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NASCAR Legends Converge On Darlington

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 9 2022

Not all of NASCAR’s stars were in the cars at Darlington on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – The rich history of Darlington Raceway was front-and-center during Sunday’s Goodyear 400.

The track’s popular annual throwback weekend managed to deliver once again as NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Dale Inman, Waddell Wilson and Leonard Wood roamed the property in a variety of capacities.

After Elliott delivered the command for drivers to fire their engines, Petty waved the green flag to send the field 36-car field up to speed for 293 laps around the egg-shaped 1.366-mile oval.

Elliott and Petty later joined fellow 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Labonte in the FOX TV booth. The track even managed to pull longtime pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch out of retirement for one afternoon to provide updates to the fans in attendance.

Numerous fans, media and team members strutted around the facility sporting apparel ranging from the Winston Cup to Nextel Cup days.

Spectators slowly navigated through the pedestrian tunnel past the start-finish line throughout the day to soak up memories of yesteryear by gazing at photos of every Cup Series race winner at Darlington back to the inaugural event in 1950.

Fittingly, race winner Joey Logano’s Ford Mustang featured a paint scheme dated to his first year of racing in a quarter midget.

“Obviously, it was a really, really cool day to be able to drive that car into victory lane.” said Logano, whose father Tom Logano drove one of the Ford pace vehicles at the front of the field during the pace laps. “I think about that throwback (scheme) and back to 1995 when it started for me.

“As a 5-year-old, if I had told my dad ‘hey, someday I’m going to put this thing on the pole at Darlington and roll up next to you as you drive an old Mustang and then we’re going to go win the race on Mother’s Day.’ You’d never be able to imagine that.”

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As darkness slowly began to descend on an overcast and chilly Mother’s Day, it had become evident the Lady in Black had won the day from a historical perspective by offering a throwback of her own by delivering multiple Darlington Stripes and gobbling up cars throughout the afternoon, most notably on lap 262 Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Toyota got sideways exiting Turn 2.

Truex’s spin resulted in a 9-car pileup.

A notable beneficiary of the day’s high attrition was Justin Haley, who wheeled his No. 31 Chevrolet to a third place finish despite running mid-pack much of the afternoon.

“We didn’t have a third-place car,” a candid Haley admitted. “But (crew chief) Trent Owens and the team worked hard all day.

“I think we probably had a 20th-place car. I wasn’t very happy with it yesterday when we unloaded and we qualified 29th, which isn’t good for anyone.

“It was just a trying day. We kept our heads in the game and never lost sight of it.”

Pressing the issue during the opening two segments proved costly to Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain on restarts.

Both drivers spun in separate incidents while battling side-by-side with the race leader.

Larson, who led 30 laps, managed to keep his No. 5 Chevrolet out of the wall, lost track position and eventually suffered engine failure. He was credited with a last place finish.

Chastain was not as fortunate after his spin resulted in nose-first contact with the backstretch inside safer barrier.

“We were racing with those guys for the lead and I just thought I could run the bottom there off Turn 2,” said Chastain, who led 26 laps but finished 30th. “But I got loose on the transition and spun out.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 9 2022
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