Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we live in strange times.
It’s forced NASCAR to make seemingly unprecedented scheduling decisions that see the sport attempting to hold four Cup Series races in 11 days, with the second scheduled to take place tonight at Darlington. A third is set for Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway followed by another Charlotte race on May 27.
While this all seems new, such a compact schedule is simply a throwback to NASCAR’s past, which is appropriate for Darlington.
The last time the Cup Series had four races in 11 days was in 1971, the year before NASCAR’s Modern Era began. That season the Cup Series held 48 races.
From July 14-28, the series competed at Albany-Saratoga (N.Y) Speedway, Islip (N.Y) Speedway, Trenton (N.J.) Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee. Richard Petty won all four races. Only Albany-Saratoga, a dirt track, and Fairgrounds Speedway still exist.
Should tonight’s Darlington race not be rained out, it would be the 34th Cup race held on a Wednesday, but the first since 1984.
That race was the July 4 event held at Daytona that Richard Petty won for his 200th career victory. The last Wednesday race held somewhere other than Daytona was the 1971 race at Albany-Saratoga.
Other Wednesday/Darlington racing factoids:
– Nineteen drivers have earned victories in races held on Wednesdays. Ten of them are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
– The drivers with the most Wednesday victories are Richard Petty and Ned Jarrett with five each.
– This would be the first time that Darlington, Charlotte (May 27) and Martinsville (June 10) would host a Cup Series race on a Wednesday.
– The starting lineup of tonight’s race features an inversion of the top-20 finishers from Sunday’s race. Since 2000, the only driver to start a Darlington race from 15th-20th and win was Erik Jones in last year’s Southern 500 (he started 15th).
– Jones has yet to finish outside the top 10 in four Cup starts at Darlington
– Only three drivers in the Modern Era (since 1972) have earned their first Cup win at Darlington: Terry Labonte (1980), Lake Speed (1988) and Regan Smith (2011). Speed’s and Smith’s wins were their only Cup victories.
– In the Modern Era, Darlington has seen only three last-lap passes for the win. The last came in 2003 (Ricky Craven).