Southern 500 At Darlington In September: That’s More Like It

Darlington throwback - 32


Every sport has its hallowed grounds. Darlington is to NASCAR, what the Boston Garden is to the NBA, Soldier Field to the NFL, and Wrigley Field is to MLB. NASCAR’s first super speedway deserves a special date, and thank you Lord, Labor Day weekend racing is back with the return of the real Southern 500. There’s nothing like thing, baby. Well, at least its closer to it anyway.

One can understand the desire to grow a sport, but much like baseball, NASCAR has a rich tradition that must be respected. When a driver wins at this funky, egg-shaped track, it’s a signature win. “Darlington stripes” are badges of honor, much blood and sweat streaming down a football player’s face. The track known as the “Lady In Black” will give you a full workout. A race at Darlington is a test of survival.

For journeymen drivers such as Regan Smith, Johnny Mantz, and Jim Reed, it’s a longed for moment in the sun. For the legends- David Pearson, Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip- it is further validation of their greatness.

Darlington, South Carolina is as southern as moonshine and moon pies. NASCAR is southern born. The Southern 500 belongs here, in a town that seems to so well characterize this section of country- unpretentious, yet not without a rich tradition.

From Bristol to Darlington to Richmond, this portion of the NASCAR Spint Cup Series schedule is a trip down memory lane, yet capable of making new memories as drivers jockey for playoff position. It was wrong to take this date from Darlington, but bringing on some small level is recognition this is where the Southern 500 belongs.

Friends and family, unless it is a matter of life or death, I will not be answering the phone Sunday evening. Between the venue, the date and the throwback paint schemes, I’ll be taking a trip back in time. Even NBC Sports is getting into the act, with Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett calling a portion of the race.

Now that’s a holiday. How sweet it is.