Darlington Rear View Mirror

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick scored his first win at Darlington in 18 starts. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s hard to not get caught up in nostalgia when Darlington Raceway rolls around on the NASCAR calendar.

Pick any other historic sports venue and Darlington is the perfect NASCAR comparison. Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Lambeau Field – you name the stick and ball stadium and Darlington is right on par.

Just as Martinsville three weeks ago was a reminder, it’s important for NASCAR to always remember its roots as the sport continues to grow and build for the future. While Darlington no longer hosts two races a year and the famed Labor Day weekend is gone, keeping a presence at the historic South Carolina facility is a must.

There’s more than a simple history lesson to be learned when Darlington pops up on the schedule. While it’s certainly chock full of tradition and the sport’s past, Darlington is also a reminder of how unique race tracks can spice up the long season.

There’s nothing about Darlington that is remotely similar to any other track on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. That’s a good thing.

Like all 500-mile races, there are long stretches at Darlington that don’t always capture fans’ total attention. But there are usually more memorable moments that take precedent and Saturday night’s Bojangles' Southern 500 was no exception.

The change to an April weekend from what had been the track’s traditional Mother’s Day weekend proved to be a winner in terms of fans support. Mother Nature’s cooperation didn’t hurt the cause by any means.

Darlington officials stated their intention to now build on the new earlier spring date to ensure the track’s place in NASCAR for years to come.

That might be the best news of the entire race weekend.

  • As has been the case all season, Saturday night was up and down for Stewart-Haas Racing. While Harvick was celebrating in Victory Lane and team co-owner Tony Stewart basked in a top-10 finish, the other half of the organization struggled. For the second straight week, Kurt Busch was the victim of a late accident, this time making hard contact with the backstretch inside wall after Clint Bowyer touched his back bumper racing in traffic. And Danica Patrick was involved in a number of skirmishes on track including a tussle with Aric Almirola but managed a decent 22nd-place finish. It will be interesting to see how this team continues to evolve and if the quartet will all at some point enjoy success in the same race.
  • Jeff Gordon is still winless but remains on top of the point standings. Gordon climbed into the lead last week for the first time since 2009 and was a major contender for Saturday night’s Darlington win, which would have been his eighth career. Trouble on restarts continues to plague Gordon but there’s no denying the four-time champion is again in the mix for wins and a title.
  • Problems continued for two drivers who are in desperate need of some good things as soon as possible; Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. Kahne was fast for a good deal of the race but slammed the wall hard in the late stages and ended up with a 37th-place finish. The frustrated Hendrick Motorsports driver left Darlington in a hurry after the incident. Truex Jr.’s season continued its downward spiral since he won the outside pole at Daytona when he also encountered the wall. The Furniture Row Racing driver was credited with a 27th-place finish.
  • The legend of Chase Elliott grew in stature Friday night with his second straight Nationwide Series victory. Only a week after the second generation driver scored his first career series win in Texas Elliott followed up with a thrilling return trip to Victory Lane at Darlington. While fellow youngster Kyle Larson has generated a lot of well-deserved early season buzz, Elliott has definitely captured the imagination of NASCAR fans with his quick development and success. The talk of moving Elliott to the Sprint Cup Series can certainly be dialed down several notches but “Awesome Bill’s” boy definitely deserves all the attention he’s created here in 2014.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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