South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is admittedly a big NASCAR fan. He’s attended numerous races at one of the sport’s oldest and most revered racetracks, Darlington Raceway, a major draw in The Palmetto State, pulling in an estimated $50-plus million in tourist dollars each year.
So it’s not surprising that the Republican state leader took time during his inauguration speech Wednesday to pay tribute to NASCAR (click here to see the video excerpt, courtesy WLTX TV), saying, “NASCAR racing in Darlington, if you haven’t been, you ought to go.”
While he stopped short of telling constituents how they can buy tickets for the Sept. 2 Bojangles Southern 500 throwback weekend (this year’s race will feature the 1990-1994 era), he fondly singled out the 2003 race that featured the closest finish in NASCAR history between race winner Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch.
“It is excellence in engineering, perfection, high speed, raw courage, brute force,” McMaster said. “It is something to see. In 2003, after 400 miles with average speeds topping 125 miles per hour, including yellow flags and pit stops, Ricky Craven in a No. 32 Pontiac beat Kurt Busch in a No. 97 Ford by two one-thousandths of a second.
“In distance, that would be the thickness of the paint on the front bumper. If one of Mr. Craven’s tires had been even a little bit flat, he would have lost, he would have lost the race, he would have lost the competition.”
McMaster also used the sport as an example when it came to promoting education in the state.
“Similarly, our state will never excel and succeed to its fullest potential if parts of our state are ‘flat’ – or not performing (education-wise),” he said. “If we are bold and we prepare for the race in front of us, South Carolina will beat the competition every time.”
McMaster was elected in November. He previously had served as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor and then ascended to governor in 2016 when then-governor Nikki Haley resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for President Donald Trump.
The 70th running of the Southern 500 in 2019 will mark the fifth “Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR” at Darlington Raceway and will celebrate the sport’s history from 1990-94.
The weekend will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 1 with Darlington hosting the Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.
Darlington will honor moments and icons of the 1990-94 era of, including the conclusion of 2010 NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s career and the beginning of 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Gordon’s career.
A native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pearson holds the record for most Cup wins at Darlington with 10.
The track will have a commemorative ticket design honoring Pearson.
“Even though we are highlighting the 1990-94 era, we felt it was important to pay tribute to David Pearson on our tickets because he truly was an icon in South Carolina who left a tremendous impact on Darlington and on NASCAR,” said Darlington president Kerry Tharp in a press release.
Darlington has started the ticket renewal process with fans receiving an e-mail communication to renew their tickets and campsites early.
Renewal benefits include:
The track’s best value of the season for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 and Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
Convenient four-part payment plan
One free admission to the Darlington Raceway Museum ($7.50 value)
One free Lionel RCCA (Racing Collectables Club of America) Membership ($19.95 value)
Complete set of 2018 commemorative “7 Decades of NASCAR” tickets
All renewal accounts are entered into a random drawing for a chance to attend the fifth annual Bojangles’ Legends Breakfast on Sunday, September 1, 2019
Special renewal pricing for Darlington Stripe Zone Hospitality ($30 savings)
Special renewal pricing for all-inclusive driver intros, pre-race concert and pre-race pit road access ($15 savings)
Special renewal pricing for an exclusive VIP “Untamed Access” Bojangles’ Southern 500® race day experience
Fans can create custom “Weekend Ticket Packages” (Practice, NXS & MENCS) that can save up to $60 per person
Guests may renew their tickets and campsites by calling 866-459-RACE (7223) or visiting www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/renewals. The renewal deadline is Friday, February 8, 2019
NASCAR has announced its race start times for the 2019 Cup Series season, with a notable change in start time for the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After a start time of 3 p.m. ET this year, next season’s race will begin at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on NBCSN.
“Moving the start time for the September race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is fitting because it will deliver a better experience for our fans attending the race, and kick off the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in primetime,” said Steve Herbst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Broadcasting and Production in a press release. “Each race weekend, including Las Vegas, is unique, and we work collaboratively with broadcast partners, teams and tracks to ensure the ideal timing is selected for our events.”
Other notable start times:
The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
The March 31 race at Texas Motor Speedway will start one hour later, moving from a 2 p.m. ET start to 3 p.m. ET. The race also moves to FOX.
The start time for New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s July 22 starts one hour later, moving from 2 p.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET.
