Darlington Raceway

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

March 21 in NASCAR History: Jeff Burton wrecks in rain, wins at Darlington

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If it were any other race, Jeff Burton would not have won.

But on March 21, 1999, the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway did not end like any other race.

Burton, the future NBC Sports analyst, was in the middle of leading a 45-lap stint around the “Lady in Black” when Mother Nature butted in.

With rain starting to come down on the 1.366-mile track, a wreck began on the frontstretch on Lap 162. As cars scattered and checked up, Burton ran into the back of Jerry Nadeau and then smacked the outside wall.

His No. 99 Exide Ford’s right side was crumpled, the right-front tire no longer straight.

For two more laps, Burton led the field under caution as the rain increased into a downpour and brought out the red flag.

“I saw the wreck and I got slowed down, but there must have been something on the race track because I slowed down and it just kept going straight and hit the wall pretty hard,” Burton told ESPN. “It’s torn all to heck. … It was getting so dark you couldn’t see. … If it doesn’t (keep) raining we’ll finish last, if it does rain we’ll win.”

Eventually, NASCAR called the race.

It gave Burton his seventh Cup win and his second of six victories that season, including completing a Darlington sweep in the Southern 500 in September, which was also shortened by rain.

Also on this date:

1976: David Pearson erased a one-lap deficit and led the final 31 laps to beat Benny Parsons at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

1982: With rain about to be unleashed on Atlanta, Darrell Waltrip passed Richard Petty in the final turn on the last green-flag lap and beat Petty to the finish line by two inches according to NASCAR officials (from “40 Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era”). After waiting an hour, the field returned to the track for twelve laps under caution before the race was called, giving Waltrip a win in the Coca-Cola 500.

 

March 19 in NASCAR history: Austin Dillon steals Xfinity win at Auto Club in 2016

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On March 19, 2016, Kyle Busch looked well on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series race to begin the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 133 of 200 laps in a race at Auto Club Speedway.

Then on Lap 200, moments after taking the white flag, Busch’s left-front tire gave out. That allowed teammate Daniel Suarez to speed by in Turn 2.

But Suarez’ time in the lead was short lived. His No. 19 Toyota had barely exited the turn when it ran out of gas.

With Suarez falling off the pace on the apron, Busch was able to drive his wounded car back to the point position entering Turn 3.

With Busch limping along, Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet pounced in Turn 4. Dillon darted to the outside of Busch and scrapped the wall as he navigated a small hole left by Busch.

Dillon drove away to lead his only lap of the race and to claim his seventh career Xfinity win.

“I was worried about our fuel, stayed focus on that the whole time,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “(Busch) tried to screw me there at the end, but didn’t work out for him, did it?”

Busch would bounce back to win the following week at Texas. He would go on to win 10 times in 17 Xfinity starts that year.

Also on this date:

1995: After a five-year break from the track, David Green wins in the Xfinity Series’ return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

2000: Ward Burton ended a five-year winless streak in the Cup Series with a victory at Darlington Raceway. It was his second of five career wins, all with Bill Davis Racing.

NASCAR releases tentative testing schedule for Cup teams

Photo Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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NASCAR issued a rules bulletin update to teams Wednesday that included a tentative testing schedule for the Next Gen car for the rest of the year.

NASCAR noted the schedule is subject to change based on testing needs.

Here is the tentative testing schedule for 2020 (all tests will be with the Next Gen car only):

March 2-3: NASCAR test at Auto Club Speedway

March 16-17: NASCAR test at Atlanta Motor Speedway

April 6-7: NASCAR test at Bristol Motor Speedway

May 4-5: NASCAR test at Dover International Speedway

June 2-3: NASCAR test at Charlotte Motor Speedway

July 14-15: NASCAR test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

August 25: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway oval

Sept. 1-2: Goodyear tire test at Richmond Raceway

Sept. 8: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway oval

Sept. 22-23: Organizational test at Texas Motor Speedway

Sept. 29: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway oval

Oct. 6-7: Goodyear tire test at Daytona International Speedway

Oct. 13: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

Oct. 20-21: Organizational test at Dover International Speedway

Oct. 27: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

Nov. 2-3: Goodyear tire test at Martinsville Speedway

Nov. 10: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

Nov. 17-18: Organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Nov. 24: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway oval

Dec. 8: Open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway oval

Dec. 15-16: Organizational test at Phoenix Raceway

The Cup playoffs begin Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway and end Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR limits organizations to one team per organization at an organization test. Participation is not mandatory. Only drivers licensed and approved for competition in the Cup series are eligible to participate in a NASCAR Cup Series organizational test. Spectators are permitted at an organizational test at the race track’s discretion.

An open test session is open for all Cup teams. Participation is not mandatory. Only drivers licensed and approved for competition in the Cup series are eligible to participate in a NASCAR Cup Series organizational test. Spectators are permitted at an organizational test at the race track’s discretion.

The number of race teams invited to a NASCAR test is based on the needs of the test.

A Goodyear tire test will included at least three teams. Teams in the top 20 in car owner points the previous year are assigned tire tests. Those assignments have not been released. Only full-time Cup drivers may participate in a tire test.

 

Darlington Raceway unveils theme for 2020 Throwback Weekend

Darlington Raceway
Darlington Raceway
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Darlington Raceway on Wednesday announced the theme for its annual throwback weekend, Sept. 4-6, 2020.

The “Track Too Tough To Tame” will be “Celebrating NASCAR’s Champions … Past, Present and Future” and will recognize NASCAR champions in both the Cup and Xfinity Series during the weekend.

The three days will culminate in the opening race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the legendary Southern 500, on Sept. 6.

“When you look back at the history of the sport and all the champions that have won our great championship and all those drivers that have won at Darlington, there’s almost 20 drivers that were champions in the same year that they won one or more races at Darlington,” track president Kerry Tharp said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

Tharp continued, “I think this gives teams a real opportunity to honor champions, whether it’s paint schemes or something on their car that honors champions of our sport. … We really thought this was the way to go and allows us to celebrate the past, celebrate the present and oh by the way, that first race in the playoffs at Darlington will be the first step towards the 2020 champion.”

This will be the sixth consecutive year that Darlington has held its award-winning throwback weekend, and also marks the 71st running of the Southern 500. The Xfinity Series will also host the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

“There is so much history and correlation between NASCAR champions and Darlington race winners that this Throwback theme makes our 2020 event that much more special for our fans, teams, partners and stakeholders,” Tharp said.

The NASCAR Cup Series has seen 33 different drivers capture 71 total championships since the series began in 1949. Drivers with multiple championships include Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson (all with seven championships apiece); Jeff Gordon (4); Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Tony Stewart (all with three championships apiece); Buck Baker, Joe Weatherly, Ned Jarrett, Terry Labonte and Kyle Busch (all with two championships apiece), and 17 other drivers have won one championship each.

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, 29 different drivers have won the championship since the series began in 1982: Jack Ingram, Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Tyler Reddick have all won two Xfinity championships apiece. There have been 20 other drivers who have won one championship each.

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