RELATED: See the throwback schemes for Darlington Just when it looked like Darlington Raceway 's 1970s "throwback" promotion couldn't get any groovier with retro race car paint schemes and a return to the track's historical Labor Day weekend calendar spot, NBC Sports upped the game again. The network announced Tuesday that iconic broadcaster Ken Squier will team with NASCAR Hall of Famers -- and father and son -- Ned and Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth for a portion of Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 telecast on NBC (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Not only will the race look like a blast from the past, it will sound like one, too. "Something I'm looking extremely forward to is to have a chance to call some of the race with my dad and Ken Squier , who really helped put our sport on the map,'' said Dale Jarrett, who appears on NBC's pre-race show along with Krista Voda and Kyle Petty. Viewers can expect to be transported to a different era in the sport with approximately 30 cars running retro paint schemes and the broadcast set to adjust even fine details, like making its graphics and logo authentic to the time. The track nicknamed "Too Tough to Tame" is itself a perennial "throwback" to some of the most noteworthy historical times in NASCAR. Described Squier , "Darlington is truly like no other, its imperfections ... it's the perfect competitive place for NASCAR." "Authentic" was the buzzword Tuesday afternoon as the NASCAR on NBC team shared its collective thoughts about one of the sport's most traditional races, the Southern 500 and its long-awaited move back to its Labor Day weekend position on the schedule for the first time since 2003. Squier called it "the best move NASCAR has made in a decade." Others spoke at length about how this weekend's race at the notoriously tough Darlington venue also represents a bridge between the longtime NASCAR purists and the new generation of fans. "I think it's really important to understand where you came from to know where you're going, and what a perfect weekend to do it,'' NBC analyst and former Darlington winner Jeff Burton said. "At a time we look back and celebrate the past, we can celebrate what's going on now too." Fellow analyst Petty agreed the weekend would please those who hang onto the memories of Richard Petty battling David Pearson, Ned Jarrett's record 14-lap margin of victory, Dale Earnhardt's afternoons charming "The Lady in Black" and Bill Elliott winning $1 million in the old Winston Million incentive program. At the same time, there is hope the attention generated this weekend will pique the interest of new fans who have a wide field of young new talent ready to follow in the legends footsteps here. "It's a time to wax nostalgic, but also an opportunity to educate fans to the history of the sport at a place that has that much history … and at the same time introduce them to what the sport has now," Petty said. "There are certain places that evoke history and the guys that came before you, and Darlington's that place. It's still the exact same place my granddad drove around 50-60 years ago. "I was ecstatic when they moved it back to Labor Day. ... This is where it should be. "All is right with the world this week for me because we'll be in Darlington and it's Labor Day."
Veteran motorpsports journalist Tom Higgins will join the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class as the Squier -Hall Award recipient.
NASCAR Unveiles the Squier -Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence in honor of famous broadcasters Ken Squier and Barney Hall.
Ken Squier and Barney Hall will be recognized as the first two recipients of the Squier -Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence nwhich is named in their honor.
