MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington " SHOP: Darlington gear Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte will serve as grand marshal for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Labonte is a sentimental favorite for the honor, as he is the series' last driver to win the Southern 500 when it was held on Labor Day weekend -- Aug. 31, 2003. It was the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame driver's final victory in Sprint Cup . "Darlington is where I won my first race and my last, and I'm honored to serve as grand marshal for the first time at the Bojangles' Southern 500 ," Labonte said in a press release Thursday. "I love the Labor Day tradition, and Darlington always brings back special memories for me. I look forward to being part of such a historic weekend for NASCAR." RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes Labonte will give the command to drivers to start their engines accompanied by Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge. Bojangles' has had the naming rights to the Southern 500 since 2012 and extended the partnership through 2019. " Darlington Raceway has such a rich history in NASCAR and the State of South Carolina, and it is truly a privilege for Bojangles' to have our brand aligned with such a memorable event," Rutledge said. "The Bojangles' Southern 500 is returning to Labor Day weekend where it belongs and that is a big deal to everyone, including all of us at Bojangles'. For me, being a part of giving the command to start engines with a NASCAR legend like Terry Labonte is a huge thrill." Labonte's two wins at Darlington in 1980 and 2003 were landmarks in a career marked by 22 wins, 182 top-five finishes and 27 poles in 890 starts from 1978 to 2014. His 361 top-10 finishes ranks 10th all time. Known as both the "Iceman" and the sport's "Iron Man," he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 22, 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. In 1998, Labonte was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, a perfect fit to participate in Darlington's throwback celebration that features remembrances of numerous NASCAR legends. MORE: Cale Yarborough throwback scheme " Bowyer's Baker tribute car Labonte won his first championship in 1984 driving the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet owned by Billy Hagan with Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman. Labonte's second series championship came in 1996 driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
MORE: Gifts from Gordon's final season " SHOP: Gordon Rainbow Warrior gear Jeff Gordon 's iconic No. 24 rainbow paint scheme is back for this Saturday's IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The four-time champion has five career wins at Bristol, and a win on Saturday would lock him into the Chase Grid for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . How exactly did it all come together? Check it out with this video of the No. 24 paint scheme being wrapped, courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports . Bristol Motor Speedway also unveiled on Friday that the track in 2016 will have the " Jeff Gordon Terrace," a backstretch grandstand named after the legendary driver. Charlotte Motor Speedway also announced Friday its upcoming tribute to Gordon. Leading up to the Oct. 10 Bank of America 500 , the speedway is rolling out " Jeff's Last Ride: A 24-Day Salute." NASCAR licensed artist Sam Bass will create original artwork for the Bank of America 500 souvenir program as part of the salute, which also includes a 24-day social media campaign. Another highlight is a collection of iconic No. 24 race cars on display during the Charlotte Auto Fair Sept. 24-27.
RELATED: Practice 2 results The NASCAR XFINITY drivers were battling some weather conditions during the second practice session on Friday afternoon with light rain. Despite the rain, Paul Menard was the fastest during the second practice at Road America . Menard's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet clocked in at 108.202 mph. Second on the leaderboard was the No. 54 Toyota of Boris Said , soaring around the 4.048-mile road course at 108.044 mph. Chase Elliott 's No. 9 Chevrolet had some speed in the second session with a quickest lap of 107.672 mph, followed by the No. 22 Ford of Ryan Blaney (107.656 mph), for fourth on the leaderboard. Rounding out the top five was the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (107.636 mph). NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville is set for Saturday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN/ Live Extra ). The Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville will be held on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Live Extra. , MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Practice 1 results Ben Rhodes topped the leaderboard for Friday afternoon's first NASCAR XFINITY Series practice session at Road America for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville. Rhodes' No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet posted a fastest lap of 108. 500 mph. The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott was next on the leaderboard, clocking in a fastest lap of 108.133 mph. Last week's winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Ryan Blaney , rounded out the top three with a fast lap of 108.039 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. The No. 42 Chevrolet of Justin Marks (107.948 mph) and the No. 2 Chevrolet of Brian Scott (107.947 mph) came in fourth and fifth, respectively. Points leader Chris Buescher just missed the top five as he had a fastest lap of 107.879 mph and was sixth on the leaderboard. The race at Road America is the final road course race of the 2015 season for the XFINITY Series.