Darlington Raceway may only host one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race a season but the track’s annual Labor Day race may be the most anticipated stop on the entire schedule. Racing at Darlington is like taking a step back into time as the track’s unique egg-shaped layout with what always seems to be a worn out racing surface will produce some of the best racing of the entire season.
To the track’s credit it has always attempted to stay current with its amenities for the fans but as far as the racing goes, the racing surface remains as it always has and that is why it is known as the track too tough to tame. The track never plays favorites when it decides to award one of its famous “Darlington Stripes” to any driver who ends up against the outside wall and that includes those that are up front fighting for the lead.
To help celebrate the history of the track and its special place in the history of NASCAR, the track will once again be celebrating another one of its award winning throwback weekends.
It’s the one race on the entire schedule where you may have to take a second look when looking up and down pit road as the majority of teams will be competing in cars that have a throwback paint scheme that pays honor to either a former driver, organization or sponsor.
This year’s throwback campaign will be celebrating the 1990-94 era and some of the paint schemes will be easily recognized like Brad Keselowski who will be driving his Ford that will feature Rusty Wallace’s iconic black and yellow colors with just a splash of red and blue on his Mustang.
His Penske Racing teammate Ryan Blaney will be driving his Ford with a Michael Waltrip No. 30 yellow Pennzoil throwback scheme. Darrell Waltrip will also be honored in the race as Denny Hamlin will have his Toyota wrapped in Waltrip’s famous Western Auto paint scheme.
Adam Petty’s racing career was cut short after he lost his life in a crash during practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000 but he will be honored on Sunday by the paint scheme that Richard Petty Motorsports’ Bubba Wallace will drive. His No. 43 Chevrolet will feature a Victory Junction scheme that will look like the paint scheme that Petty drove to his only career win in the ARCA Series at Charlotte in 1998.
Also taking the green flag on Sunday night will be one of the more recognizable paint schemes in the history of the Cup Series even though it never really was on a starting grid for a race. William Byron will drive his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with a green and yellow paint scheme that was used in the movie, Days of Thunder. In the movie the car had City Chevrolet across the hood and for this race it will also be supporting the same logo as it is owned by Byron’s owner, Rick Hendrick.
All of the paint schemes will make for a special night but not to be overlooked is the battle that should take place on the track as there are three drivers left trying to become part of the 16 driver field that will advance into the playoff round of ten races due to their position in the points. Ryan Newman enters Darlington 14 points above the cutline and with 20 starts at the track resulting in seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, it should give him the experience that he may need to hold on to his playoff spot.
Daniel Suarez enters Darlington only two points above the cutline and with only two career starts at the track will find himself lacking the experience that he may need to stay on the positive side of the dreaded bubble.
Two points below the cutline is Clint Bowyer who has 13 starts at the track with only one top 10 finish to show for his efforts. He finished 36th last season at Darlington so he will not have any momentum entering the weekend which should put him and Suarez on equal footing.