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Ned Jarrett, a two-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, said Thursday that he is cancer-free after surgery and four weeks of recent treatment for melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Jarrett, 82, said he was diagnosed with the disease this winter but that his health prognosis was encouraging. The NASCAR Hall of Famer said he was able to participate in last weekend's festivities at Darlington Raceway without restriction, joining the NBC Sports booth to broadcast a portion of Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500. "It is very positive and I feel good," Jarrett told NASCAR.com. "In fact, I feel the best I've felt in a couple of years at least. Getting my immune system built up and getting toxins out of my body and the cancer, I'm really feeling good and feeling good about the whole situation. I know now how to better take care of my body, so hopefully, it won't come back." Jarrett said that a biopsy was performed in January after dermatologists discovered a spot on his left arm during a check-up. After the diagnosis, he had successful surgery Feb. 20 to remove the cancerous areas. After further consultation and tests at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Cornelius, North Carolina, Dr. Rashid Buttar discovered additional melanoma and prescribed a four-week course of treatment in July. Jarrett was declared cancer-free after completion of the program. "There are no limitations," Jarrett said. "I'll be a little bit more careful about what I eat and the sun exposure that I get, although I'm not going to stop playing golf or going to the races or wherever I need to go. I'll just be a little bit more careful about exposure for my skin to the sun." Jarrett said that skin cancer wasn't even an afterthought growing up in the rural North Carolina foothills, but that cancer was part of his genealogy. He lost seven family members, including his father, to the disease during a six-month stretch in 1983. "Of course, I grew up on a farm and worked in a sawmill," Jarrett said. "We didn't know anything about cancer or how it worked or that sun could do damage, and we went without shirts most of the time working on the farm. Then all of the years that I raced, I was outside and didn't even know about sunscreen. I feel very fortunate, especially since there has been a lot of cancer in my family, back in '83 in particular. So I was fortunate that it went as long as it did without showing up." Jarrett said the purpose of making his story public was to raise awareness for cancer treatment, but the revelation is part of a much longer-running mission. Jarrett has helped raise more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society as host of a charity golf tournament in his home state for more than 25 years. "I want to encourage people at the first sign of cancer, get something done about it," Jarrett said. "We were very proactive on this situation as far as I'm concerned and I feel like that helped us to treat it and get rid of it quick and I would encourage others to do the same. If there are suspicions, check it out, get a handle on it and get it taken care of." Jarrett -- nicknamed "Gentleman Ned" for his kind, calm disposition -- scored 50 Grand National (now Sprint Cup) victories in his brief career, becoming one of the sport's earliest stars in a period of substantial growth for stock-car racing. He was crowned premier-series champion in 1961 and 1965, and also won titles in 1957 and '58 in the fore-runner to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Jarrett was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, the second group of five chosen for enshrinement. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After his retirement at age 34, Jarrett moved on to business ventures, a role as track promoter at Hickory Speedway and a seamless transition to broadcasting, where his voice became a familiar sound on MRN Radio and television networks CBS and ESPN. Jarrett's two sons -- Dale and Glenn -- followed his career arc from the track to the world of broadcasting. Dale Jarrett, premier-series champion in 1999, won the Daytona 500 three times with his father watching and making an emotional call of his first triumph in the Great American Race alongside the legendary Ken Squier in 1993. Dale Jarrett is currently part of NBC Sports' broadcast team. Glenn Jarrett, Dale's older brother, made 77 NASCAR national series starts and currently serves as a reporter for MRN Radio. Ned Jarrett and Squier were reunited in the broadcast suite Sunday night at Darlington, with Dale Jarrett joining in as part of NBC Sports' participation in NASCAR's throwback weekend. Their vintage call of the 500-mile classic drew rave reviews across social media, but ranked as a special personal moment for the 82-year-old Hall of Famer. "We've truly been blessed in a number of different ways over the years through the sport," Jarrett said, recalling his career highlights on the track and in the booth. "This last weekend ranks up there in the top five of highlights of my life, whether it was professional or just things that happened along the way. I'm very thankful for that."
