Welcome to the playoffs, NASCAR style. Normally, one is taking a gamble to start things off like what we saw a year ago. This year, it is a much different feeling, in so many aspects.
It’s a different opening race, with a different track, one that hasn’t been a playoff event since the very first playoff season. It’s a track that drivers have already seen twice this year…in a matter of days. But, unlike the first pair of races that came in the hopes of getting the sport back on track, this one has remained unchanged in what it means.
NASCAR’s first playoff weekend brings tradition back to a weekend that before 2015, seems to have been lost. When it came back, something felt so right, like a piece of the puzzle that had been long lost only to return.
The idea of going old-school was the idea of the drivers, not NASCAR itself. What first was an idea from the perspective of the drivers has now become the most popular weekend for teams, fans, broadcasters, sponsors, and the track itself.
Labor Day weekend should have always remained at Darlington, and it took over a decade for it to return, and it has been a welcome experience.
Going old-school with the classic paint schemes, lettering on the tires, uniforms, right down to the logos on the broadcast just makes this event feel so right. Every year, teams are trying to step up bigger in their idea of how to throw it back better than the season before. We have seen classic looks dating back to the greats in the sport, from Yarborough to Allison, Elliott to Wallace, Gordon to Earnhardt, Wood to Roberts.
Each year, the ability to find a scheme to fit the theme of the weekend, and has meaning, gets harder.
This year, throwing it back has an even bigger meaning, because for a long while, fans and teams alike never knew if racing was actually going to happen. Finally, after hosting no one at the first two events, NASCAR and South Carolina officials are letting some fans attend the Throwback Weekend at Darlington.
Without a doubt, you never know what you have until it’s gone, and the teams never really understood how much of an importance fans were until they had to perform in front of no one. Doing the same thing for Throwback Weekend would be defeating the purpose, especially when this is the first official race in the playoffs.
To start the post season at the “Lady in Black” is a challenge all it’s own, but when teams have already been here twice, all teams have notes to fall back on and improve on.
A win at this track is a feather in the cap of any driver, since to win here is often a challenge physically and emotionally on the teams. Both races this season were shorter than what the track will see on Sunday night, but in the end, the toughest team is going to come out of this with a win, and potentially a lock into the second round of the playoffs without having to do any short track battle or post-race argument.
Although a post-race argument at Darlington isn’t an uncommon theme…just as Chase Elliott after the second event in May.
The track “Too Tough to Tame” will have a lot of stripes at weekend’s end, and one driver will add a win to their resume at one of the crown jewel events of the season. Strap in, as it is going to be old-school and new school all in one. This lady is unforgiving, but the winner will likely be very happy to have danced with this tough lady and survived.
Let’s get racing at Darlington.