A classic. That is what the Southern 500 is. Born in 1950, it predates NASCAR’s jewel events in Indianapolis, Bristol, Talladega, Charlotte, and Daytona. It is the Southern 500, the Labor Day classic at Darlington. It is not a November race, not a race to be branded by Dodge, not run on Mother’s Day or in April. After a dozen years of stupidity, it returned in 2015 to be what it has always been meant to be, the great southern Labor Day NASCAR tradition.
Kevin Harvick lost Sunday’s race in classic style. If a pit crew can screw things up, it can find work on this car. Two pit stops, two disasters. One dropped him from first to fourth. The next, from first to 12th. It has reached the point where even the most understandable reason is rejected as yet another damned excuse. “Someone slashed our spare tires” or “It is hard to change a tire with no arms” or “The dog ate the air wrench” no longer cuts it. Harvick finished second. He should have been first.
That was left for Martin Truex Jr. to accomplish. Sometimes, it is just more fun to win a classic event over the holidays. After previous career victories at Dover, Sonoma, and Pocono, this season it has been Labor Day at Darlington and the Memorial Day World 600 in Charlotte. Those are the kind of wins that get a driver remembered.
Winning a title also does that. With Richmond the last stop before the Chase, a dozen drivers are locked in having won a race or more. Chris Buescher claims a spot if he manages to be within ten positions of David Ragan next weekend, thus staying within the season’s Top 30. Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon are a lock should they come home within 23 and 15 spots, respectfully, of Ryan Newman this Sunday. Jamie McMurray lays claim to the final spot should he be no more than six places behind Newman at Richmond, and a first-time winner does not emerge to steal that final Chase place from him. The question is, do Newman, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney, A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, or Paul Menard have the horses to do what needs to be done? The odds are long, but remember that they were for Buescher once, too.
It was a true classic at Darlington, but it was something of a classic finish in the truck race at MoSport Park in Ontario on Sunday. Well, the finish between John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer would have gone down as a classic if it had taken place at almost any other track. Two racers rubbing and racing and scraping against the wall to the finish. Instead, on the outside, they had enough prairie to give me a home where the buffalo roam, along with a couple of elk, before they came across any barrier. Rather than taking Custer to the outside wall, Nemechek wound up taking him into the car pool lane. What could have been a classic finish had all the appearances of a demo derby. Does that make Nemechek a wild man or a guy who did what he had to do on a surface that extended much farther out than what we would have normally seen? He won, so does it matter? I bet to Custer, it does. He seemed downright excited as he tackled Nemechek after the race, sending the pair tumbling to the grass. Vengeance is a bitch, and she just might have some bite before their version of the Chase concludes in the truck series. Just ask Joey Logano.
Classic. They have been racing at Richmond since 1953, and the list of the winners there is a smorgasbord of NASCAR history, with all the fixings. It is where three generations of Petty boys have a victory, including 13 by the King himself. Both Earnhardts have won there, with Senior having a 5-3 advantage over Junior. Kyle has a 4-2 lead over Kurt in the battle of the Busch boys. Richmond is where Bobby Allison won seven times, with six wins apiece awarded to David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, and Rusty Wallace.
Sadly, the one-time Capital City 400 sold its soul to Wrangler more than 35 years ago. Since then, the trail has winded through a brewery, a battery outfit, a car manufacturer, to even include a brand of pistachios for a season. A classic event it is not. A classic venue it most certainly is.
Here is hoping for a classic finish. This spring Carl Edwards bumped Kyle Busch out of the way to record the first last-lap pass for the win in Richmond history. Why not another?