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The Art of Racing - Theme race a delight

One of the great weekends in NASCAR is the Labor Day weekend in Darlington. In 1948, a retired racer named Harold Brasington bought 70 acres from farmer Sherman Ramsey, and built the Darlington speedway. Because of a promise he made to farmer Ramsey of not disturbing a minnow pond, the track had an egg-shaped look with one corner narrower and more steeply banked than the other.

Over the years several modifications were made including the addition of lights, but the basic track remains one of the most difficult tracks to get around. It is nicknamed “The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame” by many fans and drivers. Drivers hitting the wall are considered to have received their “Darlington Stripe” thanks to the missing paint on the right side of the car.

Last Sunday, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 did not disappoint racing fans because of the throwback theme. Many of the cars honored drivers of the past by making their cars look like their cars. The No. 24 Jeff Gordon car of 20 years ago was voted “Best in Show” by the fans.

Kyle Larson was the dominant car for most of the race, leading all but 83 laps of the 367-lap race. Winning both stages, he looked like he would cruise to victory until a number of cautions near the end of the race helped Brad Keselowski beat Larson out of the pits and hold on for the victory.

Keselowski had a great weekend by winning his first Southern 500 Sunday, completing a sweep after having won the NASCAR Xfinity race the day before.

“The Southern 500 has always been a major deal,” Keselowski said. “They’ve made it even bigger yet.”

Only five lead changes occurred during the race and only two of them were on-track passes, both by Larson. Joey Logano finished second, completing a Team Penske sweep.

The “big three” were not as dominating as they have been in past races, but they all had decent finishes. Kyle Busch made contact with Joey Gase that damaged his car, but managed to finish seventh. Kevin Harvick gained four points on Busch by finishing fourth. Martin Truex Jr. was penalized early for an uncontrolled tire and spent nearly the entire race trying to get back on the lead lap. He finally got the lap back and finished 11th.

Both Busch brothers, Harvick, Truex, Logano, Keselowski, Larson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon and Erick Jones have locked themselves into the playoffs.

Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman currently round out the top 16.