Martinsville Speedway’s Oct. 28 playoff shifts a half-hour later to a 3 p.m. ET start.
Here’s the full schedule with start times and TV and radio networks:
David Pearson, described by Richard Petty as the “greatest race car driver that I raced against,” died Monday. He was 83.
The Wood Brothers confirmed Pearson’s death, tweeting: “Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers. We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.”
The news led to numerous tributes from those in the industry, including current drivers.
Pearson, who drove for the Wood Brothers from 1972-79, was a three-time Cup champion who won 105 Cup races, which was second only to Petty’s 200. Pearson, who won 18.29 percent of his races, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers introduced Pearson at the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony by saying: “It is my great pleasure to introduce to you the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR, Mr. David Pearson.
Pearson, known as the Silver Fox, won 27 races and had 30-runner-up finishes in the 1968-69 seasons.
“I grew up with Bobby and Donnie (Allison) and all those guys but when it came to Steve McQueen cool that was Pearson, he was the coolest of them,” NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty said of Pearson. “The way he walked, the way he carried himself. Forget what he did on the race track, he was just cool. That’s the word beside him in the dictionary.”
Pearson rarely ran a full season in NASCAR’s premier series but when he did was tough to beat.
“When you talk about the number of races people win, he didn’t run nearly as many races as most of the others, his winning percentage was unbelievable,” NBC Sports analyst Dale Jarrett said. “I know he gets credit, but you talk to people who raced in his era and watched, they considered him if not the best one of the top two or three that ever did this.”
That’s what Kyle Petty remembers about Pearson.
Petty said during a stop on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride in Lake Charles, La., years ago, Pearson was on the ride with them.
“My dad just told a story about Harry (Gant) and my next question is who is the best driver you ever raced against,” Kyle Petty said. “My dad said I would have to say my dad, I would have to say Lee Petty but I’m going to have to say David Pearson. David Pearson is probably the greatest race car driver that I raced against and I admired what he did.
“And so I said, David, what’s your answer. (He said) I’d just about have to agree with Richard.”
During his 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speech, Pearson thanked Richard Petty. “I want to thank Richard Petty, too. He’s probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I’d run hard because he’d make me run hard. … I’ve had more fun running with him than anybody I’ve ever run with.”
Richard Petty and Pearson engaged in one of the sport’s greatest finishes in the 1976 Daytona 500 when they crashed coming to the checkered flag. Pearson prevailed for his only Daytona 500 triumph.
Richard Petty issued a statement Monday night:
“I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was. The answer has always been David Pearson. David and I raced together throughout our careers and battled each other for wins – most of the time finishing first or second to each other.
“It wasn’t a rivalry, but more mutual respect. David is a Hall of Fame driver who made me better. He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it.
“We have always been close to the Pearson family because they were in the racing business, just like us. We stayed close, and I enjoyed visits to see David when going through South Carolina. We will miss those trips.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Pearson family and friends.”
Darlington Raceway also issued a statement Monday night. The track was the site of many special moments for Pearson. He won there a track-record 10 times.
“Darlington Raceway expresses its deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of David Pearson. His record 10 wins at Darlington Raceway put him in a league of his own. His fierce competitiveness and passion for the sport endeared him to the NASCAR faithful. His Hall of Fame career will go down as one of the most prolific in the history of the sport. A native South Carolinian, he was a wonderful ambassador for our sport and for the Palmetto State. He will be missed and will always be remembered.”
Jim France, interim NASCAR Chairman and CEO, issued a statement on Pearson’s passing:
“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal. When he retired, he had three championships – and millions of fans. Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions.
“The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence.
“On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”
Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers. We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.
David Pearson was one of the all time greats. Anyone who raced him will tell you he was the best. The Silver Fox lived up to his persona on and off the track. What a badass. RIP pic.twitter.com/LGGJ7ZIje9
Tonight my heart is sad. I was blessed to watch and race with David Pearson and in my childhood memories of race tracks, David is there. The Man you had to beat, that Beautiful 21 Wood Bros Mercury. He was what a “Racecar Driver” was.. Steve McQueen Cool…one of the BEST EVER!
CONCORD, N.C. — With 12 races left in the 2015 Cup season, Justin Allgaier was ready to tap out of racing.
