It is nice to see the Southern 500 back and here is my one memory of the race – although it occured on the Labour Day weekend at that time:
The Southern 500 is back at Darlington Raceway this weekend. I know it isn’t on Labour Day weekend like it used to be for just over 50 yrs, but we should celebrate its return after an absence of nearly 5 yrs.
The return of the name Southern 500 brings back to NASCAR a legacy rich in tradition and history.
For me the name invokes memories of Bill Elliott winning the million dollar bonus in 1985 posted by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to anyone who could win three of the big four races: the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 (Talladega), the World 600 (Charlotte) and the Southern 500 (Darlington).
Elliott won at Daytona and Talladega and had to win at Darlington to claim the bonus and he didn’t have an easy time doing it either.
What Elliott did was race the track instead of his competitors because at Darlington if you don’t concentrate on the track it will come up and bite you. You have to not worry about the other cars and stay focused on the track so that you have a good car in the end when it is needed.
Elliott did this and let his competitors take themselves out by hitting the wall or by having mechanical problems from racing the car too hard as was the case for Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt lead for 147 laps before hit the wall with about 50 laps left and then had an engine failure with just under 20 laps left in the race.
By his own admission Elliott won the race by out-surviving his competitiors and not by out-running them.
That is the key to running well at the egg shaped Darlington Raceway: outlasting the competition not out-running them.
Look for good runs from former race winners Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, and Mark Martin. All these guys have what it takes to win here – yes even the super aggressive Busch because he will listen to his super cool and collected crew chief Steve Addington and his nearly 15 years of crew chiefing experience in NASCAR.
Other drivers to watch out for would be Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards – all of whom have an average finish here 13th or better.
In the where did he come from category I would watch out for Martin Truex Jr and David Ragan.