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth , which combined to win six of the last nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, will each lose 15 minutes of practice time next weekend when the series heads to Darlington Raceway . The two were among 11 teams issued warnings arising from pre-qualifying and pre-race inspection issues at Bristol Motor Speedway , site of the Aug. 22 Irwin Tools Night Race . Busch's No. 18 team failed pre-race inspection four times on Saturday. Busch finished eighth in the race. Kenseth's No. 20 team was penalized for failing pre-race inspection on its first two attempts, as well as failing to get to inspection at the allotted time. Kenseth finished 42nd after when an engine issue sidelined the 2003 Sprint Cup champion after 110 laps of the 500 -lap race. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series is not competing this weekend. The Bojangles' Southern 500 is scheduled for Sept. 6 at Darlington (7 p.m., NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 15-minute penalties will be enforced when opening practice gets underway on Friday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. Kenseth is currently fourth in the Chase Grid and has a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff locked up. Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season due to injuries sustained in a crash at Daytona International Speedway in February, is currently second in the Chase Grid, but needs to clinch a top 30 position in the point standings over the final two regular-season races before he officially locks his spot in the Chase up. Warnings may be issued to teams for a variety of minor infractions. For every fourth warning issued to a team, whether during a championship (points) or non-championship (non-points) event, the loss of pit stall selection will be enforced. Others teams receiving warnings at Bristol for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice were: No. 22 ( Joey Logano / Team Penske ), No. 24 ( Jeff Gordon / Hendrick Motorsports ), No. 7 ( Alex Bowman / Tommy Baldwin Racing ), No. 30 ( Travis Kvapil /TMG) and the No. 98 ( Timmy Hill /Premium Motorsports) Also penalized for being late to inspection were the following teams: No. 40 ( Landon Cassill /Hillman Racing), No. 83 ( Matt DiBenedetto / BK Racing , No. 15 ( Clint Bowyer / Michael Waltrip Racing ) and the No. 11 ( Denny Hamlin / Joe Gibbs Racing ).
Photo credit -- Chase Elliott 's Instagram @chaseelliott9 RELATED: Series standings At only 19 years old, Chase Elliott already has a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, is currently contending for a second one and has a pretty sweet job lined up next year taking over the iconic No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for retiring four-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon . Not only has Elliott's racing career taken off, he has too -- literally -- having just earned his private pilot license on July 23. And the view from above is something he's wanted his whole life. It seems Elliott got more than the racing gene from his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , as he has inherited the flying bug from his dad, an accomplished and avid aviator. "He's been flying a long time so I've always been around it since I was little," Elliott said of his father. "I've watched him fly for years and years and been fortunate enough to have access to his planes and sit up front and watch him fly them so I've always definitely interested in it. "It's one of those things where the more you do it, the more you become interested in it. And the more you get into it, the more intriguing it becomes. I learn something new every time I fly. "It's definitely tough to (master all the necessary lessons). A lot of things come along with it. But flying is a privilege and something you can't take lightly ever." A lot of the same traits -- discipline, smarts and dedication -- Elliott put into his burgeoning racing career he used to earn the pilot license. He actually started taking lessons while still in high school but it was such a busy time between school, racing and flying lessons that Elliott put off finishing his license until a few months ago with the support of his dad. "It's something you work hard for to achieve," Bill Elliott said. "I see so many people who have gone through a lot of the flying part and the learning curve but never went on and got their pilot licenses and they always regretted it. I told Chase, 'You need to go on and get this done.' "I'm glad he did. That's something he'll carry with him regardless of where racing takes him." The Elliotts join an impressive list of NASCAR drivers who have secured private pilot licenses including Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle , Matt Kenseth and retired drivers Mark Martin , Rusty Wallace, Cale Yarborough and Ricky Rudd. Ryan Newman 's wife Krissie flies helicopters. Similarly, Elliott figures having the ability to pilot an airplane can be as much a practicality as it is a luxury. His father helped secure him a Cessna 182 single-engine, four-seater to use and Elliott is eager to start flying to races closer than home. Last week, he flew to Bristol. He has also posted a photo of himself practicing grass landings on Instagram. "Absolutely, it's a major convenience if you need to go somewhere, you can turn a four-hour drive into an hour-and-a-half flight," Elliott said. "Time is valuable for anybody and any chance to make up time like that is great." Elliott wasn't sure if he would fly himself to this weekend's XFINITY Series race at Road America , but he is looking forward to the stand-alone road race regardless. It's the third road course race in the last four weeks for the series and Elliott is one of the series regulars who embraces the opportunity to turn right. He is on a six-race run of top-10 finishes in his No. 9 NAPA Chevy and currently trails championship leader Chris Buescher by 23 points in the standings. He has finishes of seventh (Watkins Glen) and fifth (Mid-Ohio) in the two road races this year and finished fourth at Road America last season. "I thought last year was a good learning experience," Elliott said. "I was really pleased with Watkins Glen. I'm still learning on my end, but thought we had good cars this year and that's a big step in right direction." For Elliott, that direction is up.
