivers and sponsors who have graced the sport or taken the checkered flag at Darlington. NBC Sports are bringing in Ned Jarrett, Ken Squier, and Dale Jarrett to call part of the race live on national television for some old school flair.
Many of these marketing efforts thanks for Daryl Wolfe who heads up track owner International Speedway marketing department going full in to make this one of NASCAR’s biggest homecomings to date.
At the end of the weekend the fans are seeing history in the making with NASCAR giving the fans exactly what they have asked for over the past 12 years since the removal of the Labor Day weekend event. Teams are bringing some of the history of the sport and honoring the past with the schemes they will run all weekend.
Qualifying for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 will take place on Saturday September 5th at 1:45pm and Sunday night tradition returns for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 to the track Too Tough to Tame with NBCSN taking to the air at 7:00pm with green flag set just after 7:20pm, 367 laps(501.3 miles) will make the distance.
What does it mean: 2015 Schedule Changes for NASCAR
On Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for each of the top-three tier divisions. Although no major changes were made for the upcoming season, NASCAR did swap a few events in the Sprint Cup Series.
The largest change in the schedule will be between Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Instead of racing on Mother’s Day weekend such as Darlington has since 2005, the egg-shaped track will be moving to Labor Day weekend, which has been held by Atlanta. Atlanta will now be the second race of the year – replacing Phoenix, which moves to the fourth event of the season.
Besides moving around Atlanta and Darlington, NASCAR also added an off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. The Cup Series will be off on the weekend of Aug. 30, and moves the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America to that Saturday. Road America was previously the 14th race of the 35-race schedule, but it will now be the 23rd circuit.
As previously announced, Bristol will be moving from March to April for their first of two races.
Daytona’s July race will be making a swap with Kentucky Speedway in 2015. As a part of the inaugural race weekend for NBC broadcasting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Daytona will be the first race on their schedule. However, previously held as a Saturday evening race, NASCAR has moved the 400-mile spectacle to Sunday with the Nationwide Series race preceding it on Saturday. Kansas and Charlotte will be swapping races inside of the Chase, but no other races will be changed inside of NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
But what good is all of this going to do for NASCAR?
Well, in a year that NASCAR expects to have another new competition package, a swap in a few tracks should help spice things up. Moreover, it should boost ratings and fill up seats in the grandstands.
Bristol’s March race had horrific weather over the course of the past several seasons. People were pleading to move it later in the year, and NASCAR listened. However, NASCAR moved Atlanta to the second race of the year for the first time in the track’s history. Previously, the earliest the 1.5-mile track had a race was March 7 in 2010. In addition to moving the race, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to the speedway after not appearing at the track in 2013 and 2014. The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series contests are going to be held on the same day as a part of a “double header” to bring more fans to the stands after attendance has seen a decline for one-race deals.
What is the biggest part about the changes?
Fox. NBC. That’s the only thing that is huge for the schedule change in 2015.
20 events (including non-points) will be carried on the FOX family of networks. FOX Sports 1 will be broadcasting the Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond, Kansas, Dover, Pocono, Michigan and the final event of their schedule – Sonoma in June. Meanwhile, NBC is going to provide coverage of the remaining races in 2015. However, NBC Sports Network will be making their Sprint Cup Series debut with races at Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Richmond, Chicagoland (first Chase race), New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega and Martinsville. Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead will each be shown live on NBC.
FOX and FOX Sports 1 will carry the first 14 Nationwide Series races, but NBC and NBCSN will have the final 19 events. FOX also has exclusive rights to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 23-race season. All races will once again be on FS1 with the exception of Talladega in Oct.