Race Day: The Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Published On: Apr 12 2014 12:13:32 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 12 2014 12:32:44 PM CDT

The first Saturday night race of the 2014 season is upon us as NASCAR takes on the track to tough to tame, Darlington Raceway. The Southern 500 is long considered one of the jewels of the NASCAR circuit and one that pretty much every driver in the garage would love to win.

“The history of the track is what makes it so amazing,” said Ryan Newman. “The racetrack was designed to race on the apron and not on the banking. It's amazing how much it hasn't changed, but yet, it still produces great races."

This race used to be held on Labor Day weekend, until that date was given to the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Then it was Mother’s Day weekend, but that date now belongs to the Kansas Speedway. But drivers don’t think the date change will change the track that much.

“It doesn’t change how you’re going to drive it at all,” said Matt Kenseth. “Conditions are a little hard to predict just because we only come here once a year -- I don’t think anybody really tests or anything.  With the weather forecast being decent, I can’t really remember the weather last May, but it’s supposed to be pretty warm the next couple days so I think that’s good.  I think that will be good for the fans and I think that will probably be good for the racing and everything too.  It’s not going to be too terribly cold at night.”

Kenseth is the most recent winner at Darlington and one of just six drivers in the field with a win at the South Carolina track. Other winners include; Jeff Gordon (7), Jimmie Johnson (3), Greg Biffle (2), Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

“Success always starts with the race team and the race car, and I’ve had good ones here,” said Gordon. “Another key to success at Darlington is being able to push the limits of the car and the track, and keeping it on that ‘edge’ without going over. At Darlington, it’s very easy to go over the edge.”

Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green at about 5:37 central time Saturday night. Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski round out the top five starters. Kansas native Clint Bowyer starts 16th, six-time champ Johnson starts 26th and Gordon, who is the current points leader, starts ninth.