One of the most popular and anticipated races on the NASCAR Cup schedule takes place this evening in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
The race caps off the third annual throwback weekend, with most teams and cars honoring drivers/teams from the 1980s/1990s. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending race winner. There have been 11 different winners in the last 11 races. Will it be 12-of-12 tonight?
Here are the details for today’s race:
(All times are Eastern):
START: 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Ray Evernham, Robert Yates, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Ken Squier, along with Clifton Rutledge, Bojangles’ CEO will give the command to start engines at 6:07 p.m. Green flag is set for 6:15 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 367 laps (501.3 miles) around the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 100. Stage 2 ends on Lap 200.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at Noon. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 4 p.m. Driver introductions at 5:25 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: The Anthem will be performed by country music legends, The Oak Ridge Boys, at 6:01 p.m.
TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race at 6 p.m. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. on NBCSN with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 5:30 p.m. The Motor Racing Network radio broadcast begins at 5 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 84 degrees and a nine percent chance of rain at race time.
Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squire and Robert Yates – who along with the late Red Byron – will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall next January, have been named grand marshals for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Among their duties, the grand marshals will give the command to start engines prior to the race, which will be televised at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Bojangles’ CEO Clifton Rutledge will also be part of the group that will give the command to start engines.
“Having the NASCAR Hall of Fame members, and Bojangles’ CEO Clifton Rutledge, serve as grand marshals for our Bojangles’ Southern 500 is a wonderful tradition we started in 2015,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said. “It concludes pre-race ceremonies with an historic touch.”
Terry Labonte was grand marshal and gave the command to start engines before the 2015 Southern 500.
Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin served as grand marshals and gave the command to start engines before last year’s Southern 500.
Kevin Harvick, who once owned an Xfinity team and races in that series, voiced his displeasure Tuesday night with NASCAR’s rule to further limit Cup drivers in Xfintiy and Truck races next year.
“I know there are going to be a lot of people that disagree with me, but it’s hard when you’re trying to build a business and you’re trying to sell sponsorship, you have no tool greater than yourself when you’re in a situation like Brad (Keselowski), myself or Kyle (Busch),’’ Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours.’’
“It seems you’re just getting your balls chopped off every time you try to go out and sell sponsorship to try to keep your team funded because of the fact you can’t run enough races, so you can’t tie it to enough things. To me, it’s not the right thing to do.’’
NASCAR announced Tuesday that all Cup drivers are prohibited from competing in the last eight races of the season for the Xfinity and Trucks — the regular-season finale and playoffs. Cup drivers are also prohibited from the Dash 4 Cash races.
Cup drivers with more than five years experience in that series are limited to seven Xfinity races (down from 10 this year) and five Truck races (down from seven this year). Harvick said that Cup drivers were going to be limited to five Xfinity races next year before a compromise of seven was set.
“Just let them race,’’ Harvick said. “Who cares? Why not just let them race. I don’t understand it. That’s what we do. We race cars, we race trucks, we race late models. That’s what we did all our life, we raced. I don’t know why all of a sudden it’s become a problem.’’
Harvick did say that he’s fine with Cup drivers being kept out of the playoffs in both series and the Dash 4 Cash races but they should not be kept out of any other races.
Harvick admits he’s biased toward team ownership because of his history. Harvick and wife DeLana owned Kevin Harvick Inc., which ran in NASCAR from 2002-11. The organization won Camping World Truck Series titles in 2007 and ’09 with Ron Hornaday Jr. and won the owner’s title in 2011. They sold the team after the 2011 season.
Harvick has said previously that allowing Cup drivers in the Xfinity and Truck Series gives young drivers in those series added experience of running against such competitors. He’s also expressed concerns about sponsorship since some sponsors want to be aligned with Cup drivers in those series.
“Let me tell you this, Ryan Preece‘s car wouldn’t even been in existence if Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones didn’t have the sponsorship … for that 20 car to be on the race track,” Harvick said on his show.
“I agree with the opportunity (for young drivers) but sometimes you have to balance that opportunity with trying to run a business,’’ Harvick said Tuesday night. “When you’re cutting Kyle’s feet and Brad’s feet out from underneath them when they can’t do what they want to do, then it becomes hard for the teams to do what they need to do.
