NASCAR PREVIEW: DARLINGTON THROWBACK WEEKEND

By Brennen McCall, Racing Contributor

Darlington Raceway is often referred to as the track “Too Tough to Tame.” The 1.3-mile egg-shaped oval is highly regarded as the toughest track in NASCAR. The racing surface barely holds enough room for drivers to run three-wide. The walls almost seem to reach out and grab drivers who don’t respect its treacherous corners.

The speed can be found right up against its famous walls, but it comes at a price. Darlington has some of the oldest surfaces in NASCAR. The abrasive asphalt acts like a cheese grater to tires. It doesn’t take very may laps for drivers to start complaining about a loss a grip.

This loss of grip is precisely why Darlington has earned such a nasty reputation. It’s hard enough for the stars of NASCAR to battle each other, but in Darlington you first need to battle the track. With each passing lap, tires continue to degrade to the point where some cars become almost un-drivable. Only the most skilled drivers can continue to knock off fast laps while managing to keep it off the wall.

This Sunday should bring an extra layer of excitement for the Cup series as they bring something to Darlington they haven’t brought in a few years. The low downforce/high horsepower configuration is back and should provide addition challenges. Low downforce, as we all know, means less aero grip. Less grip means the cars are more difficult to drive. Cars that are difficult to drive are fun to watch for fans.

Darlington is also the home to NASCAR’s annual Throwback Weekend. A race sprinkled with historic paint schemes to pay homage to the past. It’s perhaps one of only a few venues to host such an event. Darlington is one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks, which began hosting races back in 1950.

Who will be some drivers to keep an eye on for this weekend?

Despite his less than ideal start to the 2021 season, Kevin Harvick is returning to a track where he’s won two out of his last three starts and boasts an impressive 10-race streak finishing inside the top 10.

Kyle Busch is hot after winning last week’s thriller at Kansas. He has five finishes of seventh or better at his last six starts at Darlington.

Erik Jones won in Joe Gibbs Racing’s #20 back in 2019. Plus, he’s managed two top-five finishes in his last three starts. Jones should have a much bigger hill to climb now that he’s sitting in a lesser quality ride at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Denny Hamlin is the most recent winner at Darlington, his latest coming in 2020 alongside wins in 2017 and in 2010. Hamlin is currently the sitting points leader but has yet to snag a win in 2021. Could Sunday be the day he finally grabs the checkered flag?

Regardless of who finds victory at the track too tough to tame, driver skill will be put on full display. This track is brutal on cars and drivers need to stay completely focused just to keep their cars clean all while trying to find the absolute limit.

Let’s have ourselves a race!

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