NASCAR & Auto Racing

Notebook: Darlington Raceway SAFER than most

VIDEO: NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon prepares for Darlington

Jeff Gordon talks about final season, last time racing at Darlington
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Jeff Gordon talks about final season, last time racing at Darlington

With much of the focus on the past this weekend at Darlington Raceway, the track is doing its part in helping with the future safety of the sport.

Darlington president Chip Wile said the track installed 4,600 linear feet of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction, aka SAFER barriers, for its race weekend.

The additional SAFER barriers were part of an initiative by International Speedway Corporation, Darlington’s parent company. In July, ISC announced it was adding 54,000 linear feet of SAFER barriers at its 13 tracks.

The call for extra SAFER barriers was a response to Kyle Busch’s accident during the Xfinity Series race Feb. 21. Busch suffered severe leg injuries when he hit an unprotected wall during the race.

The SAFER barriers at Darlington were put on the front stretch, backstretch and outside walls.

“We want to create an environment as safe as we can for these race car drivers,” Wile said. “We used a local company, North Industrial Machine out of Hartsville, to do it and we are pleased with the product.”

Darlington Raceway president Chip Wile and driver Aric Almirola discuss the throwback paint schemes for the Southern 500.

Throwback everything

Some teams were doing more than throwback paint schemes this weekend.

Crew members for Austin Dillon’s No. 3 team were wearing white 70s-style paints and Chuck Taylor Converse shoes with mesh Goodyear hats.

Kyle Larson, who’s driving the Days of Thunder Mello Yellow paint scheme for his No. 42 car, was sporting a 70s mustache similar to Burt Reynolds. Aric Almirola grew a handlebar mustache similar to the one his car owner Richard Petty wore in the 1970s.

Almirola, who will be running the iconic STP paint scheme on his No. 43 car, started growing the mustache for about a week and got a seal of approval from his boss.

“I got a late start and would like for it to be a little fuller,” Almirola said. “Richard said he won the Daytona 500 with a mustache just like this so we will see if we can’t win the Southern 500.”

Elliott making final Cup start of season

Defending Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott will make the final of his five Cup starts this weekend at Darlington.

The son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott will take over the No. 24 car for Jeff Gordon next season at Hendrick Motorsports. Chase has finished 18th or better in three of the four races and was 38th in his debut at Martinsville.

Digital dash in effect

Kurt Busch’s No. 41 car will be the only one running the new digital dashboard this weekend at Darlington.

Teams were allowed to use them starting Aug. 5, but this is the first weekend the teams have put it in place. It will be mandatory for all Cup teams to use them beginning next season.

Current cars have analog gauges for oil pressure tachometer, fuel pressure and voltage.

The digital dashboard will have those things plus tire pressures, lap times and pit stop information.

Practice, practice

Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski were the fastest in the two Sprint Cup practices Friday.

Kyle Busch had to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race after hitting the wall in Turn 2 in the second practice.

What they said

“This is when Darlington is supposed to be, on Labor Day. It was a real holiday in this part of the country.”

— Richard Petty

“A brave move is when it works. A stupid move is when it doesn’t.”

— Joey Logano

“You walk in the garage and it is like being in a time capsule. Everybody has a different scheme and different feel.”

— Chip Wile


VIDEO: Throwback paint schemes a hit at Darlington Raceway