RELATED: Updated Chase Grid Ain't no party like a NASCAR party! As the regular season nears its end and The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rapidly approaches, so too does the annual fan celebration to mark its beginning -- NASCAR Chase Fest. Taking place, once again, in Chicago on Sept. 17 ahead of the first Challenger Round race at Chicagoland Speedway , Chase Fest sponsored by Toyota and Sprint provides a free outdoor fan fest featuring appearances and autograph sessions with all 16 Chase drivers and other NASCAR personalities. Grammy-nominated 3 Doors Down will help keep the party flowing with a concert, as well as a performance by Chicago's popular country cover band, the Suburban Cowboys. Fans in attendance also will have a plethora of meal and drink options, with food being provided by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and beverages by Coors Light. Additional entertainment will include the Toyota Ferris Wheel and the NASCAR on NBC Sports Bumper Cars. The events of the day will be covered by NBCSN, including Krista Voda, Kyle Petty, Marty Snider and Rutledge Wood, for the network's live broadcast of "NASCAR America." Chase Fest will take place on Weed Street between Fremont and Kingsbury streets from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time. For full details on this year's Chase Fest, click here .
Framed, autographed photo of father left anonymously Dale Earnhardt Jr . tweeted that he was "grateful" for a gift from a fan Sunday at Michigan International Speedway -- even if he doesn't know who left it. An anonymous fan left this at the hauler for me. I'm so grateful. @WranglerJeans pic.twitter.com/VFYwYPUFM8 — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 16, 2015 The classic photo of father Dale Earnhardt in front of his Wrangler-schemed car even came with an autograph. Quite a gift for Junior, who is still represented by the jeans company. It was nice timing, too, considering the Earnhardt image was promoting the 1982 Southern 500 . Current drivers have been revealing their own throwback schemes in anticipation of this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 , which returns to the Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. MORE: Buy tickets for this year's Darlington race
Eight tweets from around the NASCAR Twitterverse Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets you might have missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Before I put this old thing under lock and key, I just had to try it on. Dads 2001 IROC uniform. pic.twitter.com/SQtUSdGmWG — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 23, 2015 2. Cartman went on a diet @Blaney pic.twitter.com/Rbuz70eg1W — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 21, 2015 3. Paddle boards have so many uses! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/CLFhGiq94w — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 25, 2015 4. . @KevinHarvick 's little fan wanted to bring him a cupcake from her brother's birthday party. So sweet! pic.twitter.com/07z5DVgBDM — JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) August 20, 2015 5. Oh, by the way you may want to invite some friends for dinner! #TeamMcD pic.twitter.com/oQLKIE5Dgg — Jamie McMurray (@jamiemcmurray) August 21, 2015 6. Amen. Goodnight ✌️ pic.twitter.com/Nd2hesmKiq — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) August 21, 2015 7. Warning- I've officially graduated into one of those annoying parents that's telling everyone about their baby's first laugh today. — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 27, 2015 8. How fake driving is made, starring @Keselowski https://t.co/9CXOyMnRr8 — Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 26, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: If Nature's Bakery made beef jerky. I'd buy it. #NASCAR — Rick Kaufman (@RickKaufman1) August 26, 2015
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points. Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points. But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points. Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points, but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes Some people might call it sky blue or even Carolina blue, but in racing it's Petty Blue, and with Day-Glo Red and white it creates the iconic No. 43 paint scheme that will dress up Aric Almirola 's No. 43 STP Ford for the Sept. 6 Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Almirola's throwback paint scheme honors Richard Petty's 1972 Plymouth Roadrunner, the first time The King's car featured sponsor STP with the Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red on the quarter panels. "STP has been a proud partner of Richard Petty for nearly 44 years now, and all of that started with this 1972 paint scheme," said Jamie Kistner, vice president of marketing for STP. "To be able to bring that first year back to the track through this paint scheme and with Aric Almirola has been a lot of fun and has brought back some great memories of STP's storied history in NASCAR for our fans. Darlington Raceway is hosting a great throwback event that's produced a lot of excitement and we're honored to be a part of it." STP Racing announced the throwback paint scheme on Twitter with a video honoring the No. 43's history and showing the painting of the Darlington car. Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, raced with the STP logo on the hood of his No. 43 car for 21 years. The King has 200 career wins, and 60 of them came with STP aboard. "It will be neat to see the car that started our partnership with STP 43 years ago back on track at Darlington," said Petty. "It will be fun to see all the throwback schemes racing at Darlington and on Labor Day Weekend. It just feels right to have the Southern 500 back to Labor Day Weekend and is fitting that we celebrate tradition there with throwback paint schemes." Several members of the 1972 championship-winning team will be with Richard Petty Motorsports at Darlington: crew chief Dale Inman, as well as crew members Richie Barsz, fabricator; Tex Powell, mechanic and jackman; Les Barsz, mechanic and transporter driver; Billy Biscoe, mechanic and gas man; Jimmy "Zoomer" Kovalchik, fabricator and tire carrier; and Barry Dodson, painter. MORE: Hall of Fame driver Labonte to be grand marshal for race