Race Night: Darlington

It's back to the future for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Saturday night with a visit to historic Darlington Raceway. And Tony Stewart couldn't be happier.

Stewart may be one of the NEXTEL Cup circuit's most "old school" drivers and any chance to race on NASCAR's original track is fine by the 2005 series champ.

"When I'm watching TV and I see an old race from Darlington, I'm able to see the history of Darlington and the Southern 500, along with all of the greats who have run there and won there and crashed out of the joint," said Stewart.

Despite only moderate success at Darlington - seven top-10s in 13 career starts with a best finish of fourth (twice - spring 2000 and fall 2001) - Stewart likes Darlington. Its history, its roster of champions and its difficult nature makes a Darlington victory a cherished victory.

"A lot of it has to do with the history of the track," Stewart said. "If you can say you won a race at Darlington - that's a feather in your cap. That's something to be proud of, knowing that you're in a group of drivers with names like Pearson and Petty - the pioneers of our sport who you hear stories about the races they ran there and the races they won there."

Even though Darlington hasn't been one of Stewart's best tracks in terms of success, he still enjoys the opportunity to race at the treacherous 1.33-mile facility.

"Darlington is such a tough track to get a handle on and to be good at all day," he said. "You don't see a lot of guys who have a lot of success there. You see only a handful of guys who religiously run well there. That just shows you how difficult Darlington is to get a handle on. If you can have a good day and win there, it's a track that's like winning at Bristol. It's the same type of feeling - knowing that you conquered something that's very hard to obtain."


  • A beautiful night is on tap Saturday with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70's.

  • Ford Motor Company is said to be furious over losing Dale Jarrett to the Toyota camp after Saturday's announcement that the two-time series champion will join Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007. That could be good news for Elliott Sadler, who may be in line for a hefty raise to keep him in the FordMoCo camp.

  • Leading contender to take over the Robert Yates Racing No. 88? Despite denials, it looks as if Ward Burton has gone to the front of the line. But Casey Mears, who is still in discussions with Chip Ganassi for a contract extension, could wind up in the No. 88 as well.

  • NASCAR's Busch East and AutoZone West Series may wind-up as a companion event to several NEXTEL Cup races next season.
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