Auto Racing Insider

As a kid, I used to dread Labor Day weekend because it meant the end of summer. I still get those pangs now as an adult, even though my days of summer vacation ended long ago. For the racing world, Labor Day means an extra day of competition and although all the major circuits aren’t in action this weekend, there are some major events on tap.

PEPSI SOUTHERN 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series
Darlington Raceway
Sunday, ESPN, 1 p.m. (EST)

NASCAR stages its version of Major League Baseball’s ``Turn Back the Clock’’ promotion when it visits the historic Darlington Raceway. The original superspeedway has hosted the Winston Cup Series for more than 50 years, but the quaint ``Track to Tough to Tame’’ seems to have lost its luster over the last few years. Fans don’t flock to Darlington like they did in the past and although the Southern 500 is a NASCAR tradition, NASCAR’s growth into other more glamorous markets seems to have stolen away interest in the historic track. There’s apparently a new breed of NASCAR fan whose asking ``Why not go to a race in Dallas or Chicago where there are other things to do rather instead of in a town where the opening of a new Shoney’s is front page news?’’

As is usually the case at the Darlington weekend, there should be lots of off track news announced. Dodge is expecting to get approval from NASCAR on the Intrepid template for 2001, a couple of driver moves are expected to be unveiled, and next year’s Winston Cup schedule may be announced.

Rusty Wallace comes into the Southern 500 hotter than a Labor Day barbeque. But he’s never won at Darlington and the last time he finished as high as second was in 1987. So the odds of Rusty continuing his late-summer run are low. Series leader Bobby Labonte continues to feel the noose tightening around his neck and Dale Jarrett closes in on his point lead. Labonte is also winless at Darlington and needs to score at least a top five finish to restore some confidence in the team. The two Jeff’s, Gordon and Burton, are always strong at Darlington as well, but I feel as if Labonte will shake off his mid-season slump and make it to victory lane.


MOLSON INDY VANCOUVER
CART Fed/Ex Championship Series
Sunday, ESPN, 4 p.m. (EST)

Now that Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti have settled down some of the CART silly season talk by staying with Team Kool Green next season, attention can return to the race track. Michael Andretti, who is still part of the uncertainty of 2001, is trying to secure his sixth series title. With three wins at Vancouver, albeit on various configurations of the Canadian street circuit, Andretti is a good bet to add to his championship title hopes. Lame duck Juan Montoya (why hasn’t the official announcement of his departure to Formula One happened yet) is the defending race winner, but there seems to be a lack of cohesiveness to the Ganassi team since the news of Jimmy Vasser and Montoya leaving circulated at Mid-Ohio. But I think homeboy Tracy, full of confidence and a new contract, will be victorious (if he can just stay away from Franchitti).


U.S. NATIONALS
NHRA Winston National Drag Racing Series
Final Round, Monday, TNN, 5 p.m. (EST)

It’s the Super Bowl of drag racing and more than 200,000 fans will jam Indianapolis Raceway Park to watch the best straightliners in the world battle for more than $3 million in prize money. My picks…Gary Scelzi, John Force and Jeg Coughlin in the top three.


OTHER RACING ACTION

The ASA AC-Delco Series travels to the Minnesota State Fair Speedway Monday afternoon for the Miller Lite 300 (TNN, 2 p.m. EST). Gary St. Amant continues to lead the series standings….The DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois hosts the USAC Silver Bullet Series and the ARCA SuperCar Series Sunday and Monday…..Texas Motor Speedway christens its road course with a Trans-Am/ALMS doubleheader…






Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000

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  • Harvick Wins Southern 500
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  • From the Archives: Darlington
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  • Duck Commander 500
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