CONCORD, N.C.— It’s official. The #NASCARThrowback weekend at Darlington Raceway has arrived.
And all four Hendrick Motorsports teams are prepared to take on the 1.366-mile oval track with retro paint schemes.
“Darlington has a great history and since I’ve been in the sport, I look forward to it every time because of how difficult it is to race there,” Kasey Kahne said. “I haven’t won there yet, but we’ve been close at times, and it would be great to do it this trip and in the LiftMaster throwback car.”
Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott is anticipating his return to Darlington Raceway for his second trip in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“I’m looking forward to Darlington for sure,” Elliott said. “There are a lot of cool schemes running that weekend. It will be fun to keep up with that. I’m excited about ours.”
Jeff Gordon will return behind the wheel of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS this weekend, as it was announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss the remainder of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
With qualifying canceled due to inclement weather, Sunday's starting grid has already been set, and Jimmie Johnson will lead his teammates to the green flag inside the top 10.
To prepare for the Southern 500, take a look at the key notes below to remember before tuning in to watch the #NASCARThrowback NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Darlington.
BROADCAST INFORMATION: Sunday’s race will air live on NBC at 6 p.m. ET. Can’t make it to the television? Listen to the race live on MRN and SiriusXM to catch the radio coverage. Here is the full broadcast schedule:
Saturday, Sept. 3:
11:00 a.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Practice, CNBC
1:30 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, NBCSN
Sunday, Sept. 4:
6:00 p.m. ET: Sprint Cup Series Race, NBC
THIS WEEKEND’S PAINT SCHEMES: This weekend, Kahne will pilot the No. 5 LiftMaster Chevrolet SS modeled after Terry Labonte’s 1982 JD Stacey paint scheme. Elliott will drive a retro-themed NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme for this weekend's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Johnson and longtime partner Lowe's will race a throwback car this weekend. The No. 48 Chevrolet SS will feature a blue-and-yellow paint scheme from 1979. In partnership with Darlington Raceway, on April 13, Earnhardt and Nationwide revealed the Gray Ghost throwback paint scheme that the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet will feature in the Southern 500 this weekend, which Gordon will pilot.
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DARLINGTON: In 53 events at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 14 wins, seven pole positions, 44 top-five finishes and 72 top-10s. Johnson most recently won at the historic track on May 12, 2012, to claim Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th Sprint Cup victory. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins, 19 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s, a 6.8 average start and 1,744 laps led at the 1.366-mile oval. Kahne leads all active drivers at the track with four pole positions. Johnson’s average finish of 9.1 ranks third-best among active drivers at Darlington.
KAHNE AT DARLINGTON: The 36-year-old has declared Darlington as one of his favorite tracks, but still looks to find its Victory Lane. He led two laps and finished 12th in last year’s Labor Day weekend race. Kahne has led laps in nine of his 13 starts at the historic track.
2014 FLASHBACK: While this weekend marks the resurgence of retro paint schemes at the Southern 500, NAPA AUTO PARTS’ 1963 nostalgic logo is only a throwback of a few years for Elliott. In 2014, the retro logo adorned the No. 9 NASCAR XFINITY Series Camaro that he tested for JR Motorsports, owned by teammate Earnhardt in preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway.
SEASON STANDINGS: Elliott currently sits 11th in the standings with 628 points. The rookie trails leader Kevin Harvick by 171 markers. The 20-year-old is younger than any other driver currently inside the top 16 – the amount of drivers NASCAR takes into its playoffs – while also being the highest ranked rookie.
DARLINGTON DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Johnson has the fourth-best driver rating at Darlington with a score of 104.4 during the past 10 years at the track. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.
EARNHARDT UPDATE: Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS, will miss his seventh consecutive race this weekend at Darlington Raceway as he continues to recover from a concussion. Alex Bowman filled in for Earnhardt last weekend at Michigan International Speedway, finishing 30th due to ignition system issues after running as high as fourth. He also filled in for Earnhardt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 17. Gordon has served as the substitute for the other four races Earnhardt has missed to date at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and Bristol.
GORDON: Gordon will again fill in for Earnhardt this weekend at Darlington. It will be the fifth race that Gordon has driven for Earnhardt and the No. 88 team. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven career wins at the 1.366-mile “Lady in Black.” The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion also leads all active drivers at Darlington in top-five finishes (19), top-10s (23) and laps led (1,744).