The 29-year-old’s enthusiasm for competing had worn thin after two years of middling results driving the No. 51 Chevrolet for HScott Motorsports. His best result through 60 races was eighth earlier that spring at Bristol.
It had already been announced he wouldn’t return to the team in 2016. His spot would be taken by Clint Bowyer.
Allgaier, who had three Xfinity wins at the time, called it one of the “darker” periods of his career. It was a long way from 2018, where he enters this weekend’s Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond as the No. 1 seed.
“I was ready to walk away,” Allgaier said Tuesday at the Xfinity Playoff Media Day. “At the end of that season I was trying to figure out an exit strategy, right? What does the future hold, where do you go from here?”
All this weighed on Allgaier on Sept. 6, the day of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Allgaier doesn’t know if it was the result of an “abnormally bad” qualifying effort for Earnhardt or a “fantastic effort” by himself.
Either way, Allgaier was set to start the Southern 500 in 27th, right next to the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
Through that, the two were paired in the same truck to take them around the 1.366-mile track following driver introductions.
By the end of their trip from the start-finish line to pit road, Allgaier said “there was a fire lit” underneath him.
Earnhardt told NBC Sports he doesn’t remember exactly what he told him that day, but Allgaier recalled what the sport’s 15-time most popular driver discussed with him as they waved to fans waiting for the race.
“Dale’s big thing to me was, ‘Man, I’m sorry that things didn’t work out the way they wanted them to. … It wasn’t for a lack of effort. … I really thought if you guys could get something figured out you guys would be a lot better. … I’ve been impressed with what you’ve done on the race track and how you’ve driven the car … In the right situation you would excel.'”
As they slowly traversed the “Lady in Black,” Allgaier said they covered “20 years of life in that one lap.”
“He had a lot of confidence in me in a time when I promise you I didn’t have the confidence in myself to go out there and think we could run good in anything,” Allgaier said. “It was like everything that I had thought that I needed somebody to say, God just put it right in Dale’s mouth to say it. I heard everything I needed to hear.”
Allgaier doesn’t remember where he finished the Southern 500 (33rd), but he knows he had a bad race.
“It was one of those days where you want to forget it,” Allgaier said. “I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I was in a better place, I was happy. I was ready to go.”
Within two weeks Allgaier was having discussions with Earnhardt and JR Motorsports about joining their Xfinity Series team with sponsorship in tow from Brandt, which had sponsored Allgaier in Cup and Xfinity since 2011.
About a month after that, Allgaier was “signed, sealed, delivered (and) ready to race” for JRM.
“I didn’t want to fail again,” Allgaier said. “And I knew I had the tools to go do it and I had the people around me and we’ve been lucky enough to do that. This year’s kind of the year that it all perfectly came together and everything worked.”
Three years and four days after the Darlington conversation, Allgaier, now 32, sat on the frontstretch of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He and JRM’s No. 7 team had just won the Lilly Diabetes 250.
In his third year with JRM, it was Allgaier’s fifth Xfinity win of 2018, a career-best. It also gave him seven wins in the last two seasons.
Now he and his family were about to kiss the bricks on the start-finish line, a tradition for winners at the historic track.
His wife, Ashley, looked at their daughter, Harper Grace.
“I hope one day you realize the gravity of what you’re about to do,” Allgaier recalled her saying.
“It hit me,” Allgaier said. “‘Oh man, I might not be able to do this. I might not be able to bend down here and kiss these bricks.’ That was a cool moment. That was something special.
“That’s probably what’s kept me in this sport. There was a time in my life where I was ready to quit racing and go home and not ever get back behind the wheel of a race car ever again. To have those moments now, I think (Harper Grace) very clearly understands that it is hard to win in this sport and I think she’s enjoying these Victory Lane moments when she can because you don’t know when the next one may or may not come.”
Allgaier will look to make more special moments in the playoffs, which begins Friday at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“It’s taken me almost 10 years to win five races, then this year alone we’ve won five,” Allgaier said. “That’s special. That doesn’t happen because I changed who I was. Right? I didn’t all of sudden learn how to drive at the beginning of 2018 and say, ‘Hey, let’s go win a bunch of races.’ That’s not all what happened. Everything has clicked.”
Allgaier added, “We’re doing our jobs together in harmony and we’re executing and that’s what makes the difference. It’s every piece of the puzzle that goes together and it’s just been fun.”