2015-09-09 / Sports

‘Throwback’ was a success

Steve Mickey

The long-awaited Labor Day return to Darlington for the running of the Southern 500 more than lived up to all of the hype as the entire weekend quickly turned into an event unlike any other stop on the Sprint Cup schedule.

Everything about the Darlington track screams old school, from the unusual egg-shaped oval racing surface to the aging grandstands. This led track officials to plan a throwback weekend of racing as soon as it was announced last year that Darlington’s race would return to its rightful spot on the schedule.

When the track announced the “throwback weekend,” the thought was that a few cars would feature paint schemes of legendary drivers, but that thought quickly snowballed into what we saw the entire weekend at the track that proudly boast itself as “the track too tough to tame.”

What was expected to be a few cars sporting paint schemes from days gone by quickly turned into about half the teams unloading cars that honored some of the greatest drivers and organizations in the history of the sport.

Bobby Allison, left, and Brad Keselowski were on pit road before Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo) Bobby Allison, left, and Brad Keselowski were on pit road before Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo) The throwback scheme didn’t stop with paint. Also honored were some of the greatest individuals in the history of the sport, and not just those that were behind the wheel of the racecar. Past owners, pit crewmembers and crew chiefs to go along with a hall of fame-type roll call of drivers were also there.

NBC deserves some of the credit for the success of the weekend as the network did a great job in the days leading up to the race running spots about the return of the Sprint Cup Series to Darlington for the running of the historic Southern 500. Old film clips from past Darlington races featuring some of the most iconic figures in the sport turned out to be a great teaser of what was in store for viewers when they turned their TVs on Sunday evening.

MRN’s pre-race coverage was more like a stroll through the history of the sport than just another race on the schedule. MRN had its announcers dressed in throwback clothing that included bell-bottom pants and, in some cases, tie-dyed shirts. Also present were some of the most famous voices in the sport with Ken Squire and Ned Jarrett helping with the broadcast, which also included sound clips of some great featuring drivers such as Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt and Allison.

Among the best tributes to the early days of the sport were the uniforms worn by the pit crews. The Wood Brothers brought out the white pants they once were known for. To take it one step further they also wore the Convers “Chuck Taylor” basketball shoes that were part of the original uniform. Richard Petty not only brought back his team’s old pit uniforms, he also had on hand six surviving members of his 1972 pit crew.

NASCAR may have not realized it, but it also kept up with the throwback theme of the weekend when it once again used the low down force package that was debuted at Kentucky earlier in the season. This time Goodyear brought a much softer tire to go with the package and the result was a tire that fell off very quickly, making the cars a handful to drive.

Carl Edwards and his Joe Gibbs Racing team at the end of the night were finally able to say they had tamed the track, but the sight of those famous “Darlington stripes” on the sides of so many cars once again showed that the track lived up to its reputation.

The only downside to the entire night is that we now have to wait a year before the series returns for what will once again be more of a party to celebrate the history of the sport than just another race.

Race Report

Event: Federated Auto Parts 400

Track: Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile oval, 14o of banking in the turns)

Date: Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.


Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Brad Keselowski

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