RELATED: Edwards rallies for dramatic Darlington win To understand the rejuvenating effect of NASCAR's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway , observe the example of Leonard Wood. After the Sprint Cup Series drivers' meeting, the legendary engine builder and mechanical innovator emerged from the Wood Brothers team hauler with a retro change of clothes -- a vintage red-and-white No. 21 shirt, white work pants and white Converse Chuck Taylors. The spring in his step was a literal one. Wood, just two weeks shy of his 81st birthday, jumped in place, a kid again with a broad grin forming on his face. Wood's near heel-click came with good reason, a personal celebration of the return of the Southern 500 to its rightful early September spot on the NASCAR calendar. There was plenty to cheer about, from a near full house in the packed grandstands to compelling racing from front to back. To put a bow on another Labor Day classic, here are 10 things that went right this weekend: -- Tradition returns. While calls have been made to alter the landscape of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Darlington should remain untouched. Renewing Labor Day weekend as a grand festival of speed in the South Carolina sandhills represents all that is right with stock-car racing, recognizing both NASCAR's roots and the track's role in launching the speedway era during the sport's earliest years. While NASCAR places an emphasis on innovation and the direction of technology, the look and feel of yesteryear in a decidedly low-tech weekend felt just right at one of the sport's greatest Meccas. -- Chase pressure. The secondary effect of Darlington's return to Labor Day was its renewed impact on playoff implications. With the grueling Southern 500 in place as the next-to-last race in the regular season, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hopefuls had no option to coast in the waning moments before the 16-driver field is set. RELATED: How the Chase Grid looks after Darlington -- Industry support. Putting on a themed event of such magnitude requires a massive buy-in from all corners of the NASCAR community -- tracks, teams, drivers, sponsors, manufacturers and partners. The overwhelming embrace of the retro ambiance -- with a majority of teams participating in the fun -- showed what is possible when all of the moving parts come together with a common goal. The united push toward making throwback weekend a roaring success bodes well not just for preserving the sport's history but for moving the sport forward. RELATED: See all the throwback paint schemes from Darlington -- Reunion of legends. A who's who of stock-car legends from the NASCAR Hall of Fame received some of the biggest cheers in the Sprint Cup drivers' meeting and pre-race ceremonies. Once-fierce rivals -- with legendary names Petty, Allison and Yarborough -- were reunited as old friends on Darlington's sacred grounds. For racing purists, watching the sport's pioneers trade stories and exchange greetings was swoon-worthy. Field of Dreams stuff, for sure. PHOTOS: Best images from Darlington -- Subtle touches. The little things mattered over Labor Day weekend, with those seemingly minor details adding cumulative momentum to the vintage vibe. Darlington piped in music from the 1970s over its public-address system all weekend. Ned Jarrett's distinctive voice was used to narrate the drivers' meeting video presentation. Richard Childress Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports shared best-dressed honors with their crewmembers' classic duds. The original winged "NASCAR International" logo graced every car. Seamless and subtle, it all clicked. RELATED: Lots of throwback looks at the track -- Media mix. NBC Sports' participation deserves special mention, from the use of retro graphics and groovy garb for its on-air talent, but most notably for returning broadcasters Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett to the booth, joining fellow Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett to call the race. Hearing legendary voices officiating the action was like a comfy chair and a cup of cocoa all in one, and NBC did right by all three with an extended stint on the microphone. The weekend's other big wins came through social media, where NASCAR's primary handles offered Polaroid snapshots and grainy VHS-quality videos in keeping with the throwback theme. The hashtag #NASCARthrowback trended nationally as a result. WATCH: Legends join the NBC booth to call part of the race -- Raves for rules. The second use this season of the reduced-downforce aerodynamic rules added to the retro aura, producing an old-school scrap that rewarded driver ability as much as it did top-notch equipment. If the Darlington package stands as a prelude to what the 2016 aero rules might become, the potential for more jockeying and passing throughout the pack holds promise. RELATED: Reduced-downforce package successful at Darlington -- Tire opportunities. The combination of softer-compound Goodyears on a rough surface provided more shades of classic Darlington, placing a premium on drivers' management of tire wear and on teams' strategy with their allotment of 12 sets of new rubber. But the tiremaker's other contribution was a bold, white stencil logo on the sidewalls that complemented the throwback atmosphere. -- Lengthy Labor Day. Making races shorter has been a common refrain, voiced by fans and drivers alike. More howls might be heard after Sunday night's 4 1/2-hour marathon, but downsizing to a Southern 400 would be heresy. Winning Darlington is supposed to test both driver and car. It's supposed to be hard. It's a formula that's seemed to work for 66 years and doesn't need changing any time soon. -- Tradition continues. Darlington Raceway president Chip Wile spent a sizable part of Sunday extending thank-yous to all comers for making throwback weekend a collaborative achievement. All indications point to retro racing at Darlington becoming an annual event, with the potential for growing bigger and better in 2016 and beyond. Racing is often serious business, but Darlington showed that it's OK to savor the fun of it all. It's not often that a debut results in a home run. Here's to Darlington swinging for the fences again next year.
Charlotte Observer stalwart was first NASCAR newspaper beat writer