“I think what you’re going to see happen, when you run out of those options, those Xfinity sponsors are going to start plugging holes on the Cup side and they’re still going to get the Cup driver that they want … because they’re going to put their money on the Cup car.’’
With 38 percent of the vote, Ron Hornaday Jr. was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.
Hornaday, 58, is a four-time champion of the Camping World Truck Series and holds the series’ wins record with 51 victories.
Hornaday raced in the series from its inception in 1995 through 1999 and then from 2005 through 2014.
He’s the first Truck Series champion to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
“There wasn’t even a Hall of Fame when I started racing, you just do it to put food on the table and enjoy it,” Hornaday told NASCAR America. “There’s so many people (to thank) … I don’t know who to thank and where to start.”
Hornaday won two of his championships driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and two for Kevin Harvick.
2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class: Yates, Byron, Evernham, Squier and Hornaday Jr.
The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class was announced Wednesday night at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The class includes Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr.
This year was the second time there was a tie for the fifth induction spot. The tie was between Hornaday and 1992 Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki. A tie breaker vote went to Hornaday.
Here’s your look at the ninth induction class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Robert Yates – Percent of vote: 94
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina Premier Series Owner Stats Competed: 1989-2007 Starts: 1,155 Wins: 57 Poles: 48
Won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner. Began Robert Yates Racing in the late 1980s. Won the Daytona 500 three times with Davey Allison (1992) and Dale Jarrett (1996, 2000). Yates and Jarrett won the 1999 Cup series championship.
Red Byron (Born: 3/12/15 – Died: 11/11/60) – Percent of vote: 74
Hometown: Anniston, Alabama Premier Series Stats Competed: 1949-1951 Starts: 15 Wins: 2 Poles: 2
Byron won NASCAR’s first race in 1948 on the Daytona beach road course. He won NASCAR’s first season championship in the NASCAR Modified Division. The following year, he won NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock title – the precursor to today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – driving for car owner Raymond Parks. The Strictly Stock schedule had eight races; Byron won two of them. Wounded in World War II, the injury contributed to Byron’s brief career.
Ray Evernham – Percent of vote: 52
Hometown: Hazlet, New Jersey Premier Series Crew Chief Stats Competed: 1992-1999 Starts: 213 Wins: 47 Poles: 30
With Jeff Gordon as his driver, the No. 24 team for Hendrick Motorsports won three championships (1995, ’97, ’98), and 47 wins in the 1990s, including two Daytona 500s (1997, ’99) and two Brickyard 400s (1994, ’98). In 2001, Evernham tried his hand at ownership, leading the return of Dodge to NASCAR. His team won 13 times, including NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott’s win in the 2002 Brickyard 400.
Ken Squier – Percent of vote: 52
Hometown: Waterbury, Vermont.
One of NASCAR’s original broadcasters, Squier co-founded the Motor Racing Network (MRN) in 1970. He is perhaps best-known for calling the 1979 Daytona 500, a milestone moment for the entire sport, as Squier’s voice on CBS welcomed millions to the first live flag-to-flag coverage of “The Great American Race” – a moniker he coined. Squier called races for CBS and TBS until 1997.
Ron Hornaday Jr. – Percent of vote: 38
Hometown: Palmdale, California Truck Series Driver Stats Competed: 1995-99, 2002, 2004-14 Starts: 360 Wins: 51 Poles: 27
One of the forefathers of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, few drivers can be mentioned in the same breath as Hornaday when it comes to wheeling a truck around a race track. The second-generation racer boasts a record four Truck Series championships and 51 wins. Hornaday also holds the Truck Series all-time marks for top fives (158) and top 10s (234). In 2009, Hornaday won five straight Truck Series races, a feat matched only three other times in NASCAR national series history.
The 2018 Landmark Award winner:
Jim France – Vice chairman/executive vice president of NASCAR and is also chairman of the board at the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). A steady influence behind the scenes for decades, he helped build the sport with his father Bill France Sr., the founder and first president of NASCAR, and brother Bill France Jr., NASCAR’s former president, chairman and CEO. Joining ISC in 1959, Jim France worked in all phases of operations in his early years with the company. He was elected to the ISC board in 1970 and has served as the company’s secretary, assistant treasurer, vice president, chief operating officer, executive vice president and president.