With Richmond in the rear view, we now focus our attention this week to night racing at Darlington. The Nationwide Series will again race on Friday night, with the Cup cars taking to the “Lady in Black” on Saturday night. And I can’t wait.
The 2009 season marks the 60th year of racing at the famed South Carolina race track, and with it comes a few tributes to the track’s history.
First, this year’s Cup race will be known as the Southern 500, a name that hasn’t been used since the track lost it’s traditional Labor Day weekend race a few years back. I’ve heard some folks are opposed to the name change, being as how the race isn’t being run in September, but I’m cool with it. I would rather the name return in a different form, then to have it lost forever to the history books.
Second, the track has brought back the traditional red and white paint for the walls surrounding Darlington. According to the track’s president, Chris Browning, it will be the first time since 1989 that the walls will be painted anything but white.
Ever since I can remember watching races at Darlington, it has been one of my favorite tracks. It is old school to it’s very core, and the history at that place is unbelievable. You can almost feel the ghosts of racing’s past walking around when you enter the track.
On top of the history, the track challenges the drivers every lap. Turns one and two are very different from three and four, and even with the re-pavement last year, it’s tough to get a handle on the track. And any slight mistake behind the wheel will result in the famous “Darlington Stripe” as those walls loom large, so close to the preferred line.
Just to give you an idea of how tough a race at Darlington is for the drivers, I once heard Dale Jr. say that 500 miles at Darlington seems to take twice as long as 500 miles at other tracks.
For the pit crews it means being mentally prepared for a long night, as tires wear out quickly and the drivers will be on pit road at every opportunity for fresh rubber and adjustments. As a tire changer, I don’t know what could be better.
Looking towards the weekend, I don’t normally do predictions and many of you probably won’t want to hear this, but you’ve got to think the favorite for both the NNS and Cup races is Kyle Busch. His teams are on a roll, he won the Cup race at Darlington last season, and his style fits perfectly to what it takes to be fast there. But no matter who wins, you can sure both races will be exciting and filled with action, as the “Track Too Tough To Tame” doesn’t